Kids’ lunches—they may be an extra chore on the list of things to do, but they can make all the difference. Sure, it’s easy to hand them a few dollars and tell them to buy their mid-day meal from the school cafeteria. But if your kids are in charge of the money, it’s highly unlikely they’re going to reach for that apple over the bag of potato chips.

If you pack your children’s lunches, you’re not only ensuring they’re receiving their daily nutrition, you’re also able to cater to his/her likes and dislikes; meaning there’s a greater chance they’ll actually eat their lunch rather than throwing it away or bringing it home in its entirety.

Below is a step-by-step guide to packing the perfect school lunch.

Drink: Rarely do parents think about this, but the drink you pack can make all the difference. A multitude of kids’ beverages have nearly as much sugar as soft drinks, and kids can gain 3-5 extra pounds by the end of the school year! Try drinks that are zero or low-calorie and high in nutrition:

  • Water
  • Lightly sweetened iced tea
  • Low-fat milk
  • 100% juice drinks

Main Course: Avoid a lunch with refined carbohydrates—they burn quick and will leave your children with low energy and attention for the rest of the school day. Protein, fiber and healthy fats will keep them full and their metabolism running high. Try packing:

  • Turkey or roast beef and Swiss on wheat bread (skip the mayo)
  • Thermos of hot soup
  • Grilled chicken breast
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Tuna tossed with light mayo, mustard, celery and carrots

Sides: According to Eat This, Not That, only one in four kids consumes the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Packing a produce in their lunch is a perfect way to add those much-needed nutrients into their diets! As long as you have at least one serving of fruits or veggies, adding a second crunchy snack is fine. When you’re at your local Sparkle pick up:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Olives
  • Bananas, pears, peaches or any other whole fruits
  • Almonds
  • Raisins
  • Small snack bags of pretzel sticks

Dessert: Being healthy doesn’t mean you need to void your kids from sweets entirely. However, the desserts you pack should have no trans fats, less than 12 grams of sugar and no more than 100 calories:

  • Fruit leather
  • Low-fat, low-sugar chocolate pudding
  • One Rice Krispie square
  • One sugar-free Jell-O cup

Are you kids hungry for more? Check out Eat This, Not That for more healthy school lunch options!