Packing Safe And Healthy School Lunches

Packing a safe and nutritious lunch for your youngsters to take to school can be a challenge. Here are some tips to help.

1. Wash lunchboxes every night. Use a baking soda and hot water solution once a week or as necessary to eliminate odors and keep lunchboxes and food containers smelling clean and fresh. If the smell persists, let the container soak overnight in the baking soda and water mixture.

2. Use only new, clean brown bags and don't reuse bags that have been used for shopping or to carry groceries. If a bag is wet or stained, don’t use it.

3. Wash fruits and vegetables before packing them up for lunch. Clean fruits and vegetables, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten, by rinsing them under running tap water. Dry thoroughly with a paper towel.

4. If washing up at a sink before lunch isn’t an easy option for your child, include disposable hand wipes or hand gel to use for cleaning hands before eating.

5. Make sure that your kids know to throw out any uneaten food left over from their lunch.

6. Pack sandwiches and salads that include cooked foods, such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads, the night before to allow for thorough chilling in the refrigerator overnight. Chill any non-cooked but perishable food items such as sandwiches overnight and keep everything refrigerated until it’s time to leave.

7. If you plan on making the lunches in the morning before the kids head out to school, using frozen bread for sandwiches will help them stay cold longer after being packed.

8. Lunches stay cold longest in insulated, soft-sided lunch bags or boxes. But you can also use paper bags for packing lunches. If you’d rather use paper bags, make sure to double bag to help keep the food cold.

9. Regardless of the type of lunch box or bag used, some sort of cold pack, such as a chilled gel pack or a frozen juice box or water bottle, should be included to keep cold perishable food chilled until lunch time.

10. Use a thermos or insulated food jar to keeps soups, stews and chilis hot. To get the best results from your thermos, fill it with hot water and let it sit for a few minutes before pouring the water out and adding your hot food.

11. Peanut butter and jelly is a kid-friendly lunch favorite and packs well. Deli and lunch meats that are commercially prepared and ready-to-eat, such as corned beef, salami, pastrami and bologna are good choices because they last well.

12. For safety safe, avoid packing lunch items containing mayonnaise or eggs if refrigeration isn’t available and, avoid sending soups or chilies made with a cream or milk base.

13. If refrigeration isn’t available, consider foods that are safe without being chilled, such as hard cheeses, nuts, granola and trail mix, canned meat and fish, whole fruits and vegetables, chips and pretzels, bagel chips, muffins, bagels, breads, cookies and crackers, peanut butter, jelly, ketchup, mustard, and pickles.

14. Remember that it’s recommended that kids eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. So, add at least one piece of fruit or a serving of vegetable to each lunch you pack. Fruit is always tasty and sweet. Try packing a fruit salad, a banana, a pear, grapes or any other whole fruit.

15. Kids love baby-cut carrots, celery sticks, cucumber spears, and broccoli florets, especially with ranch dressing for dipping. And, apple slices served with peanut butter makes a great after-school snack.

16. Steer your kids towards the lower fat options in snacks. Instead of potato chips or corn chips, pack snack size bags of pretzels, veggie chips or bagel chips. Muffins are often a lower fat alternative to cupcakes.

17. If your kids like fruit drinks, make sure that they’re getting 100% fruit juice. Beverages labeled as "drink", "beverage" or "cocktail" aren’t 100% juice and these products usually contain added sweeteners and flavors. And, while fruit juice contains some of the healthy nutrients of whole fruit, fruit juice lacks the fiber found in fresh fruit. For that reason, whole fruits are nutritionally a better option than juice.

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About The Author, Marye
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