Summer is coming to an end, and schools are back in session. Healthy lunches help fuel your children through afternoon classes, soccer practice, ballet lessons, piano practice or any other activities. In this blog, find tips to help make lunch time healthy, safe and fun for your children. If your child is unable to attend school because of cancer treatment, you can still use these tips to pack lunches for appointment days and to teach your child about food safety to protect a weakened immune system.
- Encourage a colorful plate. Provide your child with a rainbow of foods—not just brown or tan ones. Eating a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables is a good way to get many different healthy nutrients. Fill half of your child’s plate with vegetables and fruits.
- Pack lunches safely. Use a soft, insulated lunch bag with ice pack or frozen juice box to keep cold foods cold. (The juice will thaw and be ready to drink by lunch time.) Keep the lunch bag out of direct sunlight. After school, wipe out the bag with a disinfecting wipe. Tell your children to throw away what they didn’t eat at lunch. Do not save cold foods to eat later in the day.
- Let your children help. Allow your children to help plan, prepare and pack their lunches. If they are involved in the preparation, they are more likely to eat them.
- Make lunchtime fun. Use colorful reusable food storage bags and containers. Include a note with a joke, a sticker or other surprises for your child in the lunchbox. Use cookie cutters on sandwiches to make cool shapes. For more ideas, check out Making the Grade at Lunchtime from EatRight.org.
- Wash hands regularly. Teach your children to wash their hands before eating or preparing food. Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds by counting to 20 slowly or singing the ABCs.
- Keep food on the plate. Teach your children not to put food or snacks on dirty surfaces such as desks, tables or floors. Even if a surface looks clean, it may not be.
- Be first in line. If your child is immunosuppressed from cancer or treatment and you are not able to pack lunches for school, ask your child’s teacher if your child can go through the lunch line first. This may decrease the chance of your child being exposed to germs from other students going through the lunch line. Avoid buffets for other meals as well while your child is recovering from treatment. In addition to the food possibly being touched by other people, you don’t know for sure how long the food has been sitting out.
- Do not share food with others. If your child is immunocompromised from treatment, tell your child not to share food or drinks with other people. Unless the person is an adult who has washed their hands, your child should not eat food that other people have touched or bitten.
- Know which foods to avoid. If your child has food allergies, make sure the child’s teachers know. Teach your child to avoid the food and dishes containing the allergen. Visit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) to learn more about food allergies.
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