AMHERST - With less than a week before students in the local board start school, parents are making those last-minute preparations.
Purchasing supplies for back-to-school should also include creating healthy lunches on a daily basis.
"One good idea is that parents should be looking at getting their kids involved in the packing of their lunches," said Trudy Reid, a nutritionist with Public Health Services.
"Parents, if they're going to work every day, should act as role models for their children by taking healthy lunches to work."
Reid says boredom can be a big thing when it comes to students' lunches if the lunch box includes the same items day after day.
By getting them involved, it helps create a lunch the student looks forward to and wants to eat.
"Parents and their children can brainstorm together with the Canadian food guide about different combinations for school lunches," she said, adding parents should take their children shopping for lunch box items, which will also help children and adults learn to read the nutrition labels on food products.
If parents don't know what might make a good lunch box combo, there are websites to use as guides.
Schools across the province have a food and nutrition policy they follow that applies to the foods the schools serve and sell. However, there are resources that can give ideas on healthy lunches.
Something else to keep in mind is portion size for the child.
Someone entering Grade 6 will have a bigger appetite than someone entering Grade Primary.
"A huge lunch can be overwhelming for a small child," Reid said.
Having been teaching for more than two decades, Nancy Coleman is once again back at Cumberland North Academy in Brookdale and has seen the changes in school lunches.
"Students are more aware now of what they're eating than we were, say, 25 years ago," Coleman said while preparing for the first day with students Thursday.
"More recently, things have been coming prepackaged. It seems like it's whatever is easiest to bring. Some students will bring fresh fruits - apples still seem to be the most common and I think it's because they travel well.
"And you would be surprised by the number of students that like yogurt. They bring them in tubes and those Mini Go containers."
To spice up a container of yogurt, Reid suggests parents pack fruit and granola to mix together as a healthy snack.
"Students are usually busy on their lunch break, which is why what the parents put in the lunches should be nutritious," she said.
As a recess snack, Reid suggests homemade fruit roll-ups with a tortilla.
Along with packing a healthy lunch, students should also consume a healthy breakfast before school starts.
"Research tells us that a child with a full stomach will score higher and overall do better than a student who hasn't eaten," she said.
For those who aren't able to eat breakfast before leaving home, they can take advantage of the breakfast programs offered at the majority of schools across Cumberland County.
"If kids eat before school, they aren't as hungry at lunch time," Reid said, adding the breakfast program isn't available at all schools.
"But it is for all children and they may choose it for a variety of reasons. It's all about the spirit of enjoying food together. It's an aspect of both school and community life and it goes beyond just providing nutrition. It's about feeling included."