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Low-Calorie Brown Bag Lunch Ideas

by Kim Durant, studioD

Packing a brown-bag lunch is a smart way to plan your midday eating -- which is particularly useful if you are on a diet or just keeping an eye on your calorie intake. Cafeteria lunches, fast food and restaurant meals often have high calorie counts from calorie-dense ingredients like cream and butter. Choose bulky, low-calorie foods to feel satisfied for the rest of the work or school day without overindulging.


Lean soups like pho fill your stomach without a high-calorie count.

Make the main dish in your brown bag lunch something bulky and full of protein so you will feel satiated until dinner, despite having had a low-calorie lunch. Some ideas for low-calorie, high-volume entrees include turkey and bean chili, oatmeal with a swirl of maple syrup, chicken noodle soup, marinated grilled chicken strips, a sandwich with avocado and hard-boiled egg on whole-wheat bread, shrimp over brown rice pasta or a garbanzo bean curry.

Side Dishes

Aim for a

Pack side dishes to complement your brown-bag lunch entree and contribute to feeling full. Vegetables are particularly good for filling you up without many calories. Try roasted squash or cauliflower, steamed carrots or broccoli with sesame glaze, or a big salad full of lettuce, red onion, bell pepper strips, shredded carrots, cucumbers, sea vegetables, strawberries and a sprinkling of slivered almonds, drizzled with light ranch dressing.


Apples are relatively sturdy fruits suitable for packing in a brown bag lunch.

Tuck in food that will satisfy your urge to snack -- a common plight when the mid-afternoon energy lull rolls around or when your lunch meeting goes on and on. Rather than energy-dense potato chips, the Mayo Clinic suggests air-popped popcorn, pointing out that you can munch 3 1/2 cups of it for only about 100 calories. Other snacks that satisfy include baby carrots, celery sticks, puffed rice cereal, rice cakes and cucumber slices dipped in fat-free ranch dressing.


Single-serving containers will help you control portion sizes.

Finish off your low-calorie brown bag lunch with a sweet treat. Examples of low-calorie treats that transport well in a brown bag include individually wrapped hard candies, single-serving packs of pudding or sweetened yogurt, fruit salads, single-serving packages of cookies or crackers, and baked fruit crisps made with oats, vanilla, spices and a small amount of oil.

About the Author

First published at age 17, Kim Durant is an experienced writer with numerous published articles under her belt. A former tutor and community education teacher, she writes primarily about decorating, crafts and other creative pursuits.

Photo Credits

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