If you have a gluten-free young school age child, you know that you will be packing their lunch everyday, because you can’t be sure that the school lunch program will have gluten-free choices for him or her. 

You also know how  important it is to keep your children’s food safe if you send lunches with them to school.   But sometimes accomplishing that safety isn’t easy to do.  And depending upon the foods they have in their lunches, it may seem almost impossible. These lunch storage and cooling ideas will help you maintain the safety of your children’s school lunches.

One of the easiest ways to keep food safe is by using a thermos.  Prepare a thermos meant for hot food by heating the inside with hot water prior to adding the hot food, and pre-cool with ice water when it will be used for cold food.  This will allow you to keep the hot food hot which means bacteria can’t begin to grow in it.  A thermos can also keep cold foods cold enough you can send frozen fruit sorbet and be confident it will still be frozen when your child gets to it.

To help keep food cold, freeze bottles of water, juice boxes or other containers overnight and place them in your child’s lunchbox in the morning.  The frozen liquid will thaw over time and keep your child’s food cool and safe.  Ice packs will also perform this same function, both ideas have an upside and a down side.   If it is very warm outside your frozen bottles will create condensation as they melt, making everything else in their lunch wet,  but using a frozen beverage means there will be more room for other healthy choices. 

My daughter found a really cute Hello Kitty lunch bag   for my granddaughter.  It has a separate compartment on the bottom to keep the ice pack in.  That way your childs food stays cold, but doesn’t get wet from the condensation. 

It’s one of the new insulated lunch bags that contain cold gel packs which will keep the food at the proper temperature.  You can find them in all shapes and sizes; some come in ‘blankets’ of smaller packets which can be cut apart to fit the lunch container your child has.

Avoid foods which are unsafe in warmer temperatures. Mayonnaise and dairy products are generally considered unsafe unless you can guarantee they remain below 40 degrees. Raw fruits and vegetables may seem like a good idea but peeling and cutting these items may allow them to spoil more easily unless they are kept very cold.

Cherry tomatoes and whole fruit are good choices for warmer weather. You can also pre-freeze canned fruit and allow it to thaw in your child’s lunch. This will act much the same as the frozen beverages by keeping other foods in their lunchbox cold.

If your child take items which could break such as baked chips or gluten-free crackers, find small plastic containers which will fit a serving and pack those in your child’s lunch. This will keep these items from getting broken and make them more appealing to your child.

Just remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to ensure your child’s safety while preparing their lunches for them. Get your child to help you choose the items to put into their lunch.  Just make sure they’re healthy choices.