It’s time (or almost time!) for kids to head back to class. So dust off those backpacks and get the lunch box planning going… That’s right! Lunchbox planning is a key part of making the school week run smoothly for busy moms and dads. Apex Leadership Co. offers some easy back-to-school nutrition tips and fun, easy lunchbox ideas.

First of all, don’t stress! There is no need for every lunchbox to look like a cookbook photoshoot is going down or a celebrity mom’s Instagram page. As long as the lunch covers the basics of a balanced meal, parents can get as creative as they want (no matter what it looks like). Think outside the sandwich and put together some of kids’ favorites that contain a balance of protein, healthy carbs and good fats (plus a fruit and or veggie).

Mini Foods for Mini Appetites — Little foods are visually appealing for little ones and they can be created for even the pickiest palates. Consider cutting sandwiches and even some fruits and veggies into fun shapes using cookie cutter.

Pre-Cut and Pre-Pack — Wash and cut the items that can be prepared at the beginning of the week and organize them for quick grab-and-go lunch making. If space allows, create a dedicated spot in the refrigerator for already bagged fruit and veggies, single-serving yogurts and juice boxes or water bottles. In the pantry, fill a basket full of single-serving nuts, pre-portioned crackers and other non-perishables that kids can use to help create their own nutritious and delicious lunchbox meal.

Level up The Standards — Instead of an average peanut butter and jelly, why not try almond or cashew butter with fig jam and apple or pear slices. Or use a spinach or other flavored tortilla or flatbread to make sandwich roll ups as an alternative to plain white bread. Need some inspiration? Here are a few yummy combos:

Spread hummus or tzatziki sauce on a tortilla or flatbread, layer tomato, cucumber slices, lettuce, cubed chicken and feta crumbles for a Greek-inspired wrap

Layer pepperoni, salami, ham, provolone, onion and lettuce on a sun-dried tomato tortilla, drizzle with Italian dressing and roll it up

Instead of pre-packaged Lunchables, let kids make their own cutie charcuteries with various uncured meats, cheeses, whole grain crackers and some grapes or carrot and cucumber sticks with a dip

Skewer it up! Foods on skewers are just more fun! Alternate mini turkey meatballs and mini balls of mozzarella; thread skewers with grapes, watermelon and pineapple chunks; or put some popcorn chicken on a skewer and include a small container of ketchup or BBQ sauce.

Remix taco night leftovers by filling a small Thermos with whole grain tortilla chips, seasoned lean beef, tomatoes, lettuce, a drizzle of sour cream and a sprinkle or cheddar cheese.

Serve Breakfast (or Dinner) for Lunch — All kids have different tastes, so there’s no need to force them to eat a traditional lunchbox lunch. Make overnight oats or pack whole grains waffles with seed butter. With so many options when it comes to keeping foods cool or hot, parents can even pack soups, stews or casseroles for those comfort-food loving kiddos.

This school year, think outside the lunchbox and get creative when it comes to serving kids a wholesome balanced mid-day meal. Apex Leadership Co. encourages parents and kids to work together to discover favorite food that they can incorporate into their lunchboxes.