brown bag lunch

What’s Inside a Dietitian’s Brown Bag Lunch?

March 28, 2017 no comments operator Categories Blog, Healthy Living, Uncategorized
By Sari Greaves, RDN

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

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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

blogPB  blogPITA  blogSIGGIS

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