School is back in session!

While many parents welcome the structure, it also comes with some new stressors — planning and preparing the lunchbox. Knowing what foods to pack, and how much, can be overwhelming for parents and athletes. That’s especially true if you have a picky eater. Here are three simple tips, along with some meal ideas, to make packing and eating a winning lunch easier.

Have the Right Equipment

Imagine cross-country practice without running shoes — it wouldn’t go so well, right? Most athletes understand the importance of having the right equipment for their sport, but fueling for that sport requires the same attention.  To pack a winning lunch, you’ll need some equipment to keep it fresh until it’s time to eat. A mini lunchbox cooler is a great start, but other equipment is necessary to maintain foods at a safe temperature and encourage variety. Keep a variety of containers on hand to pack your foods, as well a few ice packs to keep foods cold. If you prefer hot meals, be sure to have a high-quality soup thermos or food jar that keeps foods hot until it’s time to eat. You can also buy fancy containers designed specifically to hold salads and salad dressing and to keep foods separate until they are ready to assemble.

Keep Healthy Foods on Hand

Mornings are busy enough without worrying about what to pack for lunch. That’s why planning, prepping and preparing foods in advance is key to packing a winning lunch. Take some time over the weekend to plan what you want to pack for lunch in the coming week, and make sure your refrigerator and pantry is stocked with those foods. Do some prep work, like cleaning and cutting vegetables, making a pot of soup, or  slicing cheese to pair with crackers, fruit or on a sandwich, in advance. If portioning foods into containers isn’t your thing, consider buying food prepackaged in single-serve containers. Examples include, Greek yogurt cups, cottage cheese and fruit, nuts and cheese or pretzels and hummus.

Pack Winning Combinations

There is no such thing as the perfect food or meal — student athletes need a variety of nutrients, from a variety of foods, for proper growth and development and to perform well at their sport. When packing lunch, try to include something from each of the food groups. This is the best way to assure you are packing and getting a variety of nutrients.

Download the full Winning Lunch for Student Athletes Packet