Spending $1200 every year on lunch…sounds crazy doesn’t it? After you do the math it is possible. If you are spending $5 on lunch every day, that equates to $25 per week, $100 per month, and yes- $1,200 per year!

Start the New Year off right by brown baggin’ it. Maybe you have a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier, or to save some money. Packing a lunch for work can save you cash and calories. Committing to make a nutritious lunch at least 3 times per week is a great way to start.

Here are a few tips to follow when packing a lunch:

Prep:

  • Plan your lunch ahead by cooking extra portions for dinners, such as casseroles, stews and soups that you can refrigerate or freeze in transportable containers to bring to work.
  • Make extra lean protein choices such as chicken and turkey, and then slice it for your lunch the next day.
  • Add dipping sauce for veggies like hummus or a low-fat salad dressing. Portion them out and store in the refrigerator for easy access the next morning.

Add Variety:

  • Keep your sandwiches from getting boring by adding different toppings like: pickle slices, cheese, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and basil leaves.
  • Pack enjoyable snacks such as pretzels, sliced apples, trail mix, or homemade cookies to help curb your appetite during coffee breaks. Remember portion sizes!
  • Try different sandwich components such as whole-grain tortillas. Wrap up last night’s protein leftovers in one with a slice of cheddar cheese, garnish with veggies and have a wrap for lunch.

Transportation:

  • Remember food safety and to keep your lunch chilled during the morning hours.

Eating your lunch at work:

  • If your office has a lunch room or cafeteria take at least 20 to 30 minutes to focus on mindful eating and have a break away from your work.
  • If you’re without a lunch room or cafeteria take time away from your computer and phones to enjoy your lunch.
  • Avoid the lure of the vending machine by packing some extra fruits and veggies for a mid-afternoon snack.

Healthy lunch ideas:

Building a salad:
Choose dark green lettuces like romaine lettuce. Romaine lettuce contains seven times the levels of vitamins A and C than iceberg lettuce. Even though lettuce is a low in calories, salad dressings can be high in fat, sodium and calories making your “oh so healthy salad” more unhealthy than you realize. Use the lettuce as your base and build a salad that incorporates other chopped veggies and protein. For example, add a serving of chicken, hard-boiled egg, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, or a light sprinkle of cheese.

Using Leftovers:

This Vegetarian Black-Bean Chili Recipe can easily be re-heated for a lunch and it is full of high quality, low glycemic index carbs, vitamins and minerals plus extra spice. Talk about quick comfort — this half-hour chili satisfies the best of them, especially when topped with your favorite fixings – I like shredded cheddar.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cans (19 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed

Directions

  1. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add zucchini, carrots, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, and 1 cup water. Simmer until slightly thickened and carrots are soft, 8 to 10 minutes more.

Enjoy!