Lunch provides the midday boost that you and your child need for afternoon brainpower. Packing lunch with your child is also a great way to stay connected. What if your child is a choosy eater? This can be a sign your child is searching for more independence. Your child might benefit from packing their own lunch, while you have the opportunity to serve as a model for good nutrition behaviors. Use the five main food groups for you and your child to pack your lunch.
- Fruit—Apple, banana, peach, grapes, pear, strawberries
- Vegetable—Raw celery, edamame, cucumber, peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes
- Protein—Chicken/turkey breast, tuna, peanut butter, handful of unsalted nuts, hummus, hard-boiled eggs
- Grain—Whole grain bread, bagel, muffin, steamed brown rice, quinoa
- Dairy—Cheese stick/cubes, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk
Encourage your child to pick or add foods together from each category to make a well-balanced lunch!
“What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag,” (store.extension.iastate.edu/product/13900)
When making a bag or box lunch for yourself or your child, don’t forget to play it safe! Food that travels from one place to another is likely to stay outside of the refrigerator for more time than the food you serve at home. Therefore, the bacteria that cause foodborne illness have a better chance of growing rapidly in a bag lunch.
Use the Right Container
Gone are the days of a “brown bag” lunch. Choose insulated lunch bags and boxes to keep cold food cold. The lunch container should have enough space so that you can always fit in a reusable freezer pack or a plastic bottle filled with ice. Make sure the bag or box can easily be washed daily with hot soap and water. A dishwasher-safe lunchbox or a bag that can be laundered is ideal. Wash lunch boxes and other lunch containers soon after coming home.
Wash, Wash, Wash!
Wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water before preparing any food for the lunchbox. Make sure that any utensil that comes in contact with the food has been thoroughly washed and sanitized. When eating away from home, many people forget to wash hands before eating. This allows germs the perfect chance to transfer to a sandwich or apple. Make it easy for you and your child to eat with clean hands by including hand sanitizer or wipes in the lunch bag.
For more ideas on protecting your family’s health when packing lunches, use the handout titled What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag! available at store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/PM3026.