Looking for easy lunch ideas to bust out of your lunch rut and make lunch packing duty a little less stressful? With a few simple tricks, you can pack nourishing and delicious lunches in less time than it takes to brew your morning coffee. Together with my good friend Kristen Sze of ABC7 News, I break down lunch packing into three simple steps to help you build a better lunchbox.

1. Follow a Formula

2 colors + 1 protein + 1 healthy grains = a better lunchbox

This simple formula is the foundation of my nutrition game, Crunch a Color, and it holds true for lunches too. Kids (and adults!) eat with their eyes first, so keep your lunches colorful and fun.

2. Prep Ahead

The key to reducing stress on busy mornings is to prep ahead. Choose one item to make ahead for the week. It can be as simple as a homemade creamy ranch dressing or no bake energy bites. Nut free homemade energy bars are another wholesome addition to your lunchbox. Having healthy, grab-n-go options ready to go in your fridge or freezer is a huge time saver.

nut free homemade energy bars_jennifer tyler lee_2018

Packed with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, apricots, and dates, these nut free homemade energy bars are a great make ahead lunch recipe. Get the recipe: Nut Free Homemade Energy Bars.

3. Mix it Up

To keep things interesting, without much work, change up the format of your lunchbox favorites. If your kids love a ham and cheese sandwich, try sandwiches-on-a-stick. Cut your sandwich fixings into cubes and add them to wooden skewers (pick ones without sharp ends!). Cubed ham or cubed turkey with cheddar or monterey jack and whole wheat bread is a classic combo.

PB & banana a staple? Try PB & Banana rollups! Roll out the bread with a rolling pin and cut off the crusts, then spread with your favorite spread (if you choose, add sliced fruit like bananas or strawberries for a pop of color), roll and slice. Some tried and true combos are unsweetened almond butter and bananas or cream cheese and strawberries.