Brown-bag lunches can get boring if they’re the same old thing over and over again. Kids may trade to get a lunch that they find more fun to eat. For adults, boredom can lead to a trip to the vending machine or convenience store, both difficult places to find healthful choices. The solution is to mix it up with nutritious and fun choices from the Choose My Plate’s Healthy Eating Tips.

Think outside the bag

To start thinking “outside the bag,” use the ideas below to put together a fun lunch that brown baggers of all ages will enjoy. Be sure to add your favorites to the list!

Note: Add a freezer pack and insulated bag to keep foods safe until lunch time.

Pick one or two from these whole grains choices:

  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Whole-grain mini-bagel or pita bread
  • Toasted whole grain English muffin
  • Low-fat granola in a one-quarter cup container
  • Low-fat bran muffin
  • Whole-grain rice or pasta salad

Vegetable choices — pick two or more 1/2 cup servings:

  • Three-bean salad, with added beets and olives, dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • Hummus
  • Vegetable soup (1-cup) in a thermos or microwave-safe container
  • Baby carrots
  • Celery sticks
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Cooked okra pods
  • Cooked green beans
  • Sweet pepper strips
  • Cooked corn the cob (6”ear = ½ cup; 8-9” ear = 1 cup)
  • Salad (1-cup) with one tablespoon of dressing

Fruit choices — pick one:

  • Favorite fall apples
  • Dried fruit packed in a one-quarter cup container
  • Frozen berries packed in a one-half cup container (they thaw by lunchtime)
  • One-cup 100% juice

Dairy/high calcium choices—pick one:

  • Chocolate milk or calcium-fortified soy milk
  • Yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Light cheese rounds or triangle wedges
  • High calcium hot cocoa packet or hot cocoa already made up in a thermos
  • Pudding

Protein choices — pick one:

  • Turkey or chicken breast or roast beef slices
  • Canned tuna, salmon, or other fish
  • Bean salad or spread (beans count as protein AND vegetable)
  • Flavored baked tofu or tempeh chunks
  • Chunky peanut butter, sunflower seed or almond butter

You can create delicious lunch combinations, for example:

  • Whole grain crackers and cheese, chicken and vegetable soup in a thermos, a serving of celery sticks, chocolate milk to drink, and a Ginger Gold apple.
  • Three-bean salad with grape tomatoes, low-fat bran muffin and thawed frozen fruit topped with yogurt.
  • Toasted whole-grain English muffin with tomato, turkey, and low fat cheese with 100% grape juice to drink.

Brown bag lunches won’t be boring anymore!