Brown Bag Lunches
by Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDE
Bringing your lunch with you as you’re heading out to work or for a day of errands will help you stay on your meal plan, feel healthy and nourished, and it will save you money! As you think about packing a lunch to go or creating a picnic for family and friends, consider these tips:
- Keep the plate method in mind. While you’re not always serving your meals on a plate – think about having twice as many veggies as you have protein (meat, eggs, cheese) and carbs (fruit, starchy veggies and whole grains).
- Safety first! If you are carrying meat, cheese, yogurt or other perishable items, don’t let them spoil. There are many great options for insulated bags and beverage containers. If you don’t have a refrigerator available, keep a cooler in your car or put an ice pack in your insulated lunch bag.
- Plan to use leftovers for lunch. Cook once – and enjoy it for several meals. Pack away leftovers for meals and label them so you’ll know when to use them.
Here are three easy recipes along with some side dishes that make great on-the-go lunches. Each meal suggestion has about 30 grams of carb and less than 400 calories.
|Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad
Chilled Chicken Breast
|Crunchy Chickpea Salad
Sliced carrots, celery
Hard boiled egg (1)
Strawberries, 10 medium
Small whole wheat pita (2)
Sliced cucumbers and tomatoes
Low-fat cheese sticks (2)
Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad
Tip: Keep the dressing in a separate container until ready to serve. Add more feta if you want to make this a one-dish meal. Serve with chicken on top or as a side dish.
Makes: 6- 1 cup servings Calories: 70 Carbs: 9 grams Fiber: 1 gram
3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (reduced fat)
7 oz arugula (washed and dried)
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt (optional)
¼ tsp black pepper
Combine watermelon, feta cheese, arugula and onion in a bowl. Whisk together oil and vinegar and toss with the salad. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper as desired.
Crunchy Chickpea Salad
Tip: The flavors improve after a few hours in the refrigerator. Feel free to experiment with ingredients by adding more veggies such as sliced olives, halved grape tomatoes, chopped cucumbers and feta cheese. Double the serving size and skip the egg for a main dish salad.
Makes: 5- ½ cup serving size Calories: 155 Carbs: 19 grams Fiber: 5 grams
1 can (15.5 oz) Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 medium red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
¼ small red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
Combine chickpeas, peppers, onion and cilantro. Whisk together oil, lemon juice and red pepper (if desired). Toss dressing into the vegetable mixture. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Add freshly ground black pepper if desired.
Tip: This is an easy-to-make alternative to regular hummus made from chickpeas. It is very low in calories and carbs. In addition to a dip, use it as a spread on roll-up sandwiches or in pita pockets and stuff with lean meats and veggies.
Makes: 4 Calories: 60 per Carbs: 4 gram Fiber: 1.5 gram
1 large head cauliflower, approx. 5 cups florets; roasted
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
¼ cup tahini
2 Tbsp water (or more if a thinner consistency is desired)
1 lemon, juiced
1 garlic (or more if desired)
¼ tsp salt
¼ ground cumin
Pinch ground coriander
Black pepper, freshly ground to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle cauliflower florets with 1 Tbsp olive oil and toss to combine. Roast for about 20 minutes or until soft and easily pierced with a fork. Transfer to a food processor (or heavy duty blender). Add tahini, remaining olive oil, water, lemon juice, crushed garlic, and spices. Blend until smooth. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve with cut-up veggies, crackers or pita wedges.
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