Life gets a little more hectic when the school year starts, and as a parent, one of the most important things you have to think about is what you’re going to pack for your child’s lunch. The challenge is to create a meal that’s big enough, healthy enough, and tasty enough that your child will actually eat it and feel nice and full afterward, but not drowsy. Another factor to consider is how “tooth-friendly” their lunch is, as diet has a HUGE influence on dental health. To help you cross one more item off your checklist, here are 5 essential items you should always pack to guarantee a healthy, nutritious, and delicious lunch.
1. Crunchy Fruits or Vegetables
Items like apples, carrots, and celery have a distinct fibrous texture, and when they are chewed, they actually help scrub the teeth of food particles and bacteria because the mouth has to produce more saliva to process them. You can add a little peanut butter to make these items even tastier without compromising on their nutrition. (Grapes don’t quite fit into this category, but they are a great choice, too!)
Yogurt is full of calcium, one of the minerals found in tooth enamel. By consuming items rich in calcium, your child’s body will have all the elements it needs to maintain strong teeth that are resistant to decay. There are literally hundreds of different flavors and types of yogurt on store shelves today, but be sure to only pack ones that have no or very little added sugar. Be sure to read the nutrition facts on yogurt before you buy anything, as some have as much sugar as candy!
3. A Durable, Refillable Water Bottle
While your child shouldn’t literally eat a refillable water bottle, it’s really one of the best things you can give them. Drinking water provides countless benefits for the body, including the teeth, as it can help wash away excess food particles and encourage the production of saliva so the mouth can clean itself. By giving your child a reusable container, they’ll be able to fill it up with tap water, which contains another bonus—fluoride! This helpful mineral will fortify your child’s enamel and make it more resilient to decay. Plus, water doesn’t have all the added sugar and caffeine found in juice and soda.
Cheese is another food that stimulates saliva production, but it also contains calcium and phosphates, which help tooth enamel regain minerals that have been lost due to natural bacteria and acids found in the mouth. Pretty much any cheese is a good choice (other than string cheese or American), so your child can try a wide variety to see which ones they like best.
5. The Occasional Sweet Treat
Even if you pack the healthiest school lunch in all of history, your child is still going to crave sugar, because after all– they’re a child! To prevent your little one from overindulging or just borrowing treats from their friends, it’s OK to pack the occasional sweet in their lunch. You can do it on a specific day of the week so they have something to look forward to. This is a great way to teach them that sweets aren’t simply forbidden, but should be enjoyed in moderation.
By including these items in your child’s school lunch every day, you can rest assured they are getting the nutrition they need and are avoiding the excess sugar found in so many other foods. Between this type of eating and maintaining consistent oral hygiene at home, your child’s next trip to the dentist should be nice and short, plus they won’t ever have to miss school due to a toothache or cavity.
About the Author
Dr. Angie Nauman is a general and children’s dentist based in Tulsa, OK. At her practice, Glisten Dental, she and her team combine fun, top-notch dentistry, and a personal touch to ensure children always enjoy relaxing and productive visits. To get more back to school tips you can use to safeguard your child’s smile this coming semester, Dr. Nauman can be contacted through her website.