5 Food Safety Tips for Your Lunch Box

published Aug 28, 2015
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(Image credit: Jill Chen)

Whether you’re packing a lunch for the office or lunch for the kids, you want to make sure you pack the right foods properly to help prevent food-borne illnesses.

We talked to Katie Morford, registered dietitian and author of the book Best Lunch Box Ever, to share her tips on how to safely pack lunches so you keep everyone healthy and happy!

1. Some foods just aren’t safe to pack for lunch.

“Avoid putting certain foods in lunch boxes altogether. If you make a traditional Caesar using raw yolks or are crazy for sushi involving raw or undercooked fish, a packed lunch isn’t the place for it.”

2. Keep clean when prepping lunch.

“Basic food safety measures are especially important when that food gets packed up to go since bacteria can grow over time (as opposed to food you prep and eat right away, like when you are eating at home). Being extra vigilant about washing your hands, keeping surfaces clean, and avoiding cross-contamination is key when it comes to prepping lunch.”

3. Temperatures are important.

Keep cold foods as cold as possible and hot foods as hot as possible so they stay closer to safe temperature zones for perishable foods. Invest in a thermos for hot food — preheat the thermos by filling it with hot water for a few minutes first, then put in piping-hot food before sealing.

For cold foods, use frozen gel packs or freeze water bottles. Keep food in the refrigerator until the last minute before packing.

4. Clean containers thoroughly.

“I also think making sure to thoroughly wash and dry lunch containers when they come home each day is essential. Either a dishwasher or hot soapy water will do the trick.”

5. Toss perishable leftovers.

“Any uneaten perishable foods need to be tossed at the end of the day. Painful as it might be to throw out that untouched turkey sandwich, it’s not worth the risk if it’s been in a lunch box all day.”

Thanks, Katie!