Health Advocate Blog

Safety tips for packed lunches

When temperatures of foods that need to be refrigerated or chilled reach over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s a greater likelihood that the food becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, potentially sickening the person who eats it.  The following tips can help you avoid foodborne illness and pack a safe lunch for yourself.

How to safely pack a lunch that contains foods that should be chilled:

  • Use an insulated lunch bag/tote to help keep food cooler. Some even have compartments to hold the next item on this list, which is…
  • Ice, ice, baby! It’s recommended that a packed lunch has more than one ice pack in it to keep food properly chilled.
  • Make juices and water serve as makeshift ice packs. Including a bottle of water or a juice box in your lunch tote?  Freeze the drink overnight, and then put it in the tote with the packed lunch.  The frozen drink–which will thaw out during the day so you can drink it later on–will help keep food in the lunch tote cool.
  • Refrigerate your lunch as soon as you arrive at work.
  • Remember which foods need to be refrigerated. Meats, cheeses, sliced fruits, and milk should all be kept chilled.  If your lunch includes one or more of these foods, make sure their lunch is properly chilled and can stay chilled until your lunchtime.

No ice packs in the freezer?  These tasty, healthy lunch items don’t need to be chilled:

  • A peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread, or peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers (substitute almond, cashew, or nut-free peanut butter substitute if you don’t love or can’t have peanut butter)
  • Individually packaged servings of pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, or cinnamon applesauce
  • Certain fresh fruits such as bananas and navel oranges
  • A serving of dried cranberries
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Bottled water or a juice box of 100% fruit juice

For Health Advocate members

Want to learn more about preparing a healthy lunch and packing it as safely as possible?  If you have access to the wellness coaching component of Health Advocate’s Wellness Program, call a coach today to get nutrition tips and more!