The first step to becoming a “saver” is to put that lunch box to good use. Packing your lunch is an excellent idea for many reasons: it saves money, it saves calories and it can save time (when you are enjoying your meal instead of fighting the lunch rush).  Becoming a well-rounded saver and embracing healthier eating habits starts with the brown bag. Here is how:

Preparation is Key: Schedule time to prepare your meals. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours slaving over the stove. Just get the slicing, chopping or mixing out of the way so that when you are ready to pack your brown bag you can easily throw your lunch items together still beat the traffic and get the kids to school on time. Already planning your dinners? Make one serving extra for an always healthy, pre-prepared leftover lunch.

Many of us have upgraded to Tupperware containers, but the brown bag is a classic lunch symbol. Bring out the dusty lunchbox!

Know the Four: Every sack lunch should have a serving of the 4 health-minded staples that make up a well-rounded meal.

  1. Whole grains such as whole wheat bread, pasta or brown rice.
  2. Protein like yogurt, lean lunch meat or cheese.
  3. Fruit. If you are bored of the basic apple and banana you create a fruit salad. Challenge yourself to get your fruit in by trying one new fruit every day.
  4. Vegetables like celery, carrots or pepper slices. You can also pack your whole wheat pita with lettuce, onion, cucumber and so on. Or bring a prepared side salad that is bursting with veggie favorites.

Packing a lunch should be a cinch when you only have four bases to cover!

Be Portion Savvy: Eating a home-packed lunch doesn’t mean you can overdo it. By dining on the correct portions of the classic four from above your “saver” skills will remain intact. Nosh on whole grains by the cup. Use cupcake holders to measure. Protein servings are approximately the size of a deck of cards. Enjoy fruits and veggies by the handful. If you are at work and at a loss for measurements use this desk guide to portion control via Bite Size Wellness.

Get Creative: You want your lunch to be enjoyable enough that you aren’t tempted to go out and eat something else instead which means you don’t want to deprive yourself and feel unsatisfied day in and day out. These healthy lunch ideas from Cooking Light will have you shunning your co-worker’s blah burger and fries AND inspire you to get creative moving forward. Yum alert on the Chicken Pitas and Southwestern Chicken Pasta Salad.

Tip for the Lunch Packer Pro: Make your lunch away from home a team approach with 4 of your health minded co-workers. Assign days where each colleague will bring in 5 servings (1 for each participant) of a healthy dish into the office for lunch. Try it for a week. You will likely save time by keeping your planning to one day and try some new healthy food you would have never experienced otherwise. Plus, the team approach will keep everyone from running to the nearest vending machine to chow down!

Photo 1 courtesy of Piutus via Flickr (CC BY 3.0)

Photo 2 courtesy of szazesk2 via