Check out these 7 healthy brown bag options

Check out these 7 healthy brown bag options

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Lunch is an important part of many Americans' work days. It's a nice break from your daily tasks and a chance to eat something tasty. Many people go out for lunch. But with driving there and back, paying a premium for prepared food and not having control over how the food is made, you may be wasting time and money on unhealthy lunches.

Bringing, or "brown bagging," your lunch to work may take a few extra minutes of preparation at home, but it'll cost less, maximize time spent on break and allow you to make something that you know is healthy. This is perfect for anyone looking to save a few bucks or shave off some extra pounds.

For many workers, however, the biggest problem with bringing lunch is thinking of something tasty each day. If you're considering bringing your lunch to work, check out these creative and healthy ideas that can help make lunch something to look forward to all morning.

1. Elvis' favorite, hold the bacon
Among his many accomplishments, Elvis Presley popularized a style of sandwich. Made of bacon, peanut butter and bananas, this sandwich was often deep fried and famously unhealthy. However, Shape magazine gave this dish a healthy twist that's almost guaranteed to give you a midday pick-me-up. The magazine suggested cutting out the bacon completely and replacing the peanut butter with sunflower spread or almond butter. Keep the banana, grilled it on hearty bread and add some agave nectar for a sweet, protein-rich, vitamin-filled treat.

2. Homemade soup to go
Putting a little time into preparing your food can pay off all week. Cooking Light magazine recommended employees make their own tomato soup. All you need is a thermos to bring this meal on a long commute. Don't be afraid to put the yogurt or basil right in the thermos, the magazine suggested. Making your own soup allows you to find a recipe that's as healthy as possible – low sodium, fresh ingredients – while still being delicious.

3. Tasty lentils and bulgur
Many Americans only think about sandwiches, soups or salads when it comes to lunch. Although they're all great options, grains and legumes can be delectable and healthy alternatives to these lunch staples. The Huffington Post suggested a dish made of hot lentils and bulgur with caramelized onions. Like the tomato soup, you can make a large batch of this at home and have it for a few lunches. Whether you prefer it hot or cold, you can add your favorite veggies and spices to this dish while enjoying the nutritious and protein-rich foods.

4. A less traditional salad
Rather than making a salad with tomato, lettuce and chicken, try one with some less-common vegetables. Todays Parents magazine advised parents to take a break from making their children's lunch and tackle a healthy brown-bag option for themselves. Kale, red onion, zucchini, carrots, raisins and feta combine for a dish you can saute and serve with rice as a hot salad. If you still want some meat in there, consider salmon or lean, baked chicken. Not only is this salad mouthwatering, but it's loaded with vitamins and nutrients.

5. Gluten-free chicken salad 
Many people are opting for gluten-free options when it comes to lunch nowadays, whether for medical reasons or dietary choices. Glamour magazine recommended a healthy take on chicken salad, with hummus, low-fat mayo, black pepper, dried cranberries, chicken and chopped walnuts. You can eat this dish with a fork as-is or spoon it between two pieces of gluten-free toast.

6. High-protein, manly sandwich
Ask Men tried to address the idea of brown-bag lunches by reminding readers that just because it's going to be homemade and healthy doesn't mean it can't be substantive and delicious as well. The online resource suggested people try a smoked chicken sandwich for a hearty and delicious meal that's low in fat. Combine lean, smoked deli chicken with low-fat mozzarella cheese, tomato, bell peppers, fat-free Italian dressing, parsley, onion and thick bread. Although the sandwich is filled with veggies and nearly void of fat, it still delivers a powerful punch of protein to keep you going all afternoon.

7. Bean and pasta salad
Heating up your lunch can be a pain at work. You only have so long for your break and everyone else is trying to use the microwave too. Try this cold salad from Martha Stewart Living magazine. Mix cooked pasta shells, cut green beans, Dijon mustard, red-wine vinegar, honey, olive oil, chickpeas, scallions, pinto beans and celery in a bowl. Chill overnight, scoop into a reusable container for the commute and get it into your work fridge when you clock in. You'll have a delicious lunch that's ready as soon as you take it out of the fridge.

Bringing your lunch to work is a great alternative to eating out every day. With the right ingredients, brown bagging it is a healthy and fun way to enjoy your lunch.

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