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10 Quick and Healthy Brown Bag Lunches

Remember when you were in elementary school and your mom packed your lunch in a paper bag? Turns out she had the right idea. Opt out of eating a pricey, calorie-laden lunch at a fast food restaurant and take 10 minutes the night before to pack a balanced meal you'll look forward to and feel good about eating.

1. The Healthy Elvis
Fried peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwiches, dubbed The Elvis after the famous singer’s penchant for the tasty concoctions, get a healthy remake in this easy recipe. Ditch the bacon and replace the PB with a more nutritious option like natural sunflower seed spread or unsalted almond butter. Just be sure to choose one without hydrogenated oils, added sugars, or salts.

2 slices whole grain bread
2 tbsp. nut butter
1 banana, sliced
1 tbsp. agave nectar

Toast bread, then spread nut butter on both slices. Layer sliced bananas in between the bread and drizzle with agave nectar.

2. Tuna Pita Sandwich
Light tuna packed in water, not oil, serves as a satisfying, protein-rich sandwich filling, while a dash of horseradish mustard adds a spicy kick.

1 whole-wheat pita pocket
1 can of white tuna in water
3 tbsp. fat-free salad dressing
1 tbsp. horseradish mustard 1/4 c. shredded lettuce
1/2 tomato, sliced

Cut pita pocket in half and toast. In a small bowl, combine tuna with dressing and mustard until mixed well. Stuff pita pocket with the mixture, and add lettuce and sliced tomato.

3. Eggplant Pizza
Instead of grabbing a greasy slice to go, bring in your own homemade vegetarian pizza. Using a whole-wheat pita pocket rather than pizza dough shaves off preparation time, while diced eggplant offers a rich source of fiber and potassium.

1 whole-wheat pita pocket
1/2 c. low-sodium marinara sauce
1 c. shredded mozzarella
1/2 c. eggplant, diced
1/2 c. tomato, diced
1/4 c. onion, sliced

On a whole-wheat pita pocket, spread a thin layer of marinara sauce and top with shredded mozzarella. Top with eggplant, tomato and onion. Bake in oven or toaster oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges are browned.

4. Taco Salad
This toss-and-go taco salad is simple, but it offers up an explosion of tropical flavor and crunchy texture. Juicy cubes of mango and tomato combine with crisp tortilla chips (tip: choose low-sodium blue corn chips) for a nourishing, tasty lunch.

1/4 head lettuce, shredded
1/4 mango, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1/4 tomato, chopped
1/4 avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 c. baked tortilla chips, crumbled
3 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. olive oil

Arrange lettuce on a plate. Top with mango, tomato, avocado and onion. Sprinkle crumbled tortilla chips over the salad. Garnish with lime juice and olive oil.

5. Tofu Fry
This tofu and broccoli stir-fry gets an interesting twist since it’s steeped in a sweet and savory sauce, which you should adjust to your taste. Both tofu and broccoli are bursting with nutrients (tofu, in particular, is high in iron). Serve this dish with a side of brown rice for a completely fulfilling meal.

3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
½ tsp. sesame oil
1/3 c. orange juice
1 tbsp. agave nectar
1 pckg. firm tofu, drained and cubed
1/2 head broccoli florets, chopped
3 tbsp. sesame seeds

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, orange juice and agave nectar and set aside. Saute tofu and broccoli in a pan, gradually adding sauce, until broccoli has softened. Remove from pan and sprinkle sesame seeds over tofu and broccoli.

6. Fuss-Free Frittata
Get a protein boost in the middle of the day with a slice of this veggie-packed frittata. The mouthwatering dish brims with vitamins from bell peppers and mushrooms—or any other veggies you want to add. Paired with small boiled potatoes, the frittata will satiate your ravenous midday appetite.

4 whole eggs
1 c. red bell peppers, chopped
1 c. mushrooms, chopped
1 c. frozen peas

In a small bowl, beat the eggs together. Add the mixture to a skillet pan, allowing eggs to set. Scatter the bell peppers, mushrooms a
nd peas over the mixture. When eggs are cooked, use a spatula to slide frittata out of the pan and serve.

7. Chicken Wraps
These chicken wraps only require a few ingredients and serve as a novel way of eating the same old thing. A small amount of oyster sauce imparts big flavor, so use only a dab for each lettuce leaf. Save time by buying a rotisserie chicken and separating the white meat. Although fresh is always best, frozen peas and corn will also suffice if you’re in a rush.

4 large lettuce leaves, washed
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 c. white meat chicken, sliced and cooked
1/4 c. frozen peas, thawed
1/4 c. frozen corn, thawed

Spread a small amount of oyster sauce on each lettuce leaf. Mix chicken together with peas and corn, then place a heaping spoonful onto each leaf.

8. Quick Salmon Burger
Salmon burgers are a deliciously healthy alternative to fast food hamburgers—and just as juicy! A fish that’s highly concentrated in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon tastes even better when accompanied by a squeeze of fresh lemon. Whole-grain bread and Dijon mustard, rather than an enriched white hamburger bun and creamy mayonnaise, help keep the calorie count in check.

1 store-bought salmon patty
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. Djion mustard
1 whole-grain bun
Lettuce and tomato, sliced

Heat oil in a pan and cook salmon patty on both sides. Sprinkle lemon juice over the patty. Spread Dijon mustard on both sides of a whole-grain bun. Assemble salmon patty, lettuce and tomato slices in bun.

9. Shrimp and Edamame Stir-Fry
Store-bought frozen shrimp is quick to thaw and easy to whip into a flavorful lunch, especially when combined with broccoli and edamame. The Japanese green soybean is an all-star legume, naturally abundant in antioxidants and isoflavones.

1 c. frozen shrimp, shelled and thawed
1/2 c. edamame, shelled and steamed
1/3 c. broccoli florets, chopped
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1/2 c. brown rice, cooked

In a pan over low-medium heat, saute shrimp until cooked. Add edamame and broccoli. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. Drizzle the sauce over the stir-fry. Serve with a side of brown rice

10. Old School Lunch
Make mama proud by boxing up this simple lunch for work. A turkey sandwich and a side of fruit take only minutes to prepare, but the healthful combo will give you energy to last the day. Give your old school lunch a grown-up update with a chilled fresh fruit smoothie.

For smoothie:
1/2 c. frozen strawberries
1 banana
1 c. nonfat milk
For sandwich:
1 slice whole-grain bread
4 slices smoked turkey breast
Lettuce and tomato

To make the smoothie, combine frozen strawberries, banana and milk together in a blender. To make the sandwich, slice bread in half, spread Dijon mustard on each side, then layer turkey breast, lettuce and tomato between the halves. Serve with fruit of choice, like grapes, blueberries and a banana.

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