5 Easy Back-to-School Packed Lunches

STACK Expert Kait Fortunato offers five delicious lunch ideas for your back-to-school meal plan.

Young athletes are headed back to school, and often what they have for lunch is the last meal before practices and games. Packing your lunchbox full of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables will help see you through the long day ahead. Here are five simple, back-to-school packed lunches perfect for athletes.

1. Burrito Bowls

Burrito Bowl

Start with a base of beans or rice (or both) and add some leftover grilled chicken (or a rotisserie chicken) for protein. Top with vegetables such as tomatoes, corn and lettuce, and finish off with avocado or guacamole for some healthy fats.

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2. Crockpot Chili or Stew

Crockpot Chili or Stew

I love using the crockpot for lunches, because you can make a big batch of something, portion it into individual containers, and have your lunch ready to go for the whole week! Beef chili and stew are two of my favorite choices—packed with iron from the meat, carbohydrates from the beans or potatoes, and any number of vegetable for vitamins and minerals.

RELATED: Kait's Meal of the Month: Crock Pot Beef Stew

3. Kale Salad

Kale Salad

I'm not a huge fan of kale on a regular basis, but it makes a great base for salads. Unlike other leafy greens, it holds its texture very well, so it doesn't get soggy or wilted by the time you're ready to eat it. In fact, kale actually gets better the longer it sits in dressing. The dressing breaks down the bitterness and absorbs the flavor of the kale without diminishing its crunch. "Massage" the kale with your favorite oil-based dressing and choose different toppings for variety. Protein options include hard boiled eggs, leftover chicken or meat, veggie burger and shrimp (cooks fast!). Carbohydrate options include roasted sweet potatoes, beans, quinoa and leftover pasta. For fats, choose olive oil dressing, avocado, nuts or seeds.

RELATED: The Lowdown on Kale Nutrition

4. Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad in Avocado

Tuna is full of omega-3 healthy fats, which helps lower inflammation and keeps you fuller longer—and of course fish is a great source of protein. I like to mix tuna with mashed avocado, sunflower seeds and celery for crunch. Like the kale, I serve it over a slaw-based salad (shredded carrot and broccoli slaw), which has great texture and holds up well when topped with tuna salad. Serve with a side of crackers and fruit, and you are good to go.

5. Breakfast for Lunch

Breakfast for Lunch

Whenever make pancakes or waffles on weekends, I always make a large batch and freeze some for future use. Who says you can't mix it up and bring breakfast in for lunch? Toast two frozen waffles or pancakes for your carbohydrate, top with a nut butter of your choice for healthy fats and pack hard boiled eggs for protein. Serve with fruit and yogurt, and your meal is complete.

RELATED: Quick On-the-Go Breakfast Ideas

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