Many of us are working to pack healthier, real food lunches for our kids and we should be applauded for that. A lunch that will help fuel body and brain for a full day can make a big difference in your child’s health and success in the classroom. It’s also important to remember that how the food is prepared and kept in their lunch box is just as important to their health as the food itself. It takes less than two hours for perishable food to go bad when left unrefrigerated.
In preparation for the packing of 180 days of lunches, here are a few tips to help keep them fresh and safe.
- Keep lunches cold. Because lunches generally go unrefrigerated for long periods of time, bacteria have a chance to grow and multiply. Choose an insulated lunch bag like a PackIt, which helps keep food cold for up to 10 hours. Add an ice pack for extra chilling. If you pack real fruit juice boxes, you can freeze them and use in place of an ice pack. They will defrost by lunch and will help keep food cold.
- Keep lunch bags and boxes clean. No matter what you pack in, keep it clean by washing with hot soapy water daily. You can also try spraying lunch bags down with a mix of white vinegar and water and wiping them clean. Doing this daily will prevent any mold or mildew from spilled food from hanging around to contaminate the next day’s lunch.
- Don’t reuse plastic bags, foil, paper bags or parchment paper. If you want to save money and prevent waste, choose reusable sandwich bags that can be washed in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water.
- Wash your hands. Always make sure you wash your hands before packing your child’s lunch. Remind your children to wash their own hands before eating. If they don’t have that opportunity at school, try packing individually wrapped Sani-Wipes they can use to disinfect their hands before eating. Even a regular wipe is better than nothing.
- Use a thermos. A good thermos is ideal for hot foods like soups or spaghetti, as well as cold foods, like fruit salad. Keeping food at its appropriate temperature helps ensure it stays fresh, nutrient rich and bacteria free.
- Include non-perishable foods. Whole fruits and vegetables, nut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers, dried fruits, pickles, nuts and seeds are just a few ideas for foods that don’t need be refrigerated.
Now that we’ve tackled food safety, tell us, what’s your favorite lunch box food?