Bag-Lunch Tips for Parents

The new school season means bagged lunches. Here are some tips to help you quickly pack a healthy, varied and fun meal:

1.    Sandwiches are great. Choose a whole grain bread or wraps. Include a healthy protein and topping(s). One day pack turkey, another day almond butter and a fruit jam.

2.    Choose low-fat snacks: pre-packaged yogurt, nuts or vegetables, such as baby carrots.

3.    Send a salad in a plastic container along with dressing, packed separately.

4.    Compliment meals with cheese sticks, which are a good source of calcium. Individually-prepackaged cheddar cheese and other hard cheeses are the best option -- they’ll stay safe to eat at room temperature.

5.    Include dried fruit – raisins, dried cranberries or banana chips.

6.    Dried vegetables are another good option.

7.    Pack whole fruits -- avoid cut fruit because of bacteria build-up.

8.    On that note, avoid spreads such as mayonnaise, which can lead to bacterial build-up.

9.    Switch up meals with hot leftovers like soup or lasagna. 

“If you're going to have hot foods, it should be higher than 140 degrees, said Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor. Cold foods should be stored at “less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit,” she said. “And any food kept in that no man's zone between those two should only be left out for two hours, not more.”

A recent study by the Journal of Pediatrics shows that if food is packed at an unsafe
temperature, food contamination can occur, leading to foodborne illnesses and food poisoning.

So, instead of a brown paper bag, use an insulated lunch bag, especially when packing hot foods. Some insulated bags have separate compartments for food and beverages, including a freezer bag. And use a freezer pack to keep perishable items cold. 

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