NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


| Share

Take It to Lunch

Take It to Lunch


                We’ve all seen the ideas on Pinterest –salads in a jar, unusual sandwiches to pack for lunch – why are there so many ideas out there on lunches to pack for work? 

                A desire to eat healthy is a major driving force for those who choose to pack lunches for work.  According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 92% of restaurant meals have too many calories to fit into a healthy diet. . Plus, researchers at Tufts University found that even "healthier" fast food options still pack too much salt and fat in a 2016 study.  Packing a lunch gives us more control over portion sizes and what foods are going into each lunch.

                If healthy nutrition habits aren’t enough to sway you to start packing your lunch, then maybe knowing just how much money you're spending will help.  If you purchase lunch every workday, at 10 dollars a lunch, with a minimum of 20 work days in a month, your lunch total is $200 a month or a grand total of $2,400 a year!

                What to do to kick start the “pack your lunch” habit?  Start with changing up leftovers. Eating the same thing for lunch that you had for dinner last night can get really old, really fast. That's why people who bring their lunches to work know how to dress up their leftovers.  Tortilla wraps can turn a casserole into a burrito. Cooked pasta can be the base of a vegetarian pasta salad by adding roasted veggies, beans, and a sauce, like pesto.  How about creating your own chopped salad with sliced and diced leftover meat/boiled eggs and tossed with your choice of lettuce and dressing?  Reinventing your leftovers tricks your taste buds into believing you're having a totally new meal, minus all the extra prep.

                Deciding when to pack that lunch can be just as important as what to pack.  Are you a pack immediately after dinner person?  Maybe making multiple sandwiches on the weekend for the busy week ahead is what gives you more time in the morning?  Or how about making freezing individual portion sizes of your favorite casserole and grabbing a frozen container on your way out the door to reheat later in a microwave?  Others of us are the spontaneous people who grab whatever and anything out of the frig or cabinet the morning of! Whatever time works for you is the best choice!

                Another route to satisfying lunches is to look for some new favorites.  Most of us can quickly list some basic sandwich recipes: turkey and cheese on multigrain bread; tuna salad and lettuce on rye bread and so on.  Look at web sites such as www.eatingwell.com or www.cookinglight.com for ideas that will keep both your taste buds and pocketbook happy.  Try the following sandwich idea from the American Heart Association combines some old favorites with new tastes for a great, grab and go sandwich.


Open-Faced Italian Vegetable Sandwich with Ham or Turkey


  • 1 small zucchini cut into 1/4 inch slices, about 1 cup
  • 1 small peeled cucumber, cut into ¼ inch slices, about 1 cup
  • 1 seeded green or red bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch slices lengthwise
  • 2 green onions, cut into 2 inch pieces, then cut into quarters
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. fresh basil leaves (finely chopped)OR 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 clove garlic (finely chopped)
  • 6 slices whole-wheat, or, whole-grain bread
  • 6 slices low-sodium, sliced ham or sliced turkey (about 2 ounces each)
  • 2 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into quarter-inch slices
  • 1 head romaine or other head lettuce, separated into leaves, washed


Makes six (6) sandwiches at 200 calories each with 2.2 g of fat and 420 mg of sodium per serving.

Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.