How to Pack a Lunch That Supports Your Child’s Oral Health
Everyone’s headed back to school, and that means it’s lunch box-packing season again! If you’ve gotten a little rusty over the summer, we understand and we’re here to help.
While pre-packaged foods are undoubtedly convenient, many of them are also filled with unnecessary sugars and preservatives that can wreak havoc on your little one’s teeth, not to mention their overall health.
Today, we’re sharing seven tooth healthy treats that will fill up their bellies and keep their pint-sizes smiles bright!
1. Crunchy Vegetables
We know, we know.
Celery sticks might not make your child jump for joy. However, there are plenty of other cruciferous veggies that are just as healthy! Plus, you can liven them up with healthy dips such as hummus, salsa, or reduced-fat cream cheese.
Try packing a few baby carrots, or sliced-up bell peppers. What about sugar snap peas or crunchy water chestnuts? Other favorites include cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower florets, and broccoli.
If you don’t love the idea of playing sous chef and chopping for 30 minutes each morning, take heart. Most grocery stores offer vegetables that are pre-sliced or pre-chopped, so you can sleep in a few minutes longer.
2. Fresh Fruits
As diligent as they might be about their at-home oral hygiene, your child can’t always take a toothbrush to school. Thankfully, fresh, crunchy fruits can serve a similar purpose in the interim.
When they munch on apple slices or bite into a banana, they’re doing their teeth a world of good. Fruits like these are high in fiber, and they gently scrape off their tooth surfaces, preventing plaque build-up and inhibiting oral bacteria.
While raw fruits are great, try to avoid serving your little one too many dried fruits or gummy fruit snacks. The same goes for fruit juices — even the ones that claim to be 100% juice. Most of the time, these are loaded with artificial sweeteners that might taste great but could cause more harm than good in the long run.
3. Nuts and Seeds
Your little student needs protein to get through the day. Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of this nutrient, as well as vitamin D, calcium, fiber, and healthy fats. They also contain folic acid, which helps promote healthy gums and wards off periodontal disease.
While common choices such as peanuts and pistachios are fine, keep in mind that the oblong shape and rough texture of almonds can be hard on your child’s teeth. Swap those out for slivered versions, or stick to alternatives like pecans or walnuts instead.
Before you go this route, double-check any nut allergy protocols that might be in place at your child’s school.
4. Cheese Cubes
Some foods are just more fun in a different shape, and cheese is definitely one of them! While string cheese might be the perennial kid favorite, it can also be a little messy at the lunch table. Plus, the sealed plastic packets can be a challenge for their hands to open.
Instead, try packing a few cheese cubes! Not only are they easier to eat, but they’re also easier to digest.
Cheese contains high levels of phosphate and calcium — two nutrients that are great for your teeth and gums. As your child eats it, it will also increase their saliva production, which naturally washes sugars, bacteria, and acids from their mouths.
Years ago, yogurt would have made a total mess in your child’s lunchbox. Today, you can find squeezable yogurt containers that are easier than ever and a ton of fun.
As you walk the dairy aisle, be sure to read the nutrition labels closely. Some yogurts can be high in sugar, especially those that are specifically marketed toward the younger demographic. This guide can help you navigate the options and choose the one that’s best for your family.
Yogurt is naturally rich in calcium and can help balance the pH levels in your child’s mouth, slowing the growth of harmful bacteria. At the same time, it also encourages the growth of healthy bacteria that can promote healthy teeth and gums!
6. Lean Protein
As long as you have a freezer pack that you can slide into their lunchbox, you can pack a range of lean protein options, such as:
- Baked fish
- Baked chicken
- Light tofu
- Hard-boiled eggs
If you use deli meat to prepare a sandwich, look for whole-grain bread over plain white sandwich bread. Foods that are rich in whole grains are chocked-full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that work hard to keep your child’s mouth healthy. These include magnesium, vitamin E, and a variety of B vitamins.
7. Homemade Energy Bites
Do you have a kitchen full of tiny helpers who just want to be involved? Tell them to grab a stirring spoon! Homemade energy bites are a cinch to make, and the steps are kid-friendly enough for even the smallest chefs to follow along.
We love this easy, no-bake recipe because it only takes a few minutes to prepare and uses just six ingredients. Depending on the age of your children, you can let them measure and add the ingredients, stir the mixture, or form it into bite-sized balls.
Then, they’ll think of you each time they reach for one at school! The flaxseed in this recipe is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower inflammation and help keep gum disease at bay.
Kid-Approved Tooth Healthy Snacks
School mornings should be spent eating a yummy, nutritious breakfast. You shouldn’t have to scramble in the pantry or stand groggily in front of the fridge, looking for something — anything — healthy that your child will enjoy.
These seven, tooth-friendly treats have your dentist’s stamp of approval. They’re also guaranteed cafeteria crowd-pleasers. If you need new inspiration for school snacks, then bookmark this post and keep it handy.
This school year and beyond, our dental team is here for your family. If you need to schedule an appointment at any time, feel free to contact us.