Lunch boxes come with a list of must haves and good to adds, to insure that we eat a safe, healthy, balanced, tasty and enjoyable meal.  Here are 6 essentials to make sure that the meals that you bring from home are easy to pack, fun to eat and nutritious.

Every brown bagger should have available to them:

1)      An insulated bag that is easy to wash.  A lunch box has 2 jobs, to carry the food from place A to place B, and to help to keep the food at the correct temperature.  It should be rinsed out every evening with a mixture of bleach and water (  5 ml bleach /750 ml water), to ensure that bacteria do not contaminate the food in the lunch box.

2)      Reusable containers of various sizes.  Containers come in many shapes and sizes, so that they can fit any lunch box.  Some are made of plastic, others of stainless steel, ceramic or even glass.   If you are carrying hot foods like soup or stew, an insulated thermos is your best bet.  Make sure that you wash it out after every use.  Also make sure that the thermos has a wide enough mouth to make filling and emptying it easy.  Cold food like sandwiches or wraps can be stored in a container or wrapped in waxed paper.  There is even a special reusable wrapper made of cloth, which has Velcro fasteners that can also double as a placemat.   There are special fruit carriers, and special containers for kids.  Make sure you get the ones that are best suited to your needs.

3)      Hot pack/cold pack to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.  If you do not use a thermos, use a hot pack.   Most cold foods do not lend themselves to being kept in a thermos, so a cold pack is an essential.  Cold foods should be kept at 4 degrees C, or less.  The packs should be rinsed with sanitizer to make sure that they do not harbor any harmful bacteria. Some people freeze their water bottle or juice box, allowing it to do double duty.  The frozen beverage will cool the contents of the lunch box.  It will defrost during the morning, and the beverage will be cold and refreshing.

4)      Appropriate accessories like place mats, napkins, utensils and hand sanitizer or wipes.  Depending on the circumstances you may need more or less of these accessories.    Children often eat at their desks, so it is important for them to have a placemat, and some hand sanitizer to wash their hands.

5)      A balanced meal, and possibly a snack depending on the circumstances.  A balanced meal and snacks are essential to maintaining energy levels.  To help you and your children plan their lunches, print out the “Cool” lunch guide from the Dietitians of Canada web site (  This simple tool will help you to keep track of your child’s likes and dislikes, allow them to participate in planning their lunch, while giving both of you some helpful suggestions.

6)  The last thing to do is to take the time to eat and enjoy your meal.