Brown bag checklist
When packing your child’s (or your own) lunch, try to …
- include a variety of foods from the major food groups.
- keep calories in mind. Sweetened drinks, cookies and desserts are possible sources of extra fat and sugar.
- use small amounts of high-fat foods, such as butter, margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream and fatty meats.
- include foods with dietary fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole-grain breads.
Have it your way
Here’s how to make your next fast-food lunch quick—and healthy:
- Ask for mustard instead of mayonnaise.
- Choose grilled chicken over fried chicken or a burger.
- Go cheeseless.
- Fill the sandwich with salad fixings like lettuce, tomato, onion and alfalfa sprouts. Remove some of the main filling if you have to make room for these healthy stuffers.
- Ask for light mayo on your tuna, chicken or seafood sandwich.
- Ask for a whole-wheat roll.
- Say no to chips, cookies and other high-fat sidekicks.
Did you know the average American eats 193 sandwiches a year? That’s a lot of sandwiches, but unfortunately, it may not represent a whole lot of variety where it counts—between the slices. If you’re suffering from brown-bagger boredom, chances are you’re not getting the nutrients you need for optimal health.
But fear not. Here’s how to turn your same-old sandwich into a power-packed midday meal.
Are you still hooked on white bread? If so, it’s time to explore other grains. Oatmeal, whole-wheat, rye and pumpernickel breads add extra fiber and nutrients to your sandwich. (Note: Before you grab the first wheat bread you see, scan the nutrition label. Many wheat breads contain mostly white flour; make sure wheat is the first and only flour mentioned.) To give your sandwich an ethnic flair, roll your filling in a tortilla or stuff it into a pita.
Granted, a sandwich isn’t much without the filling. But the most popular sandwich filling—deli meat—isn’t best for your body. Although convenient, a few slices can shoot up your sodium and fat intake. A 4-ounce serving can easily add 28 grams of fat and 1,200 milligrams of sodium to your lunch.
Low-fat and low-sodium luncheon meats will help keep your diet in check, but for a heartier, more satisfying sandwich, use whole chicken and turkey leftovers (cooked without the skin).
Now step outside the lunch box for a moment. What about a roasted veggie sandwich or a hummus and carrot pita? Be creative with your filling—remember, you can fit just about anything between two slices of bread. Here are some other examples:
- fresh mozzarella and tomatoes
- roasted carrots, onion and eggplant
- Caesar salad with chicken
- black bean and veggie roll-up
- spinach salad
If your sandwich is going to be sitting around all morning, wait until serving time to add tomatoes or dressings that might make the bread soggy.