The average fast food lunch costs about $6.00 per meal, which equals $30.00 per week. Once you factor in the cost of gas and simple maintenance on your car, it ends up costing over $35.00 a week to eat out; that’s $140.00 a month! In addition to spending more, experts like “Recipe Doctor” Elaine Magee, MPH, RD of WebMD Weight Loss Clinic report that people tend to consume more food, calories, and fat when dining out. If the high cost of eating out and a larger waistline isn’t enough to deter you from eating lunch out every day, consider the amount of time and hassle it takes to go out for lunch and wait in a drive-through line.
By packing a nutritious lunch in the evening, you will save money and calories, and time. Thankfully, there are plenty of delicious options that you can quickly and easily prepare:
1. Turkey, Swiss and Granny Smith Apples on Whole-Grain Bread
Not only are whole-grain breads a better choice than white bread because of their higher fiber and vitamin content, they’re denser than white bread, which makes them sturdier for sandwiches. No more mushy bread! Turkey meat and a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese are delicious, low calorie options and the crisp Granny Smith Apples provide a tangy way to incorporate fruit into your diet. Instead of using mayonnaise, use low-fat cream cheese for a spread.
2. Meatless Sandwich
Whether you’re a vegetarian or someone just looking for a lighter lunch option, a meatless sandwich is a nutritious choice. Load up whole-grain bread with vegetables such as tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers, mushrooms and bell peppers. Instead of using mayonnaise as a spread, try using a store-bought hummus for a little zing.
3. Chicken Salad in a Whole Wheat Pita
Whether you’re using leftover chicken from dinner the night before or canned chicken packed in water, chicken salad is a quick, easy lunch option. It can be simply prepared with a little light mayonnaise and salt and pepper or you can add in crunchier options such as onions, celery, apples, grapes or walnuts.
4. Hearty Salad
Throw together a little lettuce, cut up lunchmeat, a hard-boiled egg and some salad dressing and you have a healthy, low cost dish. Just make sure the salad dressing isn’t loaded with too much fat and calories.
5. Canned Soup
If you have access to a microwave, a can of soup is an inexpensive, hearty option. The average cost of a can of Campbell’s soup is under $1.50.
In addition to the above options, try adding some yogurt or jell-o to your lunch for a little variety. Vegetables such as baby carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes will satisfy cravings for crunchy foods, and fruits like apples, bananas, grapes, plums, pears, and strawberries will satisfy that afternoon sweet-tooth.
Tips for Successful Brown Bagging
1. Prepare a variety of meals throughout the week so you don’t get burned out eating the same thing every day.
2. Clean, chop, and store fruits and vegetables in individual containers so you can easily add them to your lunch.
3. Don’t procrastinate! Make your lunch as you prepare dinner or shortly before you go to bed at night.