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Update Your 'Brown Bag' Lunch

Update Your 'Brown Bag' Lunch

Make sure your packed lunches are field-ready and healthy.

Yes, those quickly fixed ham sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly combos are good to go the field for a fast lunch. But University of Vermont Extension Food Specialist Dianne Lamb suggests it's time to "think outside the brown bag" and those same-old eats.

Smart choices for sandwiches or wraps can help control portion size plus calorie and fat content, she says. And that may even lower your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Start with that sandwich. About 60% of it is bread. Choose one made with whole-grain flour. But don't be fooled. Just because it's dark bread doesn't necessarily mean its whole grain. Caramel color or molasses often are added to deepen the color.

Whole-grain bread is more fiber-rich and filling than refined grains. Check the ingredient label. The first item listed should be either "100% whole grain" or "whole" followed by the type of grain used.

Roll a wrap instead of using bread. Soft tortillas are popular, but consider a spinach or tomato-herb tortilla instead. Just keep in mind you can't stuff as much into a wrap as between bread slices.

When making wraps, it's better to err on the side of "less" instead of "more." Too much filling and ingredients like salsa, chopped tomatoes or runny spreads and dressings will ooze out. Who needs a juicy or sticky mess on tractor controllers.

Layer thinly sliced meats or low-fat cheese with your choice of vegetables, fruit or even beans. Hummus (chickpea spread) and pesto make flavorful "glue" for a wrap. Or team them up with pita bread or whole-grain breads.

For sandwich fillings, don't overlook spreads made with reduced-fat soft cheeses and even vegetables or fruit. Or instead of a traditional peanut butter sandwich, why not pack peanut butter in celery sticks, with a few whole-wheat crackers on the side.

Throw in an apple, a sealed bag of fresh berries or a handful of raisins. You have a nutritious, energy-filled lunch.

Think safety when packing that lunch

Yes, lunch time will come quickly when you're working. But so do bad bacteria when temperatures range between 40 to 100 degrees. So keep perishables – anything with milk, meat, fish, and eggs – chilled at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

Insulated, soft-sided bags are ideal, reusable replacements for brown bags. Use frozen bottles of water, fruit juice or ice packs to keep contents cold.


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