It’s time for children to head back to school, which means it’s time to pull out those lunchboxes. While it’s easy to use pre-packaged options, making healthy choices doesn’t have to be difficult.

Phyllis Woodson, MS, RD, CDE, of the EVMS Strelitz Diabetes Center, says it’s important to teach children about making health choices at an early age when habits are formed. “Healthy foods make a difference in health outcomes of children. It can impact how they feel and perform at school. 

Sandwiches are a lunchbox staple that are easy to make and can be made in advance. Ms. Woodson recommends using whole wheat bread as well as lean meats like turkey and chicken. She also says low-fat cheese is a great option.

Another suggestion is peanut butter and jelly, but try using low-sugar options to reduce calorie and carbohydrate intake. If that sounds a little boring, keep things interesting by cutting the bread into various shapes using cookie cutters.

While it might be easier to buy pre-packaged, high calorie foods like chips and cookies,

A hearty soup can also shake up a lunch-time routine. Make vegetable or chicken noodle soup ahead and portion enough for three days. Soups are also good for freezing. To make it even easier, Ms. Woodson recommends canned soups made that are low sodium and have healthy ingredients.

Here are several other snacks that can satisfy children of all ages:

  • Celery logs with peanut butter and raisins
  • Whole wheat crackers and low fat cheese or hummus
  • Yogurt
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Carrot sticks
  • Fruit
  • Unsalted nuts