Packing lunch for your child has many perks: it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, and it’s probably a whole lot easier for your kid. It can also be a lot better for his or her teeth. We will divide the lunch up into the different groups to help you maximize the potential of the lunch – no one wants to eat the same thing every single day! Make sure you choose teeth friendly foods for kid’s lunches.
The best beverage choices for your child’s lunchbox include water (especially fluoridated water), milk, and unsweetened tea. Water is the best choice because it helps wash out some of the debris and doesn’t have any sugar that will last in his or her mouth all day long. Milk is also a good choice, but try to use regular milk instead of chocolate milk so there is less sugar. Do not send soda or sweetened juices as the day-long exposure (barring that he or she doesn’t brush after the meal) exposes teeth to constant sugar and decay.
Avoid: sodas, coffee, sweetened teas, juices, and sports drinks.
Research published in General Dentistry earlier this year reported that 12- to 15-year-olds who ate cheddar cheese had lower acid levels in their mouths than those who ate sugar-free yogurt or drank a glass of milk. Add some cheese to a sandwich to help with after lunch acidity, especially if your child has an early lunch time.
Speaking of the sandwich, stick with whole grain breads and actual meat cuts when preparing it. White breads turn to sugar and have a tendency to stick in your teeth. Lunch meats from the deli are full of sodium, which dries out the mouth. Dry mouth can lead to decay and gum troubles, especially if it is a daily occurrence. Go for whole cuts of meats, like chicken or turkey breasts.
Avoid: white flour items, pastas, salty foods, and foods that aren’t naturally crunchy.
If your child doesn’t like sandwiches, or you want to mix it up a little, send snacks instead of a more central item. Think about snack foods that are healthier and won’t have as much sugar. Go for sodium-free pretzels, Goldfish crackers, a sweet potato, or naturally sweetened raisins. Raisins are a source of phytochemicals, which kill cavity-causing bacteria. Raisins also stop t the growth of bacteria associated with gum disease. To add more calcium, go for low fat cheese sticks.
Avoid: fruit snacks, trail mixes with chocolate, chips, and sugary cereals.
It takes serious chewing from your child to break down foods that are naturally crunchy celery, carrots, peppers, and cucumbers. The chewing that is needed disturb the dental plaque and can help slough off some of the other foods that they’ve eaten. Instead of using thick dressings which have sugar and acidity, try introducing hummus into your child’s diet.
- Fruit (Dessert)
Instead of giving your child a traditional dessert, try give him a piece of fruit. Certain fruits, like cranberries, apples, and pears stimulate the salivary glands in the mouth and help keep bacteria in check. These high-fiber foods also act like natural toothbrushes, literally scrubbing the surface of your child’s teeth as he eats, working to brush the bacteria away. The biting and chewing it take to eat these foods will disturb and dislodge newly formed dental plaque, preventing it from ever forming. A word of caution, however, do not give a fruit cup with any syrup in it.
Avoid: Pudding, candy bars, cupcakes, or cookies.
It really is best if your child can at least rinse his or her mouth with mouthwash after eating. If there is time, especially if there are braces involved, brushing and flossing would be best. However, there is always a time crunch at lunch, so it isn’t always possible. If your child is older, and it is allowed by the school, pack a piece of sugarless gum into the lunch for fresher breath and a cleaner mouth. Make sure your child brushes his or her teeth after coming home from school or after eating a snack. Also remember that life is all about balance, and sometimes it really isn’t possible to make everything fit into the boxes. Just try to aim to generally give your child the right kinds of foods.