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J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Jul;110(7):1058-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.04.010.

Lunch is in the bag: increasing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in sack lunches of preschool-aged children.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, College of Natural Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 UniversityStation, Austin, TX 7871, USA.


Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are important sources of nutrients for healthy growth and development of young children. Recent evidence suggests that sack lunches packed by parents for children to consume at child-care centers do not regularly meet the goal of one serving of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Lunch Is In The Bag is a child-care center-based nutrition education program targeted at parents of preschool-aged children to increase the number of servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in sack lunches sent from home that was pilot tested in fall 2008. In a quasiexperimental design, six child-care centers were paired by size before being randomly assigned to intervention (n=3) and comparison (n=3) groups. The parents of caregivers with primary responsibility for preparing the sack lunches of the 3- to 5-year-old children attending the centers were enrolled as parent-child dyads. The intervention included parent handouts, classroom activities, education stations, and teacher training. The contents of the lunch sacks for both the intervention group and comparison group were recorded for 3 nonconsecutive days before and immediately after the intervention period to measure the number of servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A total of 132 parent-child dyads completed the study, 81 in the intervention group and 51 in the comparison group. Direct observation of children's lunches from the intervention group showed an increase in predicted mean number of servings of vegetables, from 0.41 to 0.65 (P<0.001) and whole grains, from 0.54 to 1.06 (P<0.001). No significant difference was observed in the mean number of servings of fruit. Lunch Is In The Bag, which is designed to fit in the child-care environment and targets parents of 3- to 5-year-old children, is a feasible intervention for improving the nutritional quality of sack lunches.

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