Healthy, Safe Back to School Lunch Ideas
Back to school is an exciting time – so many new things to learn, new friends to meet, and reconnections with old friends. It also means busy mornings! Here are tips from our Nutrition Education team for packing delicious, nutritious school lunches and ensuring they’re safe to eat at lunchtime, a few hours after the food leaves your kitchen.
Food Storage and Safety
While going back to school and food safety aren’t always linked in our minds, we should pay attention while packing family lunches. Bacteria grow most rapidly when food isn’t kept at its proper temperature. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Keep cold food cold – If lunch contains perishable food items like meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to keep it cold using frozen water bottles or freezer packs.
- Keep hot food hot – If lunch includes something like soup, chili, or stew, use an insulated container like a Thermos to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. It should stay hot until lunchtime.
- Storing lunches overnight – You can save time in the morning by prepping a loved one’s lunch the night before, but be mindful of food safety! Keep lunches in the refrigerator to keep them safe.
- Clean containers daily – Each night, clean lunch containers thoroughly with warm, soapy water or a disinfectant wipe.
Healthy, Portable Recipes
If you need inspiration to create tasty, portable lunches, look no further! Remember that ideally, lunches should include at least three of the five food groups – veggies, fruits, protein, grains and dairy. By incorporating multiple food groups into lunch, you’re making sure your loved ones get the nutrients they need to power through their day.
Some recipes we recommend:
- Tuna apple salad: This portable wonder pulls from lots of different food groups.
- Black bean soup with smoked turkey – This comforting soup is great for chilly fall days and is packed with protein.
- Cold spicy noodles – This flavor packed dish is full of fiber thanks to the whole-wheat pasta and veggies in it.
- Peanut butter and banana smoothie – This delicious beverage is perfect for a fast, nutrient dense meal. Add a handful or two of greens for a nutrient boost you won’t even taste.