How to Pack Tooth-Friendly Lunches for Your Little One

children playing with vegetables

ALPHARETTA, GA – Parenting is tough. It comes with lots of challenges that grow and morph as your baby grows. When he starts school, you worry about homework, socialization, and bedtimes. Making lunch for your child might be one of the last things on your mind.

We know that during this crucial developmental period, your children crave nutritious foods. Tooth-friendly foods help your child fight cavities and decay. Oral health has consistently been linked with better overall health. We want to familiarize you with tooth-friendly foods that are easy to prepare for your child’s lunch. Many of the items don’t require any preparation beyond slicing.

Raw Veggies and Fruits

It’s hard to get some kids to eat vegetables. If your child eats veggies well, then fantastic! If you have a pickier eater, you may have to work pretty hard to find a good option in the vegetable category. Be consistent and encourage him or her to try lots of foods. Some picky eaters like broccoli, because it looks like “little trees,” and it’s pretty tasty paired with cheese or dip. Carrots and celery are good crunchy options as well. Fruits have more natural sugars in them than vegetables, but they are still very good for your oral and overall health. Apples, pears, grapes, watermelon, and strawberries are all great options for your child’s lunchbox.

Try to make food fun for your child. Play with it just a little before you eat it. Cut it into fun shapes. Use a cookie cutter and get creative; even squares or triangles can make things more interesting. The fiber, vitamins, and minerals in raw vegetables and fruits are great for your growing child.

Nuts, Lean Meat, and Dairy

Nuts are a delicious, tooth-healthy protein. Be aware that some schools may not allow nuts in the lunchroom or classroom because of children with possible nut allergies. Ask your child’s teacher about any peanut restrictions. Peanut butter is another healthy option, though raw nuts provide more cleaning power in the mouth. Natural peanut butter without added sugars makes a quick and yummy dipping sauce for apples, carrots or celery. Chicken, beef, milk, and cheese have a variety of minerals like phosphorous and calcium that help strengthen your teeth and bones. Many kids love snacking on string cheese or sliced cheese, and these are quick and simple ideas to add to lunches.

Certain foods can be hazardous to oral health due to their sugars, acids, starches or sticky textures. Raisins and other dried fruit may be tasty, but their condensed sticky nature makes them cling desperately to your teeth. These sugars don’t wash away as easily as they would from their fresher former selves. So instead of raisins, pack grapes. Pair acidic foods like oranges, lemons and tomatoes with some less acidic options to help dilute them.

Limit your child’s starch intake. Starches include white potatoes, white bread, potato chips and pasta. These foods turn almost immediately into sugars, and the sugars help feed bacteria in the mouth. Foods that dry your mouth may also worsen your oral health. Saliva is important because its enzymes begin breaking down foods in your mouth, aiding digestion and flushing bacteria and food particles from the mouth.

If your child can chew gum responsibly, you can include some sugar-free gum in his lunch. Gum helps increase saliva flow, which helps keep your little one’s mouth clean and healthy. Make sure there aren’t any school policies against chewing gum first, though!

Eating the right foods is just half the battle. Our pediatric dentist, Dr. Nanna, also advises keeping teeth clean by brushing twice daily and flossing once a day. Even the healthiest foods can get stuck between the teeth and wreak havoc on enamel.

Does your child have a favorite lunchbox ingredient? We’d love to hear how you keep your child’s lunches healthy and enticing.

© 2018 Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry, an Alpharetta, Johns Creek, and Roswell dentist, is credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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