First of all, the old saying is true—breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

“It does exactly that—it breaks the fast,” said Jill Spangler, director of nutrition services at WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital. “You haven’t had anything to eat all night.”

Breakfast refuels the brain and body, and should not be skipped.

Spangler says ideally it should contain protein, a complex carbohydrate and a healthy fat.

“Eggs and toast along with some fruit would be a very good choice,” she said. “A glass of milk, low fat dairy products, whole grains.”

That same kind of balance is in an ideal lunch as well.

“A sandwich with lean meat, whole grain bread, some vegetables, a piece of fruit and maybe some string cheese or a yoghurt,” Spangler said.

She says letting children select their lunch box is a good way to get them on board.

“Every year when we do school shopping, our son picks out his lunch box with the thermos,” said Nick Healy of Moundsville, father of seven-year-old Hudson. “So far we’ve been through a Minecraft and a Fortnight one.”

The Healys make snack time fun by arranging healthy food into pictures, like a face or a campfire.

“He gets a kick out of it,” Healy said. “We usually take a picture of it. He thinks it’s funny.”

They say it’s important to involve the child in meal preparation, and that starts with shopping.

“That way they can see what’s available, what different fruits and vegetables are out there,” Spangler noted.

To avoid chaos, she advises packing lunches the night before, rather than the next morning.

For drinking, she says to choose water, not sugary drinks.

For kids who don’t like plain water, Spangler advises adding some lemon or lime slices to give it more flavor but keep it natural and low in sugar.

She says parents should model good nutritional habits.

The Healys have done that with Hudson since he was a baby.

“We had a thing called the Baby  Bullet,” Healy recalled. “It was like a little blender that would mix up your own baby food. If we were having chicken and peas for dinner, we would blend up a delicious chicken and peas puree and that’s what he ate.”

For ideas, the old food pyramid is out. now shows all the new healthy recommendations.

Spangler says another option is to eat the breakfast and lunch that the school provides.

She says these days, cafeteria food is actually quite nutritious.