Back to school season means the return of the noontime dilemma, "What's for lunch?"
Many parents will opt to send children to school with lunches packed with fresh, wholesome ingredients from home. If you do, consider some of the following tips from the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline. If you have questions regarding this subject or any other food safety issue contact the hot line at (800) 535-4555.
The hot line is a toll-free consumer service which can be reached weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The hot line also provides access to a telecommunications device for the deaf.
Packing a safe lunch to be held in the classroom, locker or for a field trip can present a challenge. Home-prepared lunches packed in brown bags are not advisable since they don't retain heat or cold and, therefore, provide an environment conducive to the spread of germs.
A Different Problem
Lunches prepared for travel present a different problem. The school usually requests that the field-trip lunch be packed in a disposable container. The bag lunches are then subjected to a bus ride, squashed in with many other lunches and often stored unrefrigerated upon arrival.
To decrease the possibility of germ spreading, make sure everything--hands, utensils and counter tops--are clean when preparing the lunch. Freeze packaged lunchmeat sandwiches or store with something cold like a piece of fruit or a frozen disposable beverage to keep the meat sandwich at a safe temperature. Pita, whole grain, rye or pumpernickel are sturdy breads and stand up well during freezing.
Avoid meat or egg-based salads, sandwich spreads or home-cooked meats. Canned meats in one-serving size container are a better choice. The old stand-by, peanut butter and jelly, is a safe choice but tends to get crushed. Other good lunch-box selections include sunflower seeds, nuts and raisins--which are more nutritional than chips--and sturdy fruits like apples and oranges.
Dessert can also present a problem. Avoid home-prepared puddings and other custard-based desserts that require refrigeration unless the proper thermos is used. Make sure to check the seal around the stopper to make sure it fits tightly to retain either cold or heat if soups are sent along. Another option is to select prepared puddings packaged in individual containers.
Cookies are usually a safe option. And nutritionally speaking, homemade cookies are a better value when made with wholesome ingredients like whole-grain cereals, honey, peanut butter, nuts and fruits.
Here are some cookie recipes with back-to-school lunches in mind. They are chock-full of healthful ingredients that provide children with the added snack calories they require for normal growth and development. For adults who may find these calorie counts a little high, try making smaller or serving fewer cookies.
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups oats
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup bran
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pitted prunes
1 cup chopped walnuts
Cream butter, honey, sugar, eggs and vanilla in mixer bowl. Combine oats, flour, bran, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix into creamed mixture. Stir in prunes and walnuts. Drop by generous spoonfuls onto 2 non-stick baking sheets. Flatten to about 1/2-inch. Bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on racks. Store in airtight container. Securely wrapped, cookies can be frozen. Makes 12 large cookies.
PER SERVING: 335 calories; 6 gm protein; 37 gm carbohydrate; 20 gm fat; 257 mg sodium; 245 mg potassium.
Protein 09% Riboflavin 08% Vitamin A 17% Niacin 06% Vitamin C 03% Calcium 04% Thiamine 14% Iron 12%
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
3 cups oats
Combine shortening, sugars, egg, water and vanilla and beat until creamy. Sift together flour, salt and soda and add to creamed mixture. Blend well. Stir in oats and drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 12 to 15 minutes. Makes 5 dozen cookies.
PER SERVING: 112 calories; 2 gm protein; 16 gm carbohydrate; 5 gm fat; 70 mg sodium; 50 mg potassium.
Protein 02% Riboflavin 02% Vitamin A 00% Niacin 01% Vitamin C 00% Calcium 01% Thiamine 04% Iron 04%
HONEY ICE COOKIES
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1 3/4 cups oats
2/3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Beat together butter, honey and egg until well blended. Combine oats, flour, cinnamon, salt and soda. Add to creamed mixture and mix well. Let dough stand 10 minutes. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto non-stick baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Immediately remove to wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with Glaze. Makes 12 servings.
1 cup powdered sugar