The school lunch packing season is in high gear this time of year and I am sure most of us do our best to pack healthy lunches for our kids’ bodies.
But do you know the healthiest foods for your child’s teeth?
A local dentist wrote a great post on teeth-friendly school lunch ideas to give us some food for thought.
Go For the Grade in Dental Health:
How to Pack Healthy A+ School Lunches
By Richard Mungo, DDS, Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County
Indulging in summer sweets is a rite of passage for many children. This means many of them start a new school year with an unwanted souvenir of the season: cavities caused by the less healthy high sugar drinks and foods children eat while away from the routine of healthy school lunches.
At Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County, one of the largest nonprofit dental health providers for children, we often see an increase in cavities among our patients and a decrease in their oral health practices at this time of year.
With a new school year starting, how can parents support healthy dental habits while still allowing their kids to savor some of their snack favorites?
The answer is in the bag. The brown lunch bag, that is.
The good news is that parents can prevent the dangers of dental decay by selecting lunch choices that teach children how to make wise food choices on their own — two lessons that can add up to healthy teeth and mouths all year long.
What’s in Your Lunch?
Let’s start with foods that children should avoid completely or eat in extreme moderation. For many parents, their memories of school lunch fare include meals that consisted of fried foods and lots of carbohydrates, or trading their home packed nutritious lunches for candy and other sweets. It’s time we replace these memories with healthier alternatives for this generation of children.
Sugary and starchy foods promote the formation of bacteria in the mouth. Stubborn, sticky foods and high acid drinks can also erode tooth enamel, creating a prime environment for tooth decay. Review your child’s lunch menu with them and guide them in their choices pointing out why the choice is more or less healthy. When the menu does not offer something the child will enjoy offer an alternative with a bag lunch.
Teeth-Friendly School Lunch Ideas
With an abundance of fresh foods and a little creativity, brown-bagged school lunches can be naturally delicious and appealing. Here is a list of foods we suggest to parents who visit Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County to pack in their children’s’ lunches:
~ Fun-to-eat crunchy vegetables (cut into interesting shapes for variety)
~ Low-fructose fruit, such as apples, pears, grapes and strawberries
~ Low-fat yogurt or string cheese
~ Graham crackers
~ Hard-boiled eggs
~ Bite-size sandwiches made with whole-grain bread and chicken (cut with cookie cutters for interesting shapes)
~ Bottles of water for hydration and finish up a meal with a swish and swallow to remove food particles and acids
~ And don’t forget the extras: A temperature controlled bag or sticker as a surprise once in a while!
Don’t Forget the Dental Health Basics
Teeth-friendly lunches only can go so far in promoting positive oral health. Children can’t slack on the basics of dental hygiene during the school year. This includes brushing their teeth at least twice a day for two minutes and flossing, especially at bedtime.
Reaching milestones during the school year, such as earning a good grade, might be a fun time to give your child a new toothbrush, as toothbrushes wear out every three-to-four months. Toothbrushes with colors and music add to the fun of brushing, especially for the younger children.
One last tip for parents: The school year always is jammed-packed with activities, so book your child’s appointment now for a dental checkup, which should occur every six months.
About the Author:
Richard Mungo, DDS, a founding board member for Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County and a pediatric dentist in Huntington Beach, brings 28 years of experience to the oral health care field. He also serves as part-time faculty at the USC School of Dentistry and is a lecturer at UCLA School of Dentistry. Because of his position as a leading pediatric dentist who brings accessible oral health care services to underserved and special needs children in Orange County, the Regional Center of Orange County and other organizations have awarded him multiple honors.