Shake Up Your Boring Brown-Bag Lunches

Look forward to lunchtime by upgrading your stale brown-bag lunches to more exciting fare.


By Jennifer House, R.D.


Everyone wants to save money and eat healthier, right? But the same brown bag lunch that contains a soggy sandwich 5 days a week can get old and boring quickly. Here are some ideas to spruce up your work lunch so you’re not tempted by the greasy food joint next door!

1. Reuse leftovers

It’s easy to re-heat leftovers such as chilli, soup or pasta dishes. Another way to use leftovers like chilli or stir-fry for lunch is to wrap it up in a tortilla. Add some salsa and grated cheese and you have an instant burrito!

2. Try a finger-food bento-box

Finger-food bento-boxes are visually appealing and fun to eat! Include whole grain crackers, small cheese cubes, veggie sticks and rolled turkey slices, tuna or a boiled egg for protein.

3. Make salads into full-on meals

Add to greens any chopped leftover meat, beans or boiled eggs. If you don’t have time to chop up extra vegetables, throw in some snap peas, cherry tomatoes or carrot sticks, which require no extra chopping! Avoid having soggy greens by taking a small container of your favorite salad dressing or keep a bottle of dressing at work. 

If you make a grain-based salad using pasta, quinoa or rice, you can add the dressing the night before. The salad gets more flavorful with time!

4. Spice up your sandwich

Choose whole grain mini bagels, tortillas or pitas instead of bread. Add a specialty mustard, tzatziki or hummus as a spread. You can get adventurous with the fillings too: try refried beans with salsa and cheese; sliced apples with almond butter; or roasted peppers with avocado and sliced chicken breast.

5. Simple Snacks

It’s a great idea to prepare a week’s worth of lunch snacks during the weekend. Bake a batch of fresh whole grain muffins or cookies. Slice up some veggies and pre-bag them in individual servings. Boil eggs. Make a few individual yogurt parfaits with plain yogurt, frozen fruit and granola (add a bit of maple syrup for sweetness, if desired).

6. Form a lunch co-op 

Get in a group with of 4-5 co-workers and take turns bringing in lunch for the co-op. You can set ground rules and make sure everyone has similar tastes. You'll get a homemade lunch daily and only have to put in the effort once a week!

Jennifer is a registered dietitian, registered nutritionist, and a member of the Alberta College of Dietitians and Dietitians of Canada. Combining her personal and professional passions, Jennifer loves to blog about food and eating during pregnancy and for young kids and families. You can find her on First Step Nutrition.

Main Photo Credit: Fer Gregory/; Second Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker/; Third Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images/