Don’t Let After-School Activities Take Food Safety Off The Menu: Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics Offers Food Safety Tips

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As children head back to school and families gear up for busy schedules packed with after-school activities, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages families to reduce their risk of food poisoning with food safety tips from the Home Food Safety program, a collaboration between the Academy and ConAgra Foods.

“Hectic after-school activities can leave students with little time to eat, let alone worry about food safety,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and academy spokesperson Deborah Beauvais. “Whether reheating dinner or packing after-school snacks, set your student up for success with a few simple safety steps.”

Reheating dinner
“Between soccer practice, music lessons, and other after-school activities, your children may be home late for dinner, and you may find yourself reheating dinner once, twice, or even three times in an evening,” Beauvais said. “If you’re saving dinner for later, make sure you properly refrigerate and reheat the leftovers.”

If you’re saving dinner for latecomers, remember:

  •   *Leftovers should never sit at room temperature for longer than two hours.
  •   *Instead of leaving dinner on the stove before reheating, store it in the fridge (set at 40°F or below according to a refrigerator thermometer) until family members are home and ready to eat.
  •   *Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F. A food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and determine the doneness of cooked foods.

 

Fueling up between school and after-school activities
For kids with activities directly after school, chances are they’ll need a boost of nutrition before they begin practice and sport activities. Be sure to choose snacks that are still safe to eat at the end of the school day.

“As a general rule of thumb, foods should not sit out unrefrigerated for more than two hours; in hot weather, 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above, the time is reduced to one hour,” Beauvais said.

When sending kids to school with an after-school snack when a refrigerator isn’t available, Beauvais recommends packing nourishing, shelf-stable foods, such as:

  •   *Breads/grains: Single-serving boxes of whole-wheat cereal, trail mix, energy bars, granola bars, cereal bars, whole-wheat bagels, and popcorn without added butter
  •   *Fruits and vegetables: Carrot and celery sticks and other cut-up raw vegetables, grapes, single-serve applesauce, washed whole fruit (apples, peaches, bananas), dried fruit mix and 100-percent juice boxes
  •   *Meat and other protein sources: Cans of tuna, peanut butter (for sandwiches or with celery and apples), nuts, and single-serve packages of peanut butter and whole-wheat crackers.

 

Teach your children to carefully wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating or handling food. Include a packet of moist towelettes in your child’s lunch to serve as a friendly reminder to clean up before lunchtime.

For more tips on reducing your risk of food poisoning, visit www.HomeFoodSafety.org, which includes tips on lunchbox safety, reheating dinner and leftover safety and educational activities for kids such as the handwashing maze.

The Home Food Safety program also offers the free Is My Food Safe? mobile app, which includes a kitchen safety quiz, safe cooking temperatures, and a guide for shelf-life of foods.