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



This institution is an equal opportunity provider.