What will you be packing in your kid’s lunch box this year? This quick and easy recipe for Barbecue Roast Beef Wraps is a great alternative to traditional sandwiches.
The new backpacks are ready to go and packed with unused supplies to kick off the school year. The first day of school clothes are all picked out. And the lunch boxes? They are just waiting for deliciousness.
With a second and a fourth grader who both went to preschool, I have been packing lunch boxes for years now. That means two things: I have a huge collection of containers, ice packs and utensils just for school; and I have a good grasp on how to pack lunches my kids love.
The biggest challenge? Ensuring that the food remains safe to eat all day. Since kids usually don’t eat lunches for hours after you pack them, it’s important that you pack smartly so foods don’t spoil.
I recently turned to the fine folks at NSF International, a public health and safety organization, for some good tips on packing safer lunches for kids. Here’s what they told me.
- Pack nonperishables — The best way to avoid food spoilage is to pack nonperishables like dried fruit, whole fresh veggies and vegetables and whole grain breads and crackers. “The USDA recommends that half of a meal be fruits and vegetables, which is convenient because most produce does not spoil at room temperature. Many healthy foods don’t require refrigeration,” says Cheryl Luptowski, home safety expert at NSF International a nonprofit public health and safety organization. For me, I try to keep a selection of healthy granola bars, shelf-stable fruit cups packed in juice and fresh fruits for easy packing.
- Smart packing for temperature – If you are packing foods that need to stay cold (or hot!), there are steps you can take to ensure they stay the correct temperature. Luptowski advises that parents should use frozen gel packs — or even a frozen juice box — in insulated lunch boxes to ensure that cold foods stay cold. I also love to freeze yogurt tubes for lunch boxes, which defrost by the time snack time at school rolls around. As for hot foods, I have a collection of thermoses just for the purpose. “If packing hot foods such as leftover soups or stews, re-heat the food on the stove to at least 165ºF. To help keep it hot until lunch, fill a thermos with hot water, let it stand for a minute or two, empty the thermos and then fill with the hot food and close it quickly,” says Luptowski.
- Toss leftovers — When your kindergartener comes home with a completely uneaten sandwich, it can be tempting to save it for later — but don’t. Luptowski says that leftovers should be tossed. “Pack only the amount of perishable food that your children can eat at lunch and advise them to throw out any leftovers,” says Luptowski. This one is tricky because kids appetites change all the time — so be sure to pay attention to how much your child is eating and adjust what you pack as needed.
- Wash ‘em — While disposable packaging materials shouldn’t be reused, you do want to make sure that you keep reusables clean. “Wash lunch boxes and thermoses daily with soap and water,” says Luptowski. Also, be sure that your prep surfaces like kitchen counters and sinks, are kept sanitized too, Luptowski advises.
As for what to pack, my kids sometimes like sandwiches, but they are more often interested in pastas, soups, rice bowls and wraps like this one, which are both filling and easy to toss together in the morning.
This quick and easy wrap recipe combines creamy deli American cheese (my daughter’s favorite!) with roast beef, barbecue sauce and green bell peppers for a saucy, crunchy, delicious wrap experience. All you have to do is layer the ingredients, wrap it up and secure with toothpicks before cutting it in half. It is, as they say, easy peasy.
Barbecue Roast Beef Wraps for Lunch Boxes
2 soft taco-size tortillas
2 tbsp barbecue sauce
2 slices deli American cheese
1/4 lb deli roast beef
1/2 green bell pepper, very thinly sliced
Lay out the tortillas. Spread each with 1 tbsp barbecue sauce. Top each with 1 slice of American cheese and 1/2 of the roast beef and green pepper slices. Roll up tightly and secure each wrap half with toothpicks. Cut in half. Pack in sandwich containers.