Keep your kids' lunches safe
Now that we have discussed what to put in your child’s lunchbox, here are some tips to keep that lunch safe. The folks from NSF International, a not-for-profit food and water consumer safety group, have some suggestions for safer lunches this school year. And if you don't have some of these, it might be a good idea to head out this long Labor Day weekend and see what you can find.
~ You’re probably already using a frozen gel pack in their lunch boxes to keep food cold. NSF recommends these and insulated bags because perishable foods should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. One of my favorite finds was a flexible ice blanket, shown at left, that can be found for $5 or less in the camping or first aid section of most major stores. You can snip off just a few squares if you have a small space you want to keep cold and it's also handy to have when you are nursing a sore shoulder or knee.
~ Prepare your child’s lunch the night before and place it in the fridge. Not only will it save you time on rushed mornings, but it will keep the food colder longer. Frozen or half-frozen drinks can serve as ice packs.
~ Pack only the amount of perishable food that your child can eat at lunch. Any more than that is a waste, and they won’t need to pack up leftovers which can spoil before the end of the day.
~ Don't reuse packaging materials such as paper or plastic bags, aluminum foil, etc. as they can contaminate other foods and cause foodborne illness. Use the reusable containers that you can wash instead, and enjoy the added bonus of being greener.
~ Speaking of washing, don’t forget those hands! Handwashing before meals and snacks for at least 20 seconds is the number one way to prevent big germs from spreading to little people.
And if you make it out of the cafeteria unscathed? Take an extra helping of hand sanitizer after using the water fountain and playing basketball as these were found to be the most germ-laden surfaces in schools in a recent study.
~ Tracey Henry, the Suburban Diva
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[Photo: Times files]