Lunchtime pick-me-ups

Tired of the same old brown-bag lunch? Here are some new, healthy ideas

Let’s face it, a good ol’ sandwich is the easiest lunch to make, carry and eat. But you can only have so much ham and cheese or PB ‘n’ J before the calories creep up – or the boredom gets you down. Beat the brown-bag blues and shop for this checklist of lively – and healthy – sandwich stuffings.

A nutritious lunch should include each of the following: protein and whole grains to sustain you, veggies and fruit for fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. You want flavour without too much fat, and these less-common sandwich stuffers do the trick.

Protein Turkey breast (try Cajun or maple), lean roast beef, meat-free veggie slices or burgers, canned salmon, flavoured tuna packed in water, almond or cashew butter, imitation crabmeat, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, low-fat cheese, legumes (lentils, peas and beans).

Whole grains Multi-grain bread, lavash (Armenian bread), tortillas and wraps, cooked brown rice, barley, quinoa, couscous, bulgur.

Veggies Mesclun greens, arugula, grape tomatoes, sweet onions, carrots, Savoy cabbage, olives, cauliflower or broccoli florets, snap peas, sprouts. For a flavour boost, try grilled veggies: onions, zucchini, eggplant, corn, sweet peppers. Bag separately and add to your sandwich or toss into your salad at work.

Flavour with less fat Instead of butter or margarine, try honey mustard, low-fat mayo, salsa, chutney, cranberry sauce, relish, low-fat salad dressings and yogurt, sun-dried tomato spread, horseradish.

Add crunch and eye appeal Dried fruit such as dates, apricots, raisins, cranberries; nuts and seeds such as pine nuts, slivered almonds, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Now that you have the basics, try these.

• Turkey with mesclun greens, shredded carrots, alfalfa sprouts and cranberry sauce on flax bread.
• Flaked tuna with green onions, roasted zucchini and a smear of low-fat mayo open-face on lavash.
• A small amount of brie with pear slices and spinach leaves on a whole wheat baguette.
• Leftover veggie burger in a whole wheat bun with salsa, lettuce, tomato and grilled peppers.

Wraps can hold ingredients you wouldn’t usually try to squish between bread slices. Try these.

• Leftover chicken and seasoned brown rice, chopped cilantro and mango chutney.
• Light cream cheese, smashed chickpeas, roasted red peppers, shredded lettuce and sliced olives.
• Mexican wrap with brown rice, beans, shredded low-fat cheese and fresh veggies.

Planning ahead means you’re less likely to buy a slice of pizza from the cafeteria. Guarantee leftovers by setting aside your lunch portion before you serve dinner, and set aside time on the weekend to cut up veggies for snacks and store in resealable plastic bags. Other healthy mid-afternoon snacks such as low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, fresh fruit and trail mix will keep you going until dinner.