Think one ice pack or a frozen juice box is fine? Well, no, it’s just not the case, parents.
According to a new study, more than 90 percent of sack lunches prepared at home and sent with kids to pre-school were kept at unsafe temperatures. These latest findings were revealed by nutritional scientists at the University of Texas at Austin. The study will be published in the September 2011 issue of Pediatrics and was published online Aug. 8.
But, according to local nutritionist Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD, and mother of a 2-year old and one on the way, she commonly recommends the two ice pack solution, along with some other ideas.
“Whole fruits and vegetables are frequently the way to go,” said Teh. “Breads and various nut butters like sunflower seed can be a good solution.”
The licensed dietician recommends wraps that are chock full of satisfying, protein-rich nut butter spreads found at specialty retailers likes and or the in the organic or natural food section at grocery stores.
“It’s important to consider the time and if one ice pack is enough,” says Teh. “It’s got to stay at 40 degrees or below; but food is usually safe at room temperature for two hours and, in the weather we’ve been having lately, it’s more like one hour.”
Teh emphasized the importance of dried fruits like bananas and apples and nuts. She also likes raisins and apricots, but cautions against cranberries because of the added sugar due to their tartness. “Dried fruits are very portable and also a great snack-time solution that can be eaten in the car and won’t spoil dinner.” But, she continued, it’s also important to consider the school’s policy on nuts.
In that case, pumpkin or sunflower nut butter is the preferred choice. She also recommends carrot sticks, broccoli and celery sticks for added nutrients in the lunch box. If by chance dressing or hummus is essential, Teh recommends one or two ice packs.
Natural applesauce by Mott’s or Musselman’s that don’t add sugar can be another alternative to include in a healthy lunch or at snack time.
Other mealtime recommendations by Teh during the school year include:
- Planning is key. Have a plan in place, she says. The slow cooker can be a great alternative during busy school-time meals. Frugalmom.net is one site that’s recommended.
- Teh also likes to get ideas from the blog on slow cooking at http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/
- This licensed dietician is also a planner at heart. She contributes to orgjunkie.com to help busy mothers plan effectively and efficiently.
Parents, how do you balance nutritional excellence with school commitments once summer vacations are a fleeting memory?