Diet and Nutrition Packing your Kids’ School Lunches

Back to school time is here and it presents a perfect opportunity to make up for the kids’ lax summer eating habits. Parents rarely look to their child’s dentist for nutritional input, but I’d like to share some important information with you concerning your child’s dental health.

When you pack your child’s school lunch, there are a myriad of things to consider. Which items will he throw away or trade? How can I keep the lunch both healthy and tasty? And what foods will have staying power to keep him focused and energized?

Another question I’d like you to consider is: Which items are causing my child’s teeth harm? One simple way to answer that question is to ask yourself if the food is chewy or sticky. While gummy fruit snacks may contain real fruit juice, don’t be fooled into thinking you are doing your child any favors. They still have high levels of sugar that don’t wash off your child’s teeth. Ditto for raisins, which appear to be a suitable and nutritious choice but can leave sticky, sugary particles clinging to a child’s teeth for hours, leading to tooth decay and bad breath. I’d rather see you pack a piece of dark chocolate! You may find that an odd thing for a dentist to say, but here’s why: Dark chocolate offers beneficial antioxidants and releases positive endorphins. Additionally, chocolate tends to naturally “wash” away from children’s teeth versus clinging to their molars like its deceptively healthier alternatives.

The best foods to pack? Crunchy fruits and vegetables. They are healthy for kids’ bodies and their crunchy texture loosens food that’s stuck to their teeth, in essence scrubbing away damaging food particles until your child can adequately brush and floss at home.

Here are some examples of fairly inexpensive, delicious, well-rounded lunches that are easy to pack and keep stocked in the house. They’ll do double duty for you by keeping your kids satisfied and by staving off cavity-causing food particles and bacteria.

Lightly Toasted Whole Grain Bread with Peanut or Almond Butter
Carrot Sticks with Dip
Apple Slices
String Cheese
A piece of Dark Chocolate
-Or –
Wheat Pita stuffed with Turkey, Hummus, and Lettuce
Celery Sticks with Peanut Butter
Banana Bread
Yogurt with Granola Bits

Look for a balance of protein, fat and calories and don’t be afraid to pack an occasional dessert. It’s easy to make carrot nut cake or banana bread to sneak in nutrients while stillproviding your kids with a treat. You can create healthful and satisfying lunches while still meeting their nutritional and dental needs.

Have you done a lunchbox makeover? Tell us about your child’s favorite healthy lunch and we may feature it on our website or in an upcoming blog.

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