When it comes to packing school lunches it can be difficult to put together a meal that addresses all things considered. From picky eaters to allergies you must also find a balance between nutrition and foods that satisfy your child's hunger. In addition to these concerns most schools do not provide refrigeration for your child's lunch and therefore meals must be suitable for a day of non-refrigeration.
Fruits and Vegetables
Many fruits and vegetables can be sent in your child's lunchbox without requiring any refrigeration for the day and provide a healthy alternative to prepackaged lunch snacks. The fruit should be whole and uncut, some examples are apples, bananas, oranges and grapes. Send berries like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries in a small, sealable container. Vegetables like carrots and celery sticks are a healthy and easy addition to your child's lunch. Children love to dip their vegetables so provide a small container of unopened dip that does not require refrigeration.
A popular food for school lunches that help to satisfy your child's hunger is a packed sandwich. You can take the sandwich beyond peanut butter and jelly by focusing on different vegetables like tomatoes, pickles and lettuce. To add taste include hard cheese such as cheddar. Add a frozen juice box to help keep the sandwich fresh. Avoid dressings like mayonnaise which require refrigeration. Sandwiches made with deli meats are at risk for going bad when not refrigerated so you can freeze the sandwich before sending it off in your child's lunch. To mix it up try different breads like pita bread or whole wheat wrap.
Baked goods are useful to add to non-refrigerated lunches as they are safe to be left out for long periods of time. Some examples include banana bread, muffins and croissants. Add cupcakes, cookies and cinnamon buns for a treat. Prepackaged baked snacks like crackers and granola bars are also safe and easy to add to non-refrigerated school lunch.
Food Safety Supplies and Tips
Purchasing an insulated lunch bag that helps keep food cold is a good place to start when preparing non-refrigerated lunches. Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing your child's lunch and wash the lunchbox with soap and water after every use. Add a small ice pack to help keep food fresh. If you want to send warm meals with your child's lunch like soups or stews use an insulated container that is designed to keep the food hot (above 140 degrees F). However, do not combine meals that need to be kept cold with meals that need to be kept hot as the proper food safety temperature for both meals cannot be achieved in one lunch bag.
Foods to Avoid
Adding meats such as poultry, fish, seafood or beef to your child's unrefrigerated lunch is risky business. Caution needs to be considered before adding any meats as even a well prepared lunch with an ice pack can end up on a hot shelf where temperatures reach levels at which bacterial growth is rapid. Other perishable foods to avoid include eggs and dairy foods like milk and yogurt. When adding fruit avoid cutting it into pieces or preparing a fruit salad; simply add an unopened fruit cup. Do not add prepared salads like potato salad, pasta salad, rice salad or coleslaw to your child's lunch. If you give your child a water bottle or juice bottle make sure it is cleaned after every use and that the bottle is intended for reuse.