School is back in session! While this is an exciting time for kids; it can also be an especially stressful time for parents when it comes to planning, prepping and packing up the kiddos’ lunchboxes. Research has shown that good nutrition and healthy habits positively affect a child’s academic performance, which makes a healthy and balanced lunch essential for a child’s success.

Packing your child’s lunch is a great way to ensure that they’re getting a nutritious, well-balanced meal that includes low-fat dairy foods, like milk, yogurt and cheese, as well as fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins. Still, many parents find it challenging to do, day after day.

Try these 5 simple tips to build a more creative (and unexpected!) lunchbox for kids of all ages:

  1. Aim for Color: We eat with our eyes as well as our taste buds! Keep your kids interested by including a variety of colors in their meals. The brighter, the better: think red apple, white cheese stick, green spinach wrap, and orange bell pepper slices.
  2. Involve your Kids: During lunch prep, have them share new ideas with you or taste test new items, like something a friend had that they wanted to try. Including kids increases their likelihood of actually consuming the food at school! Check out how @DairyMomRD involves her kids during meal prep by making sandwich kabobs, cheese quesadillas with a yogurt dip and a make-your-own parfait.
  3. In a sandwich rut? Wrap it up instead! Make pinwheels or roll-ups with their favorites or try something new! Put your go-to sandwich items in a wrap and then cut into individual pinwheels for kid-friendly bites.  Secure with toothpicks if desired.
  4. S-MOO-thie, please. Why not make a smoothie for lunch with fruit, veggies, yogurt or milk? Pour into an insulated water bottle or thermos, freeze overnight, and it can double as an ice pack, too!
  5. Use Bento Boxes: This is an easy way to lay the framework of your child’s lunch. Compartments keep foods portion controlled and allow for different foods in each box! See how @DairyDietitian created kid-friendly, fun and colorful bento boxes for school lunch. Vary the foods and themes, and have fun with it.