On hectic mornings, take the time to pack a nutritious and safe lunch for you and your children with these tips.
Keep it Clean
Start off each day fresh by washing lunch boxes and lunch bags with warm, soapy water after each use. Be sure to wash your hands before, during and after preparing lunches, and make sure counters and surfaces are clean to prevent cross-contamination.
Before they eat, remind your children to wash their hands or pack a moist towelette or hand sanitizer in their lunch container.
Keep it Cool
Perishable foods should not be left out of refrigeration for more than two hours, but many students don't have access to a refrigerator at school. Help keep your child's lunch safe by packing it in an insulated lunch bag or lunch box and including an ice pack or frozen beverage container.
If refrigeration is unavailable at work or school, consider substituting perishables with shelf-stable foods, such as trail mix, individual boxes of cereal, granola bars, bagels, carrot and celery sticks, whole fruit, dried fruit, single-serve applesauce and whole-grain crackers with peanut butter.
If you prepare lunches the night before, make sure perishable food items such as yogurt and meat or cheese sandwiches are properly stored in a refrigerator set below 40°F.
Keep it Healthy
When building lunches, choose whole-grain breads, low-fat or fat-free dairy options and lean meats and proteins. Also, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal. Just remember to wash vegetables and ready-to-eat fruits such as apples and grapes, as well as peel-and-eat fruits including bananas and oranges to eliminate harmful bacteria that can spread during peeling or cutting.
For more healthy eating tips for the whole family, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist. And for food safety tips from the grill to the kitchen, visit www.HomeFoodSafety.org.