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Food safety tips for your children’s lunch

The last thing any of us want to do is make our kids sick. But giving them food for lunch that could end up full of bacteria is a real possibility, especially when the weather’s warm.

By Morgan Johnston
It’s a bit of a catch-22 situation. You understand how important it is to give your children nutritious food and cut down on the processed stuff. But what do you do when putting healthy foods in their lunchboxes carries an increased risk of making them sick?
While many fresh foods, such as salad and sushi, are a great source of minerals and vitamins, they can also be a breeding ground for nasty bugs, especially if they’ve been left in the sun.
Hotter weather allows the bacteria on food to quickly multiply and school lunches can spoil in a very short time in the summer. It’s crucial to keep them cool, so here are some suggestions from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority:
Fill their plastic drink bottle with water and freeze overnight, then place it alongside the perishable food in their box. It should be thawed enough to be drunk by lunchtime and will keep the contents of their lunchbox cool.
You could also a buy a freezer pack to keep their lunchboxes cool for most of the day.
Freezing a pottle of yoghurt will also do the trick.
If it’s time to get a new box, buy an insulated one. These keep food cooler for longer. Remind your child to keep their box out of sunny spots.
Some foods are safe even if they aren’t kept cold. These include fruit, vegetables, hard cheeses, meat and fish in cans, bread, crackers and spreads. But if unsure, it’s better to keep foods chilled just in case.
Another easy way of cutting down the chances of your child getting a food-borne illness is to make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before preparing their lunch and ensuring they wash theirs before eating it.
Five great healthy lunch ideas:


  • Add grated cheese to salad sandwiches for extra calcium, especially if your child doesn’t drink milk.
  • Choose wholegrain rolls instead of white. If your children are bored of sandwiches, give them pita bread instead.
  • Cut vegetables, such as carrots, capsicum, celery and cucumber, into thin strips and include a small tub of hummus or some salsa as a dip for them.
  • Include a hard-boiled egg – small kids love it when you draw a face on the shell.
  • Cold cuts of meat can be high in sodium and other preservatives, so try to use leftovers from the night before’s dinner instead.

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