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100 Nutritious Brown Bag Lunch Ideas for Both Kids & Grownups

December 9th, 2010


Most people already know that bringing their lunches can be a lot healthier and more nutritious than going out to eat every day, but doing so isn't enough to make sure you're eating right. You also need to make sure that what you're bringing in those brown bags and lunch boxes is good for you. This part of the equation doesn't have to be complicated, however, and can be pretty delicious, too. If you're struggling to figure out what to bring along with you for lunch, whether you're headed to work or school, check out some recipes that are both nutritious and tasty. Many of which are kid-friendly, too!

Sandwiches

These sandwiches go above and beyond the standard PB and J in terms of nutrition and taste.

  1. Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Tuna Sandwich. Ditch the boring old tuna sandwich in favor of this option that adds in veggies and herbs to give taste without loads of calories.
  2. White Bean and Avocado Sandwich. This rich and creamy sandwich will fill you up without filling you out.
  3. Cheddar and Apple Sandwich. Even kids will love this tangy and sweet combo for lunch.
  4. Better BLT. A regular BLT may not be the healthiest sandwich, but this revamped version changes things up.
  5. Falafel Sandwich. Enjoy this vegetarian Middle Eastern treat for lunch without even having to go out.
  6. Grilled Eggplant Sandwich. Instead of meat, consider this burger made with eggplant instead.
  7. Nut Butter, Honey and Banana Sandwich. You could whip up a traditional peanut butter and jelly, but this recipe will help you change things up and add some health with banana and honey. A concoction even little ones will love.
  8. Hummus, Avocado and Tomato Sandwich. Combining these health foods into one sandwich is a great way to build a tasty and filling lunch.
  9. Balsamic Tuna Salad Sandwich. Go another route with your tuna sandwich by using this healthier recipe.
  10. Turkey Burger with Feta and Spinach. This burger is simple but tasty, plus lower cal than its beefy cousin.
  11. BBQ Chicken Sandwich. This sandwich, made with BBQ chicken breast, is a great meal any time of the year.
  12. Pita Pockets with Avocado and Sprouts. Grownups and kids alike will enjoy this healthy veggie pocket. Go with whole wheat pitas for an even healthier lunch.
  13. Portobello and Goat Cheese Sandwich. Grill up a portobello mushroom the night before to ensure you'll be ready to take this great sandwich to work with you the next day.
  14. Meatball Parmesan Sub. Don't think a meatball sandwich can be healthy? Try this recipe to enjoy an old school classic with a healthier twist.
  15. Tangy Roast Beef Sandwich. This sandwich is a great choice for dinner or lunch and healthy to boot, with fat-free ingredients and sprouts for a topper.

Wraps and Rolls

Ditch the heavy bread without losing an ounce of taste with these delicious and nutritious wrapped meals.

  1. Whole Wheat Hummus and Veggie Wrap. Whole wheat tortillas, hummus and veggies help make this recipe a super healthy lunch choice.
  2. Rotisserie Chicken Wrap. Use leftover rotisserie chicken to fill this yummy wrap.
  3. Vietnamese Salad, Shrimp and Turkey Roll. Using thin, rice-based wrappers, these rolls let you combine healthy ingredients with an Asian flair.
  4. Salmon Veggie Wrap. Salmon isn't just for dinner. Roll it up in this wrap for a great lunchtime treat too.
  5. Ham and Cheese Rollups. Kids will love this simple classic that can taste good and actually be healthy, too.
  6. Thai Chicken Wrap. Rachael Ray offers this recipe for a spicy peanut Thai chicken wrap that will impress your coworkers or classmates.
  7. Pepperoni Pizza Wrap. Pizza doesn't have to just come in slices. Add a little health to your lunch with this wrap version.
  8. Black Bean Burrito. If you're craving Mexican for lunch, don't go out. Bring this healthy burrito from home instead.
  9. Mediterranean Wrap. Stuff your wrap with zucchini, hummus, tomatoes, spinach, onion, pine nuts and mint to give it a Greek flair.
  10. Caesar Turkey Wrap. Caesar salads don't have to go in a bowl. Wrap them up using this recipe.
  11. Grilled Chicken Pesto Wraps with Sun-Dried Tomato. Pesto and sun-dried tomatoes combine to give this wrap and Italian flair.
  12. Mushroom and Rice Wrap. Canned mushroom, corn and rice topped with salsa and lettuce makes a healthy lunch.

Salads

If you're looking for a classical healthy lunch option, try out one of these great salads.

  1. Southwestern Bean and Pasta Salad. Beans, lime juice, corn and peppers spice up this traditional pasta salad.
  2. Minted Citrus Salad. You might think citrus and mint is a strange combo, but you're sure to love this summery treat.
  3. Orange 'n Red Salad. Oranges and red onions combine to make this colorful dish.
  4. Spinach Salad with Apples. Even kids will enjoy this yummy salad that pairs basic spinach with apples.
  5. Spring Salad. Mix up spring veggies in this salad for an enviable lunchtime meal.
  6. Quinoa and Bean Salad. If you've never tried quinoa, mix it up with beans to create this perfect lunchtime entree or side.
  7. Roasted Vegetable Salad. Roast up some veggies the night before to pull together this fabulous and tasty salad.
  8. Tomato and Mozzarella Salad. During the summer, this Caprese salad can make an amazing side dish.
  9. Traditional Greek Salad. Looking for a basic salad anyone in your family will eat? This recipe could be just the right thing.
  10. Chicken Fajita Salad. You can enjoy fajitas anytime with this tasty recipe.
  11. Buckwheat Noodle Salad. Popular Japanese noodles make a healthy base for this salad.
  12. Spiced Orange and Carrot Salad. Get in your daily serving of orange foods with this great salad.

Soups

If you've got a microwave handy, these soups make healthy lunches you won't mind bringing along.

  1. Tomato Tortellini Soup. Even the littlest eaters in your home will love taking this lunch along in a thermos.
  2. Chicken Santa Fe Soup. You'll be able to make several meals out of this soup that combines chicken breasts, onion, black beans, chilis and corn.
  3. Pumpkin Soup. During the fall, you'll love bringing along these creamy seasonal treat.
  4. Curried Cream of Tomato Soup with Apples. This combo might sound strange, but it results in an amazing lunch.
  5. Black Bean Soup. Get a Southwestern flair with this simple to make recipe for black bean soup.
  6. Cannelli Bean Soup. Try out this recipe for a protein-rich lunch.
  7. Curried Carrot Soup. This soup offers up all the health benefits of both curry and carrots in one.
  8. Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup. Your kids will love mushrooms when they're put into this great soup.
  9. Homestyle Turkey Soup. Use leftover turkey to whip up this amazing healthy soup.
  10. Zesty Tomato Soup. Served with a simple sandwich, this tomato soup is perfect for a rainy day.
  11. Ginger Chicken Noodle Soup. If you're looking for an alternative to regular old chicken noodle, this recipe has you covered.

Leftovers

Why make two meals when you can cook once and have it do double duty? Whip up these healthy recipes for dinner and enjoy the leftovers for lunch.

  1. Angel Hair with Fresh Spinach, Peas and Goat Cheese. You won't mind eating this pasta dish for two meals — perfect for springtime lunches.
  2. Turkey Chili. Make this recipe in a crockpot to feed you and your family for several healthy meals.
  3. Veggie Pizza. Save a few slices of this pizza for a tasty lunch the next day.
  4. Chicken Quesadillas. Go light on the cheese to make these chicken quesadillas a little healthier, but still tasty.
  5. Parchment Paper Salmon and Green Beans. This recipe is amazingly easy to make, and you'll have a lunch ready to go if you simply make another packet the night before.
  6. Beef and Bok Choy Stir Fry. You won't believe how low-cal this stir fry is, but when you find out, you'll really want to eat it again.
  7. Roasted Chicken. You'll be able to make many other lunches when you cook this roasted chicken the night before.
  8. Pork Loin. Pork loins are healthy, low-fat and easy to bring with you for lunch.
  9. Sausage and Chicken Gumbo. This soup is full of great flavors and won't lose a thing when reheated.
  10. Chipotle Sloppy Joes. Bring along a bun and a container of this sloppy Joe mix for a lunch that will be just as good as the night before.
  11. Shepherd's Pie. This recipe from Cooking Light puts a healthier twist on shepherd's pie, with enough left over for the next day.

Sides

Looking for something to go with your main dish? Consider one of these mouth-watering options.

  1. Chickpea Salad. Chickpeas are packed with protein and make a great addition to any lunch.
  2. Ginger-Garlic Snap Peas. Cook these ahead and have them alongside your sandwich for an amazing lunch.
  3. Jicama Sticks. If you've never had jicama, this recipe for easy, portable, healthy sticks may motivate you to try.
  4. Sliced Tomatoes and Basil. A simpler version of a Caprese salad, this recipe is perfect in summer months when tomatoes are in season.
  5. Moroccan Lentil Salad. Lentils, garbanzo beans and a variety of veggies create a salad that is incredibly nutritious – and doesn't taste too bad either.
  6. Cheese and Fruit Platter. You don't have to go to wine tasting to enjoy this. Create a selection of natural cheeses and fruits like grapes and apples to have a simple but fancy lunch.
  7. Black Bean Salad. Don't miss out on this delicious black bean salad that is the perfect side for any Mexican meal.
  8. Baked Chips or Pretzels. If you simply must have chips, go with a baked option or reach for whole-wheat pretzels.
  9. Kale Chips. Who says chips can only be made of potatoes? These kale chips are crispy and super healthy.
  10. Pita Chips. Make your own pita chips to have alongside your sandwich or wrap with this recipe.
  11. Bananas, Blueberries and Yogurt. The yogurt in this recipe will keep your bananas from browning before lunchtime.
  12. Fruit Salad. Bring all your favorite fruits together in this one recipe.

Desserts

Just because you're eating better doesn't mean you have to give up on desserts altogether. While not completely healthy, these recipes let you indulge your sweet tooth without blowing your diet.

  1. Blueberry-Orange Compote. This simple compote doesn't add any extra sugar, but doesn't skimp on the taste.
  2. Chewy Picnic Bars. Nuts, cherries, walnuts, coconut and dates combine to make these rich treats.
  3. Greek Yogurt and Fruit. Bringing together healthy yogurt and sweet fruit, this lunchtime treat is a great way to indulge without loads of calories.
  4. Blueberry Cookies. Replace those chocolate chips with blueberries with this recipe from Giada.
  5. Rolled Oat Cookies. These cookies aren't exactly healthy, but they're pretty healthy for cookies, which is what you need when you've got a serious sweet tooth and are trying to stay healthy.
  6. Frozen Raspberry Pie. This recipe is super easy to make and provides you with an amazing low-cal dessert anywhere you can keep it cold.
  7. Fruit Pizza. Pizza doesn't have to just be about veggies. Top one with fruit instead for a healthy dessert.
  8. Whole Wheat Carrot Cake. If you're going to eat cake, make it healthy like the one listed in this recipe.
  9. Chocolate-Pumpkin Vegan Cupcakes. If you're craving a cupcake, this recipe lets you make one dairy-free and healthier than average.
  10. Hidden Veggie Brownies. You can get your kids, or yourself, to eat your veggies by hiding them in this brownie recipe.

Snacks

If you tend to get hungry in between lunch and dinner, these snacks can help you bridge the gap the healthy way.

  1. Unsalted nuts. When they're roasted without the salt, nuts can help fill you up between meals and give you the protein you need.
  2. Gingersnaps and Cheese. Blending sweet and savory, this snack is the best of both worlds.
  3. Baby Carrots and Dip. Simple but delicious, this snack is easy to pack and bring with you.
  4. Unsweetened Apple Sauce. Leave the sugar behind to make this snack better for you.
  5. Hummus and Vegetables. Even kids will love veggies when dipped in this Middle Eastern treat.
  6. Low-Fat Yogurt. With numerous flavors to choose from, there's bound to be a yogurt that suits the needs of even the pickiest snackers out there.
  7. Whole Wheat Bagel. Easy to transport, a whole wheat bagel with jelly or margarine makes for a good breakfast or snack.
  8. Apple Slices and Almond Butter. Combining sweet and tangy apples with protein-rich almond butter, this snack offers it all.
  9. Trail Mix. Nuts, dried fruits and seeds can make for a protein-rich and tasty snack at any time of the day.
  10. Air-Popped Popcorn. Bring along some air-popped popcorn for a snack that feels indulgent without the calories.
  11. Dried fruits. Raisins, dried cranberries and dried cherries are all healthy snacks that are sweet to boot.
  12. Edamame. Easy to steam or reheat in the microwave, these small beans pack a powerful nutritional punch.

Drinks

You've got to have something to wash down that lunch, so make sure it's something good for you.

  1. Skim Milk. Growing kids and healthy adults can benefit from the calcium found in this beverage.
  2. Water Bottle. There is no better beverage at lunch than water. Bring along your own bottle from home and fill it up throughout the day to ensure you get enough.
  3. Green Tea. Green tea, or any other kind, can be a great hot beverage any time of the day.
  4. Real Juice. Go the 100% juice route if you're craving a sweet drink for your lunch.
  5. Soy Milk. Whether you can't drink milk or just want another option, bring along some soy milk for a healthy beverage.


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