NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Before your kids hop on the school bus, be sure they’ve fueled up.

“Your brain will just completely shut down without the proper nutrition,” said CHKD Dietician Jordan McDonald.

Research has shown that students learn better when they’re well nourished, and eating healthy has been linked to higher grades.

“In general, it’s just important that they have fuel — if it’s healthy, even better,” McDonald said.

Carbohydrates are key in the morning. Fresh fruits paired with peanut butter or yogurt, or a hard boiled egg and granola bar are quick and easy, McDonald said, but don’t be afraid of prepackaged foods. They can make packing lunch a whole lot less stressful.

“For example, here I brought a store bought Lunchable,” McDonald said. “You’ve got your carbohydrate with your cracker, you’ve got your protein with your ham and you’ve got some cheese and then you’ve got a little treat.”

McDonald supplemented that Lunchable with an additional cup of fruit.

For the pickier eater she has another suggestion.

“Just put them in a cute container,” McDonald said. “Containers go a long way with kids.”

If you have some extra time to prep your food, she said some kids love a charcuterie-style lunch in a bento box with fresh veggies, cheese and a dip such as guacamole or hummus.

“I do recommend that those lunchboxes be prepared with some preferred and non-preferred foods,” she said. “We don’t always just throw in everyone’s favorites because we still want to broaden that palate and broaden those horizons,” she said.

If you kiddo comes home hungry with a half-eaten lunch, don’t scold them, but don’t give in either. McDonald suggests saying to the child, “I have this leftover lunch for you or I have this yogurt you can have.”

Give them choices, but you keep the control.

Hot school lunches are another good option for many students.

The Virginia school nutrition program has requirements to provide well balanced meals to students. The state Department of Education served 130 million lunches and 75 million breakfasts in the 2021-22 school year.