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Cheap and Healthy Brown-Bag Lunch Ideas (for Grownups)

10 workday lunches that will save you time, money, and calories.
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What Makes Up a Healthy Lunch? continued...

For example, she suggests packing the leftovers of a black bean, brown rice and salsa dinner casserole, topped with shredded cheddar cheese, into a reusable container that can be microwaved at the office. Add some carrot, celery, and pepper strips for a hearty and satisfying lunch.

To take this idea a bit further, try cooking in bulk. On the weekend, make a big pot of chili, soup, or rice and beans and freeze into individual portions that are ready to take to work in a flash.

Convenience foods can also make quick and easy lunches. Canned soups and frozen meals can be inexpensive, especially if you stock up when they're on sale, and all you have to do is grab one when you're running out the door. Pair these portion-controlled items with a side salad or piece of fruit to provide enough calories to keep you feeling full.

10 Easy Lunch Ideas

American Dietetic Association spokesperson Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, says planning ahead is essential for quick lunch assembly. "A planned menu with all the ingredients in the kitchen will make it easy to put together tomorrow's lunch after dinner," she says.

She compiled this grocery list for a week's worth of lunches costing $5 or less a day (assuming you already have salad dressings on hand):

Whole wheat pita bread

Romaine lettuce

2 tomatoes

1 cucumber

1 bag baby carrots

1 bag of apples & oranges

1 can of light tuna in water

1 can of salmon (split for two meals)

1 prepared grilled chicken

3 cans of low-sodium, broth-based soup

With this list of foods, you can prepare:

  • 1 pita with lettuce and grilled chicken with light Caesar dressing; baby carrots; and an apple.
  • Salmon lettuce wraps with light sesame Asian dressing; 1 can of broth-based soup; and an orange.
  • Tomato & cucumber salad with olive oil and vinegar; tuna salad on pita; baby carrots; and an apple.
  • 1 can of soup; and grilled chicken on a bed of romaine with sliced apple and light vinaigrette.
  • Garden salad with salmon, tomato, cucumber, and baby carrots; an orange; and 1 can of soup.

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