Back to School: Packing a Safe School Lunch

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Bayhealth Medical Center

Delaware schools will soon be back in session and the first lesson of the new school year is packing a safe and nutritious lunch for your kids.

According to Bayhealth Food & Nutrition Services Director Craig Ross, the bit of extra time you take for food safety during the morning rush could significantly cut the risk of your kids getting a foodborne illness. Ross cites these important reminders from the Partnership for Food Safety Education:

· Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Use hot water and soap to make sure food preparation surfaces and utensils are clean.

· Your child’s lunch could include perishable items (sandwiches, fresh fruit) which should be kept chilled to reduce risk of foodborne illness. Tell your child to use the refrigerator at school if one is available. If not, make sure he or she keeps the food out of the direct sunlight and away from heat sources such as radiators and baseboards.

· Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Blot dry with a paper towel before packing them in your child’s lunch.

For more information about safe food handling, go to www.fightbac.org.

While food safety is important, nutrition should also be a priority when packing your child’s lunch. Bayhealth Clinical Dietitian Angela Teague, RD, LDN, says each lunch should include at least three of the five food groups, which are starches and grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and proteins. For example, a healthy lunch might include a sandwich (starch in the bread, while lean lunch meat provides protein), baby carrot sticks (vegetables), and a low fat milk (dairy product). Teague also recommends:

· Stay away from high sugar foods such as sodas, Twinkies and cake. The sugar highs will have your youngster “ready to crash” by mid-afternoon.
· Try to strike a balance between healthy and tasty. There’s no sense in packing a healthy food that your child won’t eat. So why not pack fruit cups or cheese sticks which are nutritious and also popular with kids?

· Get your child involved in packing his or her lunch. Give them healthy choices and let them pick. When kids are involved in selecting their own lunch, they’re a lot more likely to eat what they pack.

For more information about Bayhealth Food & Nutrition Services, please call (302) 430-5528.