Tips and Tools to Pack a Great Lunch!

Do you pack lunch for your child? Recent research shows that many lunches sent from home are not as healthy as school lunch. One study published in November 2015 showed the majority of home lunches did not provide the recommended amount of vegetables, whole grains, or seafood and plant proteins, and were too high in refined grains, sodium, and saturated fats.1 However, school lunch is only healthier if your child chooses and eats the fruits and vegetables offered. If your child is more likely to eat a lunch from home, it is a great opportunity to offer a variety of foods and to guide your child in making healthy decisions that can influence their food and health choices for a lifetime. Stocking up on the right gear and foods can make sending a healthy lunch easier and can make it fun for your child.


Try a bento box. Bento boxes are containers divided into sections or with containers for each food group. They are portion controlled, reusable, and can make it easy to pack a lunch based on USDA guidelines and MyPlate recommendations. Some favorites include Yumbox, LunchBots, PlanetBox, and EasyLunchboxes. These are available for order online. Similar individual portion controlled containers can also be found at local stores in the food storage bags and containers department.


Try a Thermos. If your child prefers a hot lunch, you can send soup or pasta with sauce in a Thermos. If you preheat with boiling water before adding the hot food, it can hold the temperature up to 5 hours.


Add a reusable water bottle. Water or plain low-fat, 1% milk are the healthiest drink options for your child. By sending a reusable water bottle, he or she can refill it as needed and stay hydrated throughout the day.


Have healthy food ready. Take your child grocery shopping and let them help you pick out foods in each category. If they participate in choosing the lunch they are more likely to eat it.


By Sarah Carvaines, MPH, RD, LD


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