You already know that adding low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese or yogurt to a meal can help you get more of the nutrients your body needs and can help power you throughout your day. But you might not realize that keeping your favorite dairy foods cold for meals on the go, like summer picnics or school lunches, is easier than you think. Here are a few tools and tips to make sure your family can safely enjoy their favorite dairy treats no matter the location.
Insulated Lunch Containers
These containers come in many shapes and sizes, which makes finding one that fits your needs a snap. Bags with a gel lining keeps items cool throughout the day if you freeze them overnight. Or use a bag with a thermal lining that simply reflects the cool temperature of the food back into the bag. For best results, toss in an ice pack.
This popular brand dominated the market with its beverage bottles, mugs and food containers back in the day, but they’re just one of many companies whose products do a great job of keeping your food cold -- or hot -- for that matter. Look for insulated mugs and bowls of different shapes and sizes for the most versatile options. These containers are especially great for keeping smoothies and yogurt parfaits cold.
Freezable gel packs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors these days, so you don’t have to limit yourself to the one pack that you’ve had in your freezer for the last 10 years. Head on over to your favorite home goods store or hop online and checkout the fun varieties of available ice packs. Surprise your kids with fun shapes and characters, and keep several hard and soft-sided designs on hand to meet all your chilling needs.
Did you know you can buy milk that is perfectly safe even though it never has to be refrigerated? Shelf-stable milk goes through an ultra-pasteurization process (it’s heated to an extremely high temperature), making it safe to enjoy un-refrigerated until opening. Low-fat flavored varieties like vanilla and chocolate milk are great for lunches and post-workout refueling. They’ll taste better if chilled, but the milk is just as safe even if it isn’t stored at a cooler temperature.
Whether you’re using an insulated bag or a Thermos, place your containers in the freezer over night to maximize the chill-power. Don’t worry, they won’t freeze your food, but will remain cold enough to stay cold and delicious until you’re ready to eat.
Water Bottle Magic
If you’re heading out for a picnic or want to keep your lunch cold and enjoy an ice-cold beverage, freeze a bottle of water and pack it with the rest of your food. The ice in the bottle will slowly melt throughout the day, keeping your food chilled and leaving you with a refreshing bottle of ice water to drink. Remember, water expands when it freezes so be sure to drink a few sips before you put the bottle in the freezer to keep the bottle from bursting.
Freezing certain dairy items is a great way ensure a cool temperature for your favorite snacks. Try keeping string cheese and yogurt tubes in the freezer. Both will defrost within a couple of hours of being removed, leaving you with fresh-from-the-fridge texture and flavor. You also can stick cups of yogurt in the freezer for 20-30 minutes before packing in a lunch for a chilled treat later.
No matter which steps you take, remember that by keeping your milk, cheese, yogurt or other treats as chilled as possible (under 40 degrees is ideal) will help keep them nutritious, safe and delicious!