What’s Inside a Dietitian’s Brown Bag Lunch?
You’ve heard the expression “you are what you eat.” If you find yourself cranky and tired in the mid-afternoon, you may be able to boost your mood by changing what you eat.
Many of my clients start their day with a breakfast of champions such as eggs/omelets, oatmeal with walnuts, and protein shakes. But still, they are left snoozing after lunch time. Which begs the question: what are you eating for lunch? Typically, responses include “I have no time for lunch, I buy something from the vending machine, or “I grab a bagel or low fat blueberry muffin at the coffee shop.” Even “healthier” choices such as a a basic garden salad are brought up. However, without the right combination of nutrients, these choices will inevitably result in an energy bust instead of an energy boost.
A lunch break is the ideal time to choose foods that will fuel your body and give you sustained energy to conquer your day. Here are some personal go-to 5 brown bag lunches that take only a few minutes to prepare. Best of all, the total cost of ingredients is $25.00 (That’s 5 brown bag lunches at $5.00 a pop). Each meal encompasses the correct balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
Mix it up and choose the lunch that best matches the specific demands of your day.
Brown Bag 1: High Energy Pasta
Best if: You’re hitting the gym after work.
1 cup lentil or chickpea pasta, ½-3/4 cup tomato sauce, 2 tsp olive oil, a handful of skinless rotisserie chicken, 1 small chopped tomato, and a few Tbsp shredded cheese. Try throwing some cooked zucchini or broccoli on top for added fiber.
Brown Bag Bonus: This pasta combination will provide time-released fuel for your cardio blast workout without weighing you down.
Brown Bag 2: Heart-Healthy Peanut Butter Sandwich
Best if: You’re giving a presentation late in the day.
Fill a small whole-grain pita or a slice of high fiber (3-5 g per slice) bread with 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter, almond butter, or Sunbutter. Pair with a 6 oz. container of a low sugar, high protein Greek or Icelandic yogurt, and some baby carrots with 2-3 Tbsp hummus.
Brown Bag Bonus: The healthy fats in the nut butter combined with the high protein yogurt can contribute to an upbeat mood and sustained energy. *Buyers beware: if the first ingredient on a multi grain or whole wheat product does not say “whole” it is not truly whole grain.
Brown Bag 3: Veggie & bean Soup, Fully Loaded
Best if: You’re tempted to hit the vending machine for a late afternoon munch.
Stir 2 cups of chopped pre-washed leafy green salad blend (try kale, spinach, arugula) chop up a few carrots, and ½ cup bean of your choice, into 1 can of low sodium vegetable soup. Add seasoning/spices to taste. Enjoy with a toasted high protein, whole grain tortilla broken into chip sizes such as La tortilla factory mini whole grain tortillas or Ezekiel tortillas.
Brown Bag Bonus: Fiber packed vegetable soup naturally helps stabilize blood sugar to stave off end of day hunger.
Brown Bag 4: Portable Picnic Lunch
Best if: Your evening will include cocktails and cake.
1 small apple or pear, ¼ cup nuts or seeds, hard boiled egg, 1 cheese stick or ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese.
Brown Bag Bonus: If you know you’ll be tempted later, a light but filling lunch (or when you do not have time to prepare an actual “meal”!) is a crucial defense. Nuts or seeds will provide heart healthy fats and an egg will give you a filling protein punch. The apple will deliver a gratifying crunch adding to your daily fiber goals!
Brown Bag 5: Nutty Pear & Chicken Salad
Best if: You’re tied to your desk the rest of the afternoon.
Combine a handful of skinless rotisserie chicken with 2-3 cups of leafy greens of your choice (arugula, kale, spinach), ¼ cup canned beans, 1-2 tablespoon of walnuts or pecans, and a small ripe pear. 1-2 Tbsp shredded cheese or 1/4 avocado slices is optional. Try making your own dressing with a teaspoon of grapeseed oil and balsamic vinegar.
Brown Bag Bonus: A veggie-centric, high fiber/low sugar lunch is an easy way to keep a meal low-calorie yet high volume when you are going to be sedentary the next few hours.
*For full nutrition facts: add a new recipe to myfitnesspal or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org