Lincoln — School is back in session and it is important to keep food safety and nutrition in mind when going back to school.
"Many parents will want to pack a lunch for their children and there are important safety tips to remember when doing so," said UNL extension educator Kayla Colgrove.
Colgrove said that she believes the top food safety mistake made when packing lunches is forgetting to pack them with an ice pack or in an insulated lunch bag.
"Perishable foods such as cold-cut sandwiches and yogurt should not be out of refrigeration for more than two hours," Colgrove said. "Otherwise students are at risk of getting sick from a foodborne illness."
Colgrove recommends parents freeze a water bottle, which will serve as both an ice pack and will melt into a refreshing drink by lunch time and said the lunchbox should also be cleaned.
"One thing that a lot of people forget to do is to clean the lunchbox with warm, soapy water before each use," Colgrove said.
Colgrove also offered tips for making after-school snacks nutritious.
"Make sure to include foods that have at least two different food groups," Colgrove said.
Colgrove suggested snacks such as apples and peanut butter, or fruits and vegetables dipped in a low-fat yogurt. She also suggested an oatmeal cookie along with a glass of low-fat milk.
Meal time can also be important for families.
Studies have shown that families who eat together are healthier and happier, Colgrove said. This is because eating as a family helps people build relationships and communication skills and meals are likely to be healthier at home.
"We need to emphasize that eating as a family is important," she said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be dinner."
For more information about food, nutrition and health, visit: http://food.unl.edu/web/fnh/home.