17 lunches that make brown bagging it totally worth it

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Packing lunches worth brown bagging is an art, and these recipes will make you the Picasso of the office lunch scene. Say goodbye to sad desk salads and overpriced takeout. These meals are so great, you’ll be strutting into the break room like you own the place.

Bacon ranch chicken salad cucumber boats lined up on a plate.
Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Cucumber Boats. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Bell Pepper Sandwich

Bell pepper sandwich cut in half on a plate.
Bell Pepper Sandwich. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Let’s kick off with the Bell Pepper Sandwich. Instead of bread, this sandwich uses fresh bell peppers, creating a colorful, crunchy vessel for a filling of deli turkey, cheese, avocado, bacon, and cucumbers. It’s ready in just 10 minutes, which is less time than you spend scrolling through emails in the morning. This sandwich is an awesome way to add some fun and nutrition to your lunch routine while still keeping things light and delicious.
Get the Recipe: Bell Pepper Sandwich

Big Mac Salad

A person holding serving spoons in a bowl of Big Mac salad.
Big Mac Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

The Big Mac Salad has all the goodness of a Big Mac without the heavy carbs. The recipe yields the flavors of a drive-through burger that you know and love — all in salad form. It features lettuce, beef, pickles, onions, and that special copycat “Big Mac Sauce” dressing. It’s easy, filling, and honestly, bragging rights when you say you had a Big Mac Salad for lunch.
Get the Recipe: Big Mac Salad

Reuben Bowls

A bowl of coleslaw with creamy dressing, garnished with green onions, served in a ceramic bowl with a fork.
Reuben Bowls. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Reuben Bowls will simplify your lunch game. They’re a deconstructed version of the classic sandwich, featuring corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and coleslaw mix, tossed in a homemade thousand island dressing. Ready in 30 minutes, it’s like having a fancy sandwich without the effort of making one. Great for those days when you need something hearty but can’t deal with any complicated recipe.
Get the Recipe: Reuben Bowls

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

A fresh Caesar salad with chicken, croutons, tomatoes, and dressing, served in a large white bowl with a fork.
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad combines the classic Caesar salad flavors with pasta. This dish is an office-friendly option that comes together in about 25 minutes. It uses pre-cooked chicken and ready-made dressing to cut down on prep time, so you can still have a great meal even when your schedule is packed. Grab this when you need something reliable that won’t let you down — or take ages to prepare.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Garlic Butter Chicken Bites

A plate of garlic butter chicken bites.
Garlic Butter Chicken Bites. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

These Garlic Butter Chicken Bites mean lunch business on the get-go. They’re easy, flavorful, and come together in a quick 20 minutes. Start by cooking the chicken bites, toss them in a garlicky butter sauce, and serve with your favorite veggies or carbs. Pack these for lunch and you’ll find they’re really something to look forward to — even on a Monday.
Get the Recipe: Garlic Butter Chicken Bites

Tuna Macaroni Salad

Close-up of a creamy pasta salad sprinkled with paprika and garnished with chopped herbs in a white bowl.
Tuna Macaroni Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Tuna Macaroni Salad is a straightforward option for those looking to up their lunch game without much hassle. Made with elbow macaroni, creamy dressing, canned tuna, and hard-boiled eggs, it’s a no-nonsense dish that packs awesome flavors and nutrients. It takes just 40 minutes to prepare, which is perfect for Sunday meal prep, so you can worry less about what to bring for lunch when the hectic workweek comes around. And let’s be honest, it’s a real upgrade from the soggy sandwiches that have been haunting your lunchbox.
Get the Recipe: Tuna Macaroni Salad

Jalapeño Popper Chicken Salad

A glass bowl of jalapeño popper chicken salad ingredients.
Jalapeño Popper Chicken Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

If you want to spice things up without sweating over the stove for hours, this Jalapeño Popper Chicken Salad is for you. It’s made with chicken breasts, bacon, jalapeños, and green onions tossed in a creamy mayo (or sour cream) dressing. You can make it ahead of time, pop it in the fridge to chill, and just grab when you’re ready to go.
Get the Recipe: Jalapeño Popper Chicken Salad

Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Cucumber Boats

Bacon ranch chicken salad cucumber boats lined up on a plate.
Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Cucumber Boats. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Forget bland lunches — these Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Cucumber Boats are like a silent protest against all things boring. The cucumbers serve as vessels for the chicken salad, which is made with ingredients like canned chicken, bacon, cheese, and homemade ranch seasoning. All in all, the ingredients combine together for a lunch that is filling with a refreshing crunch that’s ready in just 30 minutes. They’re easy to make and even easier to devour that you could probably do it blindfolded — not that we’d recommend trying that at your desk.
Get the Recipe: Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Cucumber Boats

Cottage Cheese Breakfast Muffins

Cottage cheese breakfast muffins on a plate with green onions.
Cottage Cheese Breakfast Muffins. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Cottage Cheese Breakfast Muffins aren’t just for breakfast, folks. These baked goods are loaded with eggs, cottage cheese, bacon, and veggies, making them a powerhouse lunch that’s ready in just 30 minutes. They’re straightforward, no-frills, and exactly what you need when the lunch hour hits. Pack these and dodge that mid-afternoon slump that makes you want to nap under your desk.
Get the Recipe: Cottage Cheese Breakfast Muffins

Meal Prep Meatballs and Cauliflower Rice

Meal Prep Meatballs and Cauliflower Rice. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Meal Prep Meatballs and Cauliflower Rice is the hero your lunchbox needs. It’s hearty, healthy, and downright easy to make. This dish takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and includes juicy meatballs paired with fluffy cauliflower rice. It’s a meal that feels home-cooked and comforting without weighing you down or taking up your evening. Batch-make this on a lazy Sunday, and you’re set for the week. Now, isn’t that a smarter way to handle lunch?
Get the Recipe: Meal Prep Meatballs and Cauliflower Rice

Canned Chicken Patties

Chicken patties with broccoli on a plate.
Canned Chicken Patties. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Canned Chicken Patties are one of the quick and easy lunches that are worth packing to work. They’re made with easy-to-find pantry staples and ready with just 20 minutes of prep and cooking. Combine the ingredients, form them into patties, and cook right on the stovetop — it’s that easy. Serve them on their own, alongside your favorite steamed vegetables, or on bread as a sandwich. They’re straightforward and filling, and they keep the mid-day hunger at bay without a big production — because who needs more drama on a workday?
Get the Recipe: Canned Chicken Patties

Creamy Dill Cucumber Onion Salad

Bowl of creamy dill cucumber onion salad in a bowl with spoons.
Creamy Dill Cucumber Onion Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

This Creamy Dill Cucumber Onion Salad is a no-stress, no-mess lunch option that mixes crisp cucumbers and onions with a smooth, creamy dill dressing. Ready in 30 minutes, it’s a lifesaver on those mornings when you’ve already hit the snooze button one too many times. The salad stays fresh all day, making it perfect to toss in your bag and forget until lunch. And let’s be honest, eating something this fresh can make that midday meeting seem a bit less endless.
Get the Recipe: Creamy Dill Cucumber Onion Salad

Broccoli Fritters

A stack of broccoli fritters on a plate.
Broccoli Fritters. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Broccoli Fritters are your new best friend for a quick lunch that won’t bog you down with complicated paperwork. Combine steamed broccoli florets with eggs, ground sunflower seed meal, and Parmesan, form them into parries, and fry right on the stovetop. They turn out crispy on the outside but still have that tender inside, perfect when served with Greek yogurt or sour cream. Make a batch on Sunday, and you’re set for the week. They store well and can be reheated whenever you’re ready.
Get the Recipe: Broccoli Fritters

Greek Salad Meal Prep Jars

Low-carb Greek salad meal prep jars.
Greek Salad Meal Prep Jars. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Greek Salad Meal Prep Jars are all about convenience and freshness. They’re packed with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, and feta cheese, and can be assembled in a flash — 10 minutes tops! Prepped ahead and sealed in jars with lids, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. These salad jars are also light yet filling, perfect for anyone looking to avoid that afternoon slump caused by heavier meals.
Get the Recipe: Greek Salad Meal Prep Jars

Avocado Tuna Salad

A bowl of avocado tuna salad with avocado slices and lemon slices.
Avocado Tuna Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Avocado Tuna Salad is the champion of quick, hearty lunches. Mixing creamy avocado with protein-packed tuna, this salad comes together in about five minutes and is a breeze to make. Seasoned with lemon juice, lemon zest, and fresh dill, it has a fresh, tangy taste that’s delicious and light. Plus, it’s filling enough to keep you from eyeing the vending machine but won’t leave you needing a nap under your desk.
Get the Recipe: Avocado Tuna Salad

Mini Spicy Canned Salmon Patties

Mini spicy canned salmon patties in a serving bowl.
Mini Spicy Canned Salmon Patties. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

These Mini Spicy Canned Salmon Patties will make your Mondays feel like Fridays. Ready in about 30 minutes, these patties are a great way to add some excitement to your lunches with minimal effort. They’re packed with flavor and are super easy to make, so you can make a batch over the weekend and enjoy them throughout the week. Because let’s be honest, nobody wants to eat the same old sandwiches every day.
Get the Recipe: Mini Spicy Canned Salmon Patties

Thai Chicken Salad

Thai chicken salad with arugula, sliced onions, and red chili peppers.
Thai Chicken Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Thai Chicken Salad is the go-to for a flavorful lunch that doesn’t drag you down. The chicken is marinated in coconut milk with garlic, cilantro, ginger, coconut aminos, chile pepper, lemongrass, and turmeric. Then the strips are grilled, mixed with crisp veggies like arugula, cucumbers, and green onions, and tossed in a dressing made of lime juice, coconut aminos, fruit sweetener and fish sauce. It’s also light but still filling, so you can dodge that post-lunch lethargy. Definitely the kind of meal that makes you feel good about your life choices. Honestly, couldn’t we all use a little more of that on a workday?
Get the Recipe: Thai Chicken Salad

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