Gone are the days of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cellophane-wrapped cupcakes. These days, kids’ lunches resemble modern day artwork. We know you don’t have time for that (who does?), so here are 5 things you need for healthy, fun lunches for the kids—just in time for back to school.

  1. Fruits and Vegetables: Always make sure your kids’ lunches have at least one serving of both. Fresh fruits and vegetables are crucial to their growing bodies. The portions will vary depending on the age and size of each child, but adding at least one serving of each to every meal is a great start!
  2. Protein: Whether it’s chicken or fish or tofu or some other form of protein, be sure to give the kids at least 2-3 ounces (about 1 serving) in their lunch. Make it fun! Add tuna or chicken to a spinach salad in addition to a protein-packed meal. Nuts are also a great form of protein, but be sure to check with your school first before sending the kids off with peanuts or pistachios in their lunches, as nut allergies are becoming more and more common nowadays.
  3. Dairy: The USDA recommends around 3 cups of dairy each day. Dairy is versatile enough that you can throw a cup of yogurt in your child’s lunch box or even some cottage cheese (both pack a TON of protein per serving). Non-dairy options like soy or coconut-based products work, too.
  4. Sweets: Don’t feel bad about throwing a few homemade cookies or your kids’ favorite candy bar in their lunch boxes. A little bit of sugar is good for developing bodies, just remember to keep it in moderation.
  5. Snacks: Small crunchy snacks like nuts, carrots, homemade granola or Riceworks are good for those mid-day 3rd-period slumps. We’re not sure why, but there’s something so satisfying about a delicious, crunchy snack and we’re willing to bet any of our toppings recipes would be perfect for a mid-afternoon snack for you and for the kids!

The bottom line is, you don’t have to spend hours shaping food into panda bears to create delicious, fresh lunches that your kids will enjoy and you will feel good about packing. Best of all, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that you are serving a delicious, smarter snacks to your family!