Healthy lunches and snacks are an important cornerstone of your child’s schedule. They need fuel to keep them focused and energized from class to band practice to the big game — which is where your role as a parent comes in.
Not only should your child’s lunch and snacks keep them going throughout their day, but the food you pack can either hurt or help their oral health. Choosing health food for your child’s teeth can help prevent cavities and protect orthodontic appliances, which keeps your kids out of the dentist chair and keeps more money in your pocket.
Here’s a simple shopping checklist you can use to plan healthy lunches and snacks that will help your child smile brighter.
Lunch No. 1: The PB&J Classic
Kids (and parents!) love PB&J, but added sugar in jelly and peanut butter aren’t great for teeth. Here’s a healthy twist on a classic favorite.
Protein: Peanut butter and jelly
- Choose a natural peanut butter without added sugar and sweeteners
- Find a natural jam, preserve or fruit spread — aim for 5 grams of sugar or less per serving
- Make the sandwich on a whole-grain/whole-wheat bread without added sweeteners (shoot for under 2 grams of sugar or less per serving)
- If the bread is truly whole wheat, the first ingredient in the ingredient label will be whole-wheat flour
Snack: Cheese cubes
- Cheese contains calcium which is absorbed by tooth enamel and helps block bacteria growth
- The chewing involved in eating cheese increases the production of saliva, which helps lower plaque build-up
- Cheese balances the pH levels in your mouth, creating healthy saliva production
Drink: Low-fat milk
- The vitamin D in milk allows your kid’s teeth to absorb the calcium in the milk, making for stronger more resilient teeth
- Though it may be tastier, stay away from chocolate or strawberry milk, which often contains lots of tooth-damaging sugars and artificial ingredients
Lunch No. 2: For the Meat-Eater
If your active child favors a heartier meal for lunch, there are ways to make their meat-and-cheese sandwich more tooth-friendly.
Protein: Turkey or ham and cheese sandwich
- Avoid condiments with added sugar like honey mustard or ketchup
- Choose a whole-grain bread
- Cheese reduces the growth of bacteria in the mouth, contains calcium to build strong teeth and increases the production of saliva to reduce plaque build-up
Snack: Apples and natural peanut butter
- Apples have high water content which helps dilute the sugars they contain
- Chewing apples increases saliva production which protects against tooth decay
- Choose a natural peanut butter without added sugars or sweeteners
Drink: Naturally flavored, sugar-free water
- Make spritzers by adding fresh raspberries, blueberries or apples to soda water
- Be careful: eating too many raspberries or blueberries can stain teeth
Lunch No. 3: Pizza Time!
Although traditional pizza can be hard on your kid’s teeth, this healthy remix will keep your child (and their teeth) happy.
Protein: Healthy pizza
- Choose pesto or olive oil instead of marinara for the sauce: Sugary, acidic sauces can erode your child’s teeth
- Add chicken instead of pepperoni: Pepperoni can have a lot of sodium, and too much sodium can weaken teeth
Snack: Salted edamame beans
- Edamame is rich in calcium, which helps strengthen teeth
- Go for a lightly salted version to avoid too much sodium
Drink: Natural smoothie
- Make smoothies for the week by blending plain yogurt (check the ingredients list to make sure there’s no added sugar!) and frozen fruit
- Yogurt has probiotics that can help heal mouth sores, eliminate bad mouth bacteria, and promote healthy gums
General Snack Guidelines for Healthy Teeth
Instead of dried fruit, pack fresh fibrous fruits: Sticky, sugary foods like dried fruits stick to your child’s teeth and foster plaque build-up
Instead of oranges, pack apples: Citrus fruits like oranges and can erode the enamel of your child’s teeth.
Instead of potato chips, pack crunchy veggies and yogurt-based dips: Potato chips are starchy and can easily get stuck between your child’s teeth, which leads to tooth decay and cavities.
Instead of fruit juice or soda, pack low-fat milk or naturally flavored water: Fruit juice has more concentrated sugar than fresh fruit, and sugar is hard on your kid’s teeth.
Healthy foods can protect your child’s pearly whites from the classroom to after-school-activities, but what happens when they step on the field for sports practice? Knowing ways to protect your child’s teeth in sports can save you and your child a lot of pain and money.
Brought to you by Blue Hills Dental. Material discussed is meant for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary. You should always consult a licensed professional when making decisions concerning dental care. #2017-44379 (exp. 8/19).