Packing a wholesome but tasty lunch for your kids to bring to school can be difficult, but it is fundamental to their oral health.
There’s no question about it: kids can be picky eaters.
Packing wholesome school lunches that meet all their nutritional needs, but that they’ll actually eat, can be an extremely frustrating exercise.
However, it is also extremely worthwhile. The food in your child’s lunchbox provides the nutrients and energy he or she will need to make it successfully through the school day, full as it is of learning, playing, and physical and mental activity of all sorts.
It also aids in growth and development - and that goes for teeth and gums, too!
Eating for Healthy Teeth & Gums
Just like the rest of your child’s body, the teeth and gums require a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals to grow strong and healthy. Nutrient-rich foods strengthen teeth and gums, and help make them less susceptible to tooth decay.
Foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D are very important for children’s oral health as they grow. Calcium helps strengthen tooth enamel, and vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium.
Other important vitamins and minerals for oral health are magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins A and C.
Healthy School Lunch Ideas
So, how can you pack a healthy lunch for your kids that they’ll find appetizing and filling, but that won’t take ages to prepare? Here are a few ideas from our North Delta children's dentists to get you started:
Fresh, Canned or Frozen Fruits and Veggies
Fresh fruit and vegetables can be prepped on the weekend (chopped, peeled, washed, bagged, etc.), making them an easy option to grab and go. Otherwise, canned or frozen produce are even faster ways to add fruits and veggies to the lunchbox. Just make sure that fruits are canned in their own juices, and not in syrup.
Some fruits and vegetables that are especially good for oral health include carrots (vitamin A), citrus and kiwi fruit (vitamin C), apples, and celery. Veggies like broccoli and dark leafy greens are great sources of calcium. Edamame is also a great source of calcium, and actually counts as a complete protein, too. Plus, it’s fun to eat!
Cheese, Yogurt & Milk
Dairy is well known as a great source of calcium. If you go for yogurt, be sure to choose a variety with no added sugar - you can add some sliced fruit or berries instead, for a little sweetness. In addition, cheese stimulates saliva production, which helps clean food particles off of the teeth.
Meat, poultry and fish are all great sources of protein. For meatless complete protein sources, hard boiled eggs, cheese, a batch of rice and beans, hummus and pita slices, and peanut butter sandwiches are all simple, kid-friendly choices.
Foods to Limit or Avoid
Treats are fine in moderation, but for good oral health, it’s best to limit foods that are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and acids. These include the following:
- Chewy candy: caramels, taffy, gummy candy
- Hard candy: peanut brittle, Jolly Ranchers, suckers
- Pop & 'Sports' Drinks
- Saltines, white bread
- Sticky dried fruit