Knowing how to pack safe lunches should be at the top of every parent’s list. This can be done if you know a few basic rules and pay attention to the foods you choose and how you pack them.
The following storage and cooling ideas will help you maintain the safety of your children’s packed lunches.
Using a thermos is one of the easiest ways to keep food safe.
To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in hot foods preheat the thermos with very hot water before adding the hot food. Pre-cool the thermos with ice water before filling with cold food. With a good thermos you can send frozen fruit sorbet and be confident it will still be frozen when your child is ready to eat it for lunch.
You can use also ice packs in an insulated container to keep food cool. Another option is to add frozen bottles of water or juice boxes to the lunch container. They will keep the food cool and be ready to drink by lunch time. (Be sure to remove a little of the water before freezing or the bottle may burst in the freezer.) Using frozen water or juice rather than ice packs leaves more room for other healthy options.
There are many versions (all shapes and sizes) of the insulated lunch boxes or bags that can be purchased for nominal amounts of money at outlets such as Big Lots. They come with built-in gel packs that keep food at the proper temperature. You can also buy gel-pack blankets in various sizes that can fit into your child’s favorite lunch container.
Another smart idea is to pre-freeze canned fruit (mandarin oranges for example) in small plastic containers and allow it to thaw in your child’s lunch. These containers will keep the lunchbox cool the same as frozen drinks.
Be very careful with mayonnaise and dairy products. In order to guarantee safety, they must be kept at 40° or colder, which can be tricky unless there is a refrigerator available.
In very warm weather peeled and sliced fruits and vegetables may tend to spoil more easily than unpeeled; so, be careful when packing these items. Cherry tomatoes, grapes, bananas and other whole fruit are better choices for warmer weather.
When you pack chips or crackers such as baked chips or whole wheat crackers, they can break easily. To avoid this, you may want to use small plastic containers to keep them whole and make them more appealing to your child.
The basic rule to follow for safety is: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Make it a practice to provide healthy, nutritious foods for lunches. It is a good idea to let you child help you choose items for his/her lunch (but give him several healthy choices to pick from).