How to make a healthy brown bag lunch

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Most people understand that packing a lunch saves time, money and your health and yet two-thirds of the workforce still eat out at lunchtime. Here`s a little food for thought to motivate your lunch-packing efforts: If you ate out every day for lunch and only spent $5/meal, that adds up to $1,250. A more realistic estimate is spending $10/day including drinks, coffee, etc. and that adds up to $2,500. If you could save more than half of that amount by packing your own lunch, you could start planning a fun vacation by the year`s end and would probably have dropped a few pounds in the process.

Another consideration is time. Think about not just how much time you spend going out to lunch, or waiting in the drive-thru, but how you are spending your lunch break. The extra 10-20 minutes it takes to go out for lunch, wait in lines and deal with traffic frustration could be much better spent on a relaxing walk, sharing some humor with a co-worker, or even using a meditation app on your phone.  Your blood-pressure would no doubt thank you.

So what are some ideas to keep brown-bagging from becoming boring?

Vary textures. Adding crunchy salad toppings can go a long way towards keeping you satisfied. Maybe you need a little creaminess, so try a soft cheese.

Try breakfast for lunch. Who says waffles are just for breakfast? Add in some seasonal fruit and maybe a yogurt and you`ve got breakfast for lunch.

Mix up the protein. It doesn`t have to be a ham and cheese sandwich every day.  Consider packing some jerky to go along with some soup, or salad to provide a satisfying savory source of protein.

Try grown-up spins on your childhood favorites. Instead of PB&J, try a different nut or seed butter. Spread some Sunbutter on a tortilla, wrap around a banana and you`re set. Or add some chili paste, chicken and basil for a Thai wrap.

When all is said and done, your wallet may fatten up, but chances are you won`t when you decide to become a brown-bag pro.

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