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Safe Lunches

Safe school lunches: Hot means hot, cold means cold

Children’s Healthâ„  nutrition experts help us make sure that the lunches we send to school are not only healthy, but also safe.

You probably already know that nutritionally balanced meals during the school day is the best way to keep your favorite student fueled up and ready to have a successful day in class and on the playground.

1. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. The foundation of a safe school lunch is an insulated lunch box to help keep foods at the intended temperature. For the best performance, look for bags with thicker insulation. Lunch bags tend to get messy, so make sure the bag you choose is also easy to clean.

2. Include two cold sources. When packing perishable foods like cheese, yogurt and lunch meat, use frozen water bottles, juice boxes, yogurt, hummus or grapes to keep lunch boxes cool if you don’t have reusable ice packs at home. The thawed yogurt can be topped with granola at lunch time and the hummus can be paired with pita bread or veggie sticks.

3. Don’t fear hot lunches. Put piping hot food in the insulated container the morning before the child will eat it. This is a great way to serve leftovers from dinner! Double the recipe for dinner and use extras to make school lunches easier.

4. Plan lunches. Use a template ensure each lunch includes a starch and protein entree, a fruit, a veggie, water and an additional snack.  Here are two ideas to get you started:

  • Turkey, cheese and spinach roll ups
  • Carrot sticks
  • Blackberries
  • Water
  • Chocolate pudding
  • Black bean and corn salad with corn chips
  • Red bell pepper strips
  • Grapes
  • Water
  • Popcorn


5. Pack lunches at night and get your children to help. Work with children to create a list of foods they can choose from each week for their lunch using the template in tip #4. The process of choosing these foods is a great time to get children involved in grocery shopping and label reading. Make time each evening for children to make their lunches; this avoids early morning scrambles.

During back to school madness, don’t forget that good nutrition is crucial to help children learn. School lunches require balance, variety and a little bit of planning to be nutritious and safe. Following these tips will help your children start the school year off with the nutrition they need to succeed!