Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Brown-bag lunch for healthy alternatives

The lunch hour for a college student is often an unceremonious and rushed affair. Many of us grab the same items week after week from the delis on campus, spending needless amounts of money on items we may not even really like.

Packing a cold lunch from home is an easy way to ensure your lunch is both enjoyable and healthy. When you pack your own lunch, you control the ingredients and get to make it just the way you like it. There are plenty of ways to keep the brown bag from being boring. Read on for some ideas on putting pizzazz into your midday meal.

Sandwich makeover:


The sandwich is a no-cook lunchbox staple and the ultimate blank canvas, with so much more potential beyond the standard PB&J. Try these recommendations for a fun sandwich:

– Buy a new type of bread, like pumpernickel or rye.

– Spice up your spread by making your own spicy low-fat mayonnaise, honey mustard or yogurt-based herb spread from scratch. has some great ideas.

– If you normally like a lunch meat on your sandwich, try a kind you’ve never tried. Some newer options in stores are turkey pastrami and black-pepper ham.

– If you’re a veg head, try thinking about “salad” in a new way. Coarsely ground chickpeas make the great base for a tuna salad-like makeover.

– If your bread always gets soggy, try separating your ingredients and assembling them at the lunch table before you eat.

– When in doubt, turn your sandwich into a wrap! Tortillas now come in many cool flavors like spinach and tomato basil.

Rethink salad:

Salads can seem boring, but it’s easy to make them all your own. Creating a big batch at the beginning of the week provides lunch for several days and saves you time later. Dishes containing proteins such as tuna, chicken or eggs can be eaten and stored for up to three to five days in the refrigerator. Other grain- and vegetable-based salads can last up to seven days.

– Tuna or chicken salad are easy to made in bulk. Try mixing in Greek yogurt and low-fat mayo for a healthier take on the classic.

– If you like Southwest flavors, black bean salad makes for a delicious and filling lunch. Toss together beans, corn, tomatoes or peppers and any other vegetables you like and add a lime-based vinaigrette to top it off. If you like it spicy, add a dash of cayenne pepper.

– Regular vegetable salads can be easily prepared by adding canned goods or packaged goods. Toss some canned corn and beans, seeds or nuts on top of a salad for added flavor.

– It’s also easy to prepare your own healthy dressings at home. Just whisk together oil, any type of vinegar and any herbs or spices you like and store your creation in the fridge for up to a week.

– If you’re trying to make your salads a little more filling, try adding a lean protein source like canned tuna, diced chicken or hard-boiled eggs. Eggs are easy to boil in bulk and keep in the fridge for a week.

– Another fun take is a whole grain-based salad. Try adding your favorite fruits, vegetables and spices to quinoa, brown rice or wheat berries. Toss it with a little dressing, and it’s just like the made-to-go salads from the deli.

Think appetizers:

If you’re looking to move beyond the salad or sandwich, look no further than the appetizer. Your favorite healthy appetizers can be combined to make a simple to-go lunch as well.

– Green apple slices or red grapes pair very well with cheese slices. Add some crusty whole grain crackers and you have a satisfying meal.

– If you like Italian flavors, try making your own cherry tomato, basil and mozzarella mini-skewers on toothpicks. Just pop them — take out the toothpicks first! — into your mouth during class for a unique and fun lunch.

– Think Mediterranean and pack hummus and vegetables with whole grain crackers or pita bread. Hummus is a great vegetable protein source, full of vitamins and minerals.

Pack your sidekicks:

Don’t forget that any cold lunch is easily complimented by a delicious fruit or low-fat yogurt.

– Yogurts come in almost any flavor under the sun. However, many low-fat varieties add tons of sugar to make up for the difference in taste. It’s easy to make your own healthy parfait by choosing plain yogurt and adding fresh fruit. This cuts the sugar content and keeps the flavor. Add a sprinkle of whole grain cereal or unsalted nuts for an extra crunch.

– If you’re looking for extra protein, try Greek yogurt, which has more grams of protein per serving.

– Fruit is the ultimate easy lunch pair. Look outside the box of the standard apple, banana and orange and try something you don’t normally buy. Pears, plums and cherries are great on the go.

All that’s left is to get a snazzy lunch box and you’re ready to pack an exciting and nutritious cold lunch every day of the week.

This week’s recipe of the week is a fun quinoa salad full of whole grains, lean protein and heart-healthy fats from avocado.

Avocado Black Bean Salad with Cumin-Lime Dressing 

Serves 4-6 (or your lunch for 4-6 days!) 


” 1 cup dry quinoa 

” 1 3/4 to 2 cups water

” 1 can (14 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed 

” 1 avocado, chopped into chunks 

” 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered 

” 1/2 red onion, diced 

” 1 small clove garlic, minced 

” 1 red bell pepper, chopped into chunks 

” Small handful cilantro, diced 

” 1 lime, juiced 

” 1/2 teaspoon cumin 

” 1/2 tablespoon olive oil 

” Salt, to taste


1. Cook quinoa according to package directions (about 15-20 minutes). 

2. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare all other ingredients (chop vegetables). 

3. Prepare the dressing by combining lime juice, oil, cumin and salt. Whisk together quickly. Adjust seasoning to preference. A dash of cayenne is optional for a spicy addition. 

4. When the quinoa has finished cooking, remove it from heat and fluff with a fork and let cool. 

5. Add all the remaining ingredients, including the dressing, and mix. 

6. Store in the fridge for up to a week and enjoy for lunch!

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