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No matter how nutritious and delicious your child's lunch may be, it could cause her harm if it is not prepared and stored according to food safety guidelines. To ensure that your child's egg salad sandwich is Staphylococcus-free, follow these guidelines.
Always wash your hands (and your child’s if he’s helping!) prior to handling food.
Make sure all preparation surfaces are clean to avoid cross-contamination.
If you are cooking food that will be eaten cold, allow enough time to chill it thoroughly prior to packing.
If you are packing your child’s lunch in a reusable bag or box, make sure it has been washed in warm soapy water after each use.
Keep perishable food out of the “danger zone”. Harmful bacteria multiply quickly between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F.
To keep cold foods cold, refrigerate lunches until you’re ready to walk out the door, and include an ice pack with perishable items.
To keep hot foods hot, fill an insulated thermos with boiling water, let stand 5 minutes. While you are waiting, bring the food to a boil, empty the thermos, and then pour in the hot food. Keep it closed until lunchtime to keep it safe.
Some foods that don’t require an ice pack include fruits, vegetables, trail mix, breads, hard cheeses, canned foods (as long as they are consumed immediately upon opening), nut butters, jelly, mustard, and pickles.
Although packing lunches may take a little more time than handing your kids a fistful of cash as they dart out the front door, it is also an opportunity to teach nutrition and planning skills, and to connect with your kids. Research shows that kids who eat healthy throughout childhood are more likely to be healthy adults, and packing a healthy lunch is yet another way to promote this behavior.
Want to get kids off to a healthy start this school year? So does SparkPeople! With "A Month of Fun and Healthy School Lunches," you'll end the food fight and get kids excited about packing lunch--with fun yet simple meals they'll actually eat. Written by a mother of three, with 50 easy and healthy recipes plus plenty of ideas tested by real moms in real life, this e-book turns lunchtime into fun time! Bonus: You'll also get 25 healthy, kid-friendly after-school snack ideas! Click here to check it out!
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.
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