Many of my NYC pediatric dental patients’ parents worry about their kids’ lunches! School lunches, while convenient, can be full of added sugars, fats and unnecessary calories and low on nutritional value, leading many of our parents to pack lunch. Here are some tooth-healthy tips for easy, nutritious lunches!
Curb the Carbs
Carbohydrates are a necessary part of our diet, and including them in the lunch box gives your child energy to focus on his or her studies. However, processed, refined carbs like chips and cookies not only eat away at dental enamel, they also contribute to obesity. Healthy carbs include whole grain bread or breadsticks, tortillas, pita and bagels. Add cooked chicken to leftover quinoa or brown rice in an insulated container. Homemade soup is actually a snap with leftover meat, sliced carrots, a bit of onion and some bouillon.
Pack Some Protein
All of us need protein to keep muscles strong, but it’s especially vital for children’s growth and development. Focus on lean meats. If your kids love deli meat, go for lean chicken, turkey or sliced beef and opt for salt-free or low salt. You might be surprised that the low-salt versions taste more like “real” turkey, chicken and beef than do the more processed versions. I promise your children won’t know the difference!
Veg Out for Cleaner Teeth
Veggies like carrot and celery sticks, or tiny peppers, add water to the mouth, which helps wash away acids from the teeth. Their crunchy character also cleans the teeth!
Add Healthy Fats
Good fats promote eye and brain function, and keeps the “hungries” at bay during your child’s afternoon. Great fats are part of a small portion of nuts, trail mix, peanut butter on apple slides or cubed cheese.
Don’t Forget the Calcium
Calcium is perhaps the most important nutrient for your child’s teeth. If the school doesn’t offer milk, send a carton in a thermos, or offer extra milk at suppertime to make up for it.