Tips for Carry-along Lunches for Work and School

Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold—Either Way, Here’s How to Keep Home-made School Lunches Safe and Tasty

Lunch BoxDiane laughs as she recalls carrying a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school every day for some eight years:  “It was the only meal my mother considered safe to consume after being unrefrigerated all morning.” Today, we know that safety doesn’t require such monotony.  However, the challenge remains—how to pack nutritious, delicious meals that will remain uncontaminated even if they spend all morning on a coatroom floor.


Perishable foods (those that need to be kept hot or cold) must not be left in what food scientists call the “danger zone” (40°-140°F; 4°-60°C)  for more than two hours. Bacteria and other pathogens that can contaminate foods and cause illness grow rapidly in that temperature range.  Children’s lunches, if left unrefrigerated for about four hours, must contain only shelf-stable items, or parents must learn a few techniques for keeping hot food hot and cold food cold. (These tips will also come in handy when adults prepare their own portable lunches.)

Top Ten Tips for Packing School Lunches

lunch boxMany kids’ lunches often sit unrefrigerated for hours at school before they are consumed. If you’re packing a school lunch, has important tips to help you keep your child’s food nutritious, satisfying and safe before lunchtime even when refrigeration is not possible.

Thermoses to Keep Food Hot or Cold

For those who have favorite foods that need to be kept either hot or cold, there is the vacuum-sealed thermos. Choose a thermos with a stainless steel or glass lining instead of a plastic-lined one. Steel or glass keeps foods hotter or colder than plastic.

Simple Ways to Keep Traveling Food Cool

To reduce risk with perishable food, place a frozen juice box,  frozen container of water, or a frozen gel pack in an insulated lunchbox or bag.  The beverage will thaw by lunchtime, and the food should still be cool. 

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