Packing a Healthy Lunch

With summer coming to a close and the first day of school just around the corner it’s time to start thinking about getting back into a routine with packing those bag lunches again. Brown bag lunches aren’t just for children though, packing your lunch for work is not only much healthier than take-out, it will also help you save a great deal of money that you can put towards something indulgent like a massage or concert ticket! Here are some fresh ideas to help you prepare great lunches that are healthy, satisfying and delicious.


Aim to include foods from at least 3 of the 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide at lunch time to create a satisfying lunch time meal. Include a variety of choices from this list with at least one or two of your choices being a vegetable and/or fruit.

  • A vegetable- leafy green salad, raw veggies, veggies cooked in a stew or pasta
  • Fruit- fresh, canned (unsweetened)  or dried
  • Whole grains- bread, tortilla, pita, buns, crackers, pasta, rice, quinoa or muffins
  • Low-fat milk or milk alternative- cow’s milk, soy milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese, or cottage cheese
  • Lean meat or meat alternative- fish, meat, poultry, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, hummus, beans, lentils, or tofu

*For healthy snack ideas to add to your lunch check-out my previous post on “The Art of Healthy Snacking


Sandwiches can be a quick and easy component of a healthy lunch…but they can also be somewhat boring. Here are some easy ways to keep your sandwiches exciting:

  • Vary the bread: whole grain sliced bread, tortillas, English muffins, buns, naan, pita, mini bagels, and flat breads. Read the labels and make sure there is at least 2g fibre per serving.
  • Vary the spread: hummus, mustard, guacamole, smashed avocado, salsa, light mayonnaise or miracle whip, tzatziki, babaganoush, low-fat salad dressing, sweet chili sauce, chutney, bruschetta, peanut sauce, teriyaki sauce…the options and combination are endless!
  • Vary the filling:
    • Egg salad made with guacamole or hummus
    • Tuna salad made with low-fat salad dressing
    • Peanut butter and banana slices
    • Turkey and cranberry sauce
    • Refried beans with salsa and grated cheese
    • Leftover chicken stir-fry in a wrap
    • Almond butter and apple slices
    • Zucchini, red pepper and sprouts with hummus
    • Salmon with teriyaki sauce and baby spinach
    • Roasted chicken with basil pesto and spinach
    • Beets, spinach and herb goat cheese
    • Eggplant, smashed chickpeas, garlic and tzatziki
    • Roast beef with rosemary roasted tomatoes
    • Havarti cheese, raspberry jam and spinach


  • Bring leftover chili in a thermos and serve with a small whole grain bun and grated cheddar cheese on top.
  • Quesadilla- on a whole grain tortilla spread guacamole and sprinkle with 1/3 cup black beans, chopped bell pepper  and ¼ cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese on half of the tortilla. Fold other side of tortilla over and warm in microwave or frying pan until cheese is melted. Serve with a spinach salad on the side.
  • Make a big batch of this quinoa salad to have throughout the week for lunch. Serve with some fresh fruit.


  • Whole grain pita bread, raw veggies, hummus and a hard boiled egg. Serve with fresh fruit.
  • Create a meal size yogurt parfait with Greek yogurt, whole grain cereal and fruit. Serve with raw vegetables on the side.
  • Serve tuna salad with whole grain crackers with raw vegetables and fruit on the side.
  • Mix up chopped tomatoes, green peppers, cucumber, black beans, salsa and guacamole. Serve with whole grain pita and fruit.
  • Make a big salad packed with leafy greens, vegetables, some sort of protein (egg, lean meat, fish, legumes, cottage cheese, cheese) and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado). Serve with whole grain crackers or pita, hummus and fresh fruit.


Leftover dinner can very easily be packed up for next day’s lunch or you can get creative and change your leftovers into something new.

  • Add leftover quinoa or kidney beans  to homemade vegetable soup or low-sodium canned soup
  • Toss leftover roasted cauliflower with curry powder, chickpeas, beans or lentils. Serve with whole wheat pita and tzatziki.
  • Use leftover whole grain pasta to make a pasta salad by tossing with raw vegetables and your favourite low-fat salad dressing.
  • Make a burrito by wrapping leftover chili in a whole grain tortilla with guacamole and shredded cheese on top. Serve with a small salad.
  • Use leftover cooked meat or fish from dinner  for sandwiches or on your salads the following day (this will also help to lower your sodium intake!).


Keeping non-perishable foods on hand in your office can help you piece together a healthy meal (or at least healthy snacks) when packing a lunch the night before just didn’t happen.

  • Light tuna and whole grain crackers- bring along raw veggies and an apple.
  • Canned low-sodium soups- bring along bread sticks and baby carrots.
  • Peanut butter and whole grain crackers or bread sticks- bring along a banana and cucumber.
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Whole grain granola bars
  • Whole grain cereal-bring along a banana and milk
  • Trail mix- make your own with nuts, seeds, high fibre cereal, multigrain pretzels and dark chocolate chips
Read more about Nutrition.

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