When you pack your own lunch you're avoiding the excess calories, fat and cost that typically come with eating out. If you're doing it for a child, you're sparing them the horror of cafeteria food (trust me, it hasn't gotten any better since my grade school days, possibly even worse). Unfortunately, brown-bagging it isn't as simple as it used to be, thanks to our ever-growing understanding of foodborne illness.
Even if a packed lunch is only out of the fridge for a few hours that's plenty of time for bacteria to grow and multiply. Common midday staples like deli meat, yogurt and eggs are especially high in risk. Two reusable freezer packs are recommended when such items are present, although you can also substitute one with a frozen juice box. The beverage will thaw gradually by lunchtime, providing both cold, germ-resistant capabilities and a refreshing thirst-quencher when the time comes. Betcha never knew that apple juice had such impressive abilities!
Experts also recommend springing for an insulated lunchbox, rather than the old-fashioned paper bag. Condensation from cold packs can and will soak through and tear the bags right up, plus they won't provide a chilly enough atmosphere to prevent food spoilage [source: U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service].
Author's Note: 10 Unexpected Ways to Get Food Poisoning
We've probably all had a mild case of food poisoning at one time or another, but those of us who've endured the Mack-Daddy variety wish at all costs to avoid a repeat. All the inadvertent weight loss in the world isn't worth it!
More Great Links
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Less than 1 in 6 Americans frequently washes grocery totes increasing risk for food poisoning." ScienceDaily. April 3, 2012 (July 5, 2015) www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120403135957.html
- Amidor, Toby. "In Your Kitchen: Counter-Top Safety." Food Network. Jan. 25, 2012 (July 3, 2015) http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2012/01/25/in-your-kitchen-counter-top-safety/
- Beach, PhD Michael J. "Fighting Food Poisoning: One of the Most Important Things You Can Do." Foodsafety.gov. Jan. 11, 2011 (July 1, 2015) http://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/handwashing.html
- CBS New York. "Seen at 11: Should You Rewash 'Prewashed' Bagged Salads?" Feb. 26, 2014 (July 5, 2015) http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/02/26/seen-at-11-should-you-rewash-prewashed-bagged-salads/
- CDC. "CDC and Food Safety." 2015 (June 29, 2015) http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/cdc-and-food-safety.html
- CDC. "Foodborne Illness, Foodborne Disease, (Sometimes Called 'Food Poisoning.'" 2015 (June 29, 2015) http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/facts.html
- CDC. "Show Me the Science: Why Wash Your Hands?" 2015 (July 1, 2015) http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html
- Charles, Dan. "Rewash That Pre-Washed Bag of Lettuce? Don't Bother (Probably)." NPR. April 20, 2012 (July 5, 2015) http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/04/20/151034145/rewash-that-pre-washed-bag-of-lettuce-dont-bother-probably
- DC.gov. "Understanding Food Establishment Inspections." 2015 (July 5, 2015) http://doh.dc.gov/service/understanding-food-establishment-inspections
- Foodsafety.gov. "Reusable Grocery Bags: Keep 'em Clean While Going Green." Dec. 24, 2012 (July 5, 2015) http://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/reusable_bags.html
- Friedman, et al. "Ciguatera Fish Poisoning: Treatment, Prevention and Management." Mar Drugs. Aug. 21, 2008 (June 29, 2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2579736/
- Home Food Safety. "How Clean Is Your Refrigerator?" 2015 (June 29, 2015) http://www.homefoodsafety.org/wash/clean-refrigerator
- Home Food Safety. "Reduce Food Poisoning Risk With Four Easy Steps." 2015 (July 1, 2015) http://www.homefoodsafety.org/food-poisoning/four-easy-steps
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Food Poisoning." Mayo Clinic. 2015 (June 29, 2015) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning/basics/definition/con-20031705
- National Institutes of Health. "Food poisoning." 2015 (June 29, 2015) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001652.htm
- Nierenberg, Cari. "Getting Too Much of Vitamins and Minerals." WebMD. April 2, 2014 (July 3, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/effects-of-taking-too-many-vitamins
- U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service. "Poorly Packed Lunches Can Cause Food Poisoning." HealthDay. Aug. 8, 2014 (July 5, 2015) http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/poorly-packed-lunches-can-cause-food-poisoning-690544.html
- WebMD. "Traveler's Diarrhea." 2014 (June 29, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/travelers-diarrhea-topic-overview
- Zamora, Dominique. "15 Sure-Fire Ways To Guarantee You'll Get Food-Poisoning This Summer, Probably." Huffington Post. Oct. 1, 2013 (July 1, 2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/foodbeast/15-sure-fire-ways-to-guar_b_3499196.html
- Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, Kathleen M. "Avoid Food Poisoning: Keep Your Refrigerator Safe." WebMD. May 14, 2004 (June 29, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/avoid-food-poisoning-keep-your-refrigerator-safe
Salmonella's one of the more common causes of foodborne illnesses. HowStuffWorks investigates how it ends up in dry food like cereal.