Back to school time brings a lot of anxieties for parents, especially those with rising kindergarteners. There are plenty of options for making a nutritious and well-balanced meal for your child to take to school for lunch. The key to easy is planning and preparing foods ahead. The key to healthy is making sure that you follow MyPlate guidelines. When packing his lunch, include one of the options below from each food group. And remember to pack an ice pack in the lunch box to keep cold items cold. Dairy – Milk (plain or flavored), yogurt cups or tubes, low-fat cheese or string cheese Meat/Protein – Sliced turkey, ham, chicken, low fat cheese, peanut butter, nuts, hard boiled eggs Whole Grains – Flat bread, tortillas, crackers, pasta salad, pretzels, cereal Vegetable – Edemame, veggies with dip, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, tossed salad Fruit – Grapes, apple slices, melons, berries, orange wedges, fruit cups, fruit salads, dried fruit Optional Snack – Homemade oatmeal cookie, yogurt covered cherries, pudding cup or dried fruit leather. Another option is leaving the worry of providing a healthy lunch to the school nutrition team. Many schools serve both breakfast and lunch and follow the National School Lunch Program meal patterns. These meal patterns were recently revised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and strictly follow the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Schools are offering more foods that were once lacking in students’ diets such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and limited fats, sugars and sodium. Did I mention that school food service establishments are inspected by local health/sanitation departments and follow the highest food safety standards? You can rest assured school meals provide a variety of nutritious and safe foods that will nourish your child so he is ready to learn. Take a look at the school menu and review it with your child prior to the beginning of school, then visit the school cafeteria to learn more about their meal service program.