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Safe Brown Bag Lunches

Use good sanitation and good personal hygiene when preparing food.

Use special care with high protein, moist, and low-acid foods.

  •  Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and fresh milk products.
  • Dishes that contain these foods such as custard or meat pies.

Keep foods either hot or cold. Do not leave food at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour on very hot days).

  • Boil foods such as soups, stews and chili, then immediately pour into a hot, sterile vacuum bottle. Sterilize vacuum bottle with boiling water.
  • Use a freezer gel-pack or make one from a plastic container (such as a margarine tub) filled with water then frozen. Place these containers in the lunch bag or box. Insulted lunch bags keep foods colder than paper bags.
  • To keep beverages cold and safe, place an empty sterilized vacuum bottle in the freezer compartment every evening.
  • Freeze individual cartons of yogurt or containers (not glass) of fruit or vegetable juices (these will serve the same purpose as freezer-gel devices or homemade ice containers).
  • Take sandwich fillings such as egg or tuna salad and slices of luncheon meats in a cold-keeping container to be spread on bread at lunch time.
  • Don't let lunch sit in a warm place such as the car or in the sun.

Foods safe for lunch without keeping hot or cold:

  • Unopened canned meat or poultry products, opened and eaten immediately.
  • Dried meats such as beef jerky.
  • Crisp-cooked bacon.
  • Peanut butter.
  • Hard cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, or American.
  • Clean, well-scrubbed fruits and vegetables.
  • Breads, crackers, cereals.
  • Baked products such as cookies and cake.

Use your imagination to create safe, nutritious and tasty lunches.

Mix peanut butter and:

  • Applesauce with a dash of cinnamon; wheat germ and raisins can also added.
  • Crushed pineapple and shredded carrots.
  • Nonfat dry milk powder and honey or mashed banana.
  • Dried fruits like raisins, apricots, dates, or prunes.
  • Apple, orange, or banana chunks.
  • Sesame, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds.
  • Honey and crumbled bacon.

Mix a grated or chopped mild cheese with a favorite salad dressing such as French or Italian, then stir in:

  • Sweet or dill pickles.
  • Chopped nuts.
  • Chopped onion, green pepper, cucumbers, celery, or bean sprouts.
  • Crushed, drained pineapple.
  • Chopped fruit such as apples or bananas.

Use different types of breads.

  • Try whole wheat, rye, raisin, French, or Italian bread.
  • Fill pocket or pita bread with any of the above spreads.
  • Use hot dog, hamburger, or kaiser rolls.
  • Bagels, croissants, and English muffins make a nice change.
  • Spread quick breads such as banana or zucchini bread with peanut butter.

Prepared by: Sue Snider, PhD

Professor/Food Safety and Nutrition Specialist



Original Publication Date:

Cooperative Extension Education in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Delaware, Delaware State University and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating. Distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age, or national origin.

Disclaimer: Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension or bias against those not mentioned.

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