As more and more schools offer hot dogs, pizza and nachos for lunch, conscientious parents are seeking more nutritious alternatives for their kids. Packing healthy lunches can be the solution, but the task has to be quick and easy for time-crunched adults. Furthermore, the meals must be kid-friendly. If your clients include concerned parents, overweight children or both, pass along these tips from registered dietitian Nancy Teas of San Diego.

“Younger kids especially like bright, colorful foods that have interesting textures and are fun to nibble on,” Teas says. She suggests packing baggies of frozen peas and corn straight from the freezer or buying prepackaged baby carrots. She also cites fresh fruit as a great addition and points to sesame sticks, almonds and trail mix as other crunchy foods that go down well. Of course, with regard to trail mix, Teas advises looking for a mix with nuts and raisins and avoiding combinations heavy on sweets.

According to Teas, sandwiches are a good choice as long as they’re made with whole-grain breads, and leftover stir-fry and rice can offer a tasty alternative for older kids. In addition, she says that, during the winter, a small thermos of hot soup can be satisfying. However, she recommends that parents read labels to make sure they’re buying a quality product.

As for drinks, Teas warns against packing soda. “Sodas add empty calories,” she says. “Also, more young girls are breaking bones, which seems to be related to soda consumption.”

In Teas’ estimation, fruit juice is definitely better, but, again, parents must shop wisely. Products sold as “fruit drink” may be only 5 percent fruit and mostly refined sugar. Even real fruit juice should not be consumed willy-nilly: Juice retains fruit’s natural sugar but does not have its fiber, so 1 cup per day is plenty for children. Their other beverages should be milk and water.

Reported by Kate Watson