Do you need an Insulated Bag?
Some foods are best chilled, others taste better at room temperature, and some foods need to be chilled in order to keep them fresh and safe to eat. Whether you need an insulated lunch bag or lunch box really depends on what you are taking with you, or sending your children to school as well as the time of year and whether or not you have access to a fridge.
For most children if they take a packed lunch to school it will be in their bags or collected in a box in the corner of a classroom from the time they leave the house in the morning to the time they get to eat it at lunchtime which can easily be 3-4 hours.
For many foods such as a packet of crisps this is absolutely fine, but yoghurts and other dairy products, meat and eggs in particular need to be eaten within a few hours of being out of the fridge and will benefit from being kept cool, particularly in hot weather.
While having an insulated lunch bag is entirely optional, it’s definitely good to have one. They are designed to keep food fresh or cold for longer periods of time. If you are planning to buy one for you or your child, check its size to make sure it fits your needs.
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How insulated lunch bags and boxes help keep food fresh
Insulated lunch bags and lunch boxes help keep food cool and fresh by protecting them from the temperature of the air outside. So if you take food directly out of the fridge and put it in an insulated lunch box the temperature inside the lunch box will drop to lower than that of the air outside.
They don’t act as a chiller though so you need to make sure food is cold first and you don’t put just cooked food in that hasn’t been chilled.
Other things you can do
Most lunch bags will be big enough to add an ice pack to keep food cool and fresh, and this is an especially good idea in summer when the outside temperature is generally warmer.
Even better than an ice pack you could try freezing their drink which will defrost slowly, keeping their food cold and meaning they have a refreshing ice-cold drink to have at lunchtime. If you send you child with a carton of juice this freezes really well, as do most plastic drinks bottles. Stainless steel bottles can usually only be frozen if they are not insulated. Also, don’t forget that water expands when it freezes so you need to make sure you don’t overfill bottles or they may break.
Even just a drink with ice in will keep the contents of the whole lunch bag cooler, providing the bottle isn’t insulated.
Another option is to use insulated lunch bags for high-risk foods. You can get small insulated food jars that are perfect for a portion of yoghurt, cheese, meat or hummus, neither of which are great if they’ve been sitting in a warm bag for hours. And these insulated jars are also perfect for sending warm food in winter.
Next Up: Healthy Lunch Box Ideas for Kids