Now that school is fully back in session, it’s time to consider what you’re packing in your child’s lunchbox. Many of the foods we think are healthy are secretly full of cavity-causing sugar ready to wreak havoc on your child’s teeth. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein, and low-fat dairy foods are all part of a balanced diet that can support healthy teeth in your child.
To make sure your child goes to school with a lunchbox full of nutritious options for a healthy smile, here are some tips for dentist-approved healthy school lunches for kids:
Choose Healthier Substitutes for Classic Lunches
When you think of an easy lunch to pack for your child, one of the first meals that almost always comes to mind is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This sandwich is a classic because it’s easy to make and kids love it. The downside to a PB&J is its high sugar content, which quickly leads to tooth decay.
This doesn’t mean the peanut butter and jelly sandwich should be off the lunch menu. Instead, make a healthier substitution by choosing whole wheat in place of white bread. White bread is full of carbohydrates that break down into sugar and feed the harmful bacteria in your child’s mouth. Look for a whole grain option without added sweeteners and under 2 grams of sugar per serving for a healthier substitute.
Choosing natural peanut butter without added sugar also offers a healthier spin on this classic lunch. Many of the regular options you see on the shelf have an astonishing amount of sugar packed inside. Jelly is another dental nightmare. To make sure your child’s favorite sandwich remains dentist-approved, look for a natural jam with 5 grams of sugar or less per serving.
Use this approach when putting together other sandwiches and meals for your child’s lunch. Whole grain bread, cheese and turkey with no added sugars is a simple enough healthy change, but one your child will still love. Skip out on sugar-loaded condiments like ketchup and honey mustard and look for more natural spreads without the added sweeteners.
Healthy School Lunches for Kids: Low Sugar Snacks
Most store-bought snacks are loaded with sugar and extra sticky, so they become glued to every crevice of your child’s teeth. To keep your child’s teeth healthy while giving them a full and nutritious lunchbox, add these items to your shopping list:
- Real Fruit: Fruit snacks and fruit leather are popular lunchbox additions, but they cling to teeth and leave behind sugar which feeds bacteria. Instead, pack apple slices, bananas and other fruits like strawberries to give them a healthier sweet snack.
- Nuts and Seeds: Like white bread, crackers and chips have a lot of empty carbohydrates that quickly break down into sugar. Instead, look for whole-grain alternatives or add shelled sunflower seeds, almonds and other tasty nuts for a savory crunch.
- Yogurt and Cheese: Dairy is a great addition for lunchboxes since calcium helps protect tooth enamel. Instead of sugar-loaded apple sauce, look for a low-sugar yogurt to make a smarter substitute that is just as delicious.
- Veggies and Hummus: Vegetables can be a fun choice for kids when they realize how delicious they are. Instead of adding a dip like ranch, look for a natural hummus still rich in flavor but with less added sweeteners to show your child how yummy veggies can be.
When choosing a beverage for your child, pay close attention to the label. Fruit juice seems like a harmless option, but many of them are loaded with added sugars and can be just as bad as a soft drink. Instead, think about plain milk as a calcium-rich choice or a natural smoothie as healthier options than chocolate milk and fruit juice.
Teach Your Child the Importance of Oral Health
It’s never too early to start teaching your child good oral hygiene and how sugar leads to tooth decay. Choosing healthy school lunches for your child can be a learning experience and a good practice to apply throughout their life.
Make smart food choices a part of daily dental care for your child. Eating a balanced healthy diet and brushing and flossing regularly can prevent cavities. Set up an appointment with your pediatric dentist to make sure your child is getting the best in quality dental care.
At Nia Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we know great dental care for your child goes beyond brushing teeth. A balanced diet full of nutritious and low-sugar foods is important for maintaining a beautiful smile. Visit our website today or contact us now to schedule an appointment to learn more pediatric dental tips and ensure your child has the very best in oral healthcare.