Monday, September 15, 2008

The Brown Bag is Back

(ARA) - While the days of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches may be a distant childhood memory, the “brown bag” lunch is once again becoming a popular fixture on the office desk. With recent economic factors influencing food purchases, America is looking to the brown bag to save a few bucks. According to a new study from the market research firm NPD Group, weekday packed lunches among adults reached a new high in 2007, and this trend is expected to continue.

But “bagging it” doesn’t have to mean a boring turkey sandwich and apple five days a week. With several new, affordable and convenient products, not to mention tips and tricks to turn leftovers into luscious lunches, ordinary options won’t be missed. Revamping the traditional brown bag can help cut costs, as well as turn your mid-day meal into a healthier, more delicious selection you’ll actually look forward to eating.

Bowl is the New Box
Even for those on the go, prepackaged options are now available that deliver nutrition as well as convenience. New shelf-stable options can be readily kept at the office for a quick lunchtime fix. For example, Del Monte’s new Harvest Selections (www.HarvestSelections.com; $2.59) makes it easy to incorporate veggies into lunch -- a meal that often does not include a vegetable. Harvest Selections are wholesome microwaveable meal bowls that are packed with two full servings of vegetables per meal, meeting 40 percent of the USDA MyPyramid recommendations. Because they do not need to be refrigerated, the shelf-stable meals are perfect for stashing in your desk drawer or tote bag.

Leftover Love
Prepare healthy, delicious meals that dish up plenty of leftovers. A few tweaks to yesterday’s dinner can provide delectable work week lunches. Transform chicken or beef leftovers into healthy pasta dishes or vegetable packed salads that can easily be toted to the office. Try adding spreads, such as hummus, to spice up traditional cold cut sandwiches. Hummus, left over from a weekend get-together, can be a healthy, delicious alternative to mayo on Monday’s turkey sandwich as it is packed with flavor and is a great source of protein.

When preparing weekend meals, search for recipes that involve pantry staples such as whole wheat pastas, brown rice, and vegetables. Look for recipes that utilize ingredients that can feed the entire family for $10 or less and whip up inexpensive meals that dish out several portions. With the average serving costing just a little more than $2, one portion is cheaper, and usually healthier than your typical slice of pizza.

To ensure you can always prepare healthy, delicious meals any time of the week, always keep your pantry stocked with a few staples, including canned fruits and vegetables, such as Del Monte corn and tomatoes, and lean proteins such as tuna. Remember to keep a full spice rack to add your own personal touch to traditional recipes.

Brown Bag Buddy
Bring the concept of morning carpooling to the office lunch room, and try partnering with a work friend to make eating in more diverse and exciting! Take turns bringing packed lunches for each other to keep brown bagging fun and surprising. If others in the office want to participate, start a weekly, healthy work potluck lunch.

By planning ahead and stocking up on a few healthy staples, you’ll be prepared for quick and healthy meal options even during the most hectic weeks. And you’ll save a few bucks, too.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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