As a parent whose little boy officially started school last week, I was super surprised to read the results of a study conducted by the University of Texas in Austin in which researchers tested the temperatures of foods in more than 700 packed lunches of children attending day care. The researchers found that 98% of the lunches were not as cold or hot as they should be for safe eating, EVEN when they were packed in an insulated lunch box or stored in a hot thermos.
This study immediately hit home with me because my son’s new classroom does not have a refrigerator for the students and packing a nutritious (and safe!) lunch for him is a top priority for me. Since first discovering this study, I’ve been doing a little research on my own and have found some really fantastic tips for keeping school lunches healthy and safe:
When you can, freeze it – Before you head to bed, take your child’s milk, juice or water and put it in the freezer. It can then serve as a second ice pack and help keep other foods cold. You can also do this with other foods as such as yogurt or soft cheeses.
Keep it cold – If you’re sending a whole apple or an orange, which normally don’t need to be refrigerated, put it in anyway to get cold. This will help keep the overall temperature of the lunch box lower.
Make sure it’s insulated – When shopping for a lunch box, don’t base your selection on decoration alone. Choose one that’s well insulated and roomy enough to hold all of your items. There are many more options of these available than in years past and they can really make a difference in the temperature of the foods.
Double up on the ice packs – Always use an ice pack or cold source. If you have room, try to use more than one. Remember that a frozen beverage (such as a juice box or bottle of water) can also help.
Test it yourself – If you’d like to do a test run and test the temperature of your child’s lunch, you can use a refrigerator thermometer to get a reading. You can find them at your hardware store or where appliances are sold.
Heat up the thermos first – When cold weather hits, children sometimes like hot foods as part of their lunch. The best way to ensure that foods stay at 140 degrees or higher is to pour boiling water into the thermos in the morning, letting it sit for several minutes. Then pour the hot food into the container.
Not just for kids – And, the rules for packaging lunches don’t just apply to children. When taking leftovers and other items to work, don’t forget your own ice packs. You may need to schedule a trip to the store to buy some extras so that everyone in the family can eat safe healthy meals.
Let me know, do you have any additional tips for packing healthy and safe lunches for your kids?
Information regarding study at University of Texas in Arlington and tips courtesy of www.cnn.com. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.