5 Low-Cal Brown Bag Lunches

If you think brown bagging it is so third grade, think again. Bringing lunch from home can save you time, money and from having to brave the cold to pick something up on Main Street.

It can also save you calories. That carnitas burrito you loved at Chipotle ran you 945 calories, and the Double ShackBurger you noshed on at Shake Shack was 770 calories and that’s not including the fries and obligatory shake. Save yourself from a new wardrobe splurge by keeping it low-cal during the workweek. The best part: you don’t have to sacrifice great taste. Chef up one of these five delicious brown bag recipes, all under 500 calories.

Kale Salad with Brie and Grilled Chicken

low cal brown bag lunch ideas

image: the cheeses of europe

Makes four servings, 290 calories

Stop resisting the kale trend and give it a try. You won’t regret it, especially when mixed with super-seasonal apple cider vinegar and Brie used in this recipe from The Cheeses of Europe.


1/4 olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
8oz boneless skinless chicken breast

1 bunch kale, sliced
8oz Brie, sliced
1 cup glazed pecans, chopped
1 green apple, cored and sliced into thin wedges

1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil


Whisk the oil with the mustard and slowly add the vinegars. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the stems from the kale and slice. Toss the kale with desired amount of dressing and set aside to marinate.
In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic, kosher salt, lemon zest, pepper and paprika.
Oil the chicken and rub the seasoning onto each piece. Grill on medium-high heat for 7-8 minutes per side. Let rest 4-5 minutes and then slice.
Mix pecans and apple slices to the marinated kale. Place the sliced chicken and Brie on top.

Hawaiian BBQ Wrap

low can brown bag lunch ideas

image: These wraps are a favorite of Lindsay Landford, St. Vincent Sports Performance’s registered dietitian

Makes 1 serving, 345 calories

Dream of a trip to a warmer island while sitting in the break room as you chow down on this Hawaiian BBQ Wrap. It comes highly recommended by Lindsay Landford, St. Vincent Sports Performance’s registered dietitian who has also worked with USA Gymnastics, USA Track & Field, NBA and NFL athletes.


1 10-12 in. whole wheat tortilla
1 4oz can crushed pineapple in water, drained
1 cup shredded coleslaw mix
3 thin slices of lean, deli ham
1 tablespoon of your favorite BBQ sauce


Spread BBQ sauce evenly on the tortilla, leaving about a 1 inch boarder all the way around.
On one half of the tortilla, spread the shredded coleslaw mix, top with pineapple and deli ham.
Fold over the sides of the tortilla and roll to wrap.

Creamy Orzo with Spinach

credit: flickr creative commons/jypsygen

image: A colorful orzo and spinach recipe that will fill you up and make you smile credit: flickr creative commons/jypsygen

This pasta dish from Land O’Lakes will not only fill you up, the bright colors will keep you cheery even on drab winter days.  


8oz uncooked dried orzo pasta
1 Half Stick (1/4 cup) Land O Lakes® Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic
1 (6oz) package (6 cups) fresh spinach, stems removed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/4 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest


Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Return to pan; keep warm.
Melt 2 tablespoons Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt in 10-inch skillet until sizzling. Add garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.
Add spinach, salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt and 1 cup Parmesan cheese to cooked pasta in pan; stir until combined. Add cooked spinach, tomatoes and lemon zest. Mix well. Spoon mixture into serving dish. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Turkey-Cheese Pita Pocket

credit: freeImages.com/Benford Terex

credit: freeImages.com/Benford Terex

Makes one serving, 301 calories  (not including dried apricots or banana chips)

You know those mini-pocket hors d’oeuvres you can’t stay away from at holiday parties? What if we told you that you can eat an even bigger one and it’s actually fewer calories? Pack this turkey-cheese pita pocket, dreamt up by BooginHead founder/CEO Sari Davidson-Crevin, for a mid-day indulgence that won’t break your calorie bank.


2 tablespoons low-fat creamy cheese
1 whole wheat pita
2 roast turkey slices
2oz baby spinach leaves
4 cucumber slices
Dried apricots or banana chips*
Water or low-sugar beverage*

* – Optional

Spread 2 tablespoons of low fat creamy cheese inside a whole wheat pita.
Fill with 2 roast turkey slices, 2oz baby spinach leaves and 4 cucumber slices.

Optional: Include dried apricots or banana chips and water or a low sugar beverage.

Mixed Greens Salad with Chicken


image: A salad that’s anything but boring credit: sarah kussin photo

Makes one serving, 444 calories

With almonds, an orange and even popcorn, this salad is anything but boring. That’s why it’s a favorite of Beth Warren MS, RDN, CDN, author of Living a Real Life with Real Food: How to Get Healthy, Lose Weight and Stay Energized. Major bonuses: the protein in the eggs and chicken will keep you full, and it’s quick to make (we know, you’re more pressed for time than ever these days).


2oz rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1 hard-cooked egg
2 tablespoons oil-and-vinegar dressing
2 cups 94%-fat-free popcorn
1 orange, peeled


Put chicken, almonds, tomatoes, egg and orange in bowl.
Drizzle on salad dressing.
Serve popcorn on side.

beth ann clyde

beth ann clyde

Beth Ann Clyde is a social strategist of Long Island Pulse. Have a story idea or just want to say hello? Email bethann@lipulse.com or reach out on Twitter @BAClyde.