The first day of school is fast approaching, and so is the daily question that every parent faces: what do I pack for lunch today? What can I pack that’s healthy and filling? Most mornings, you need to make the decision quickly (and sometimes in the middle of a chaotic mad house!). We’ve put together a list of school lunch options that can help make the process easier—and the decision less painless—so your kids can get through the school day (and year) healthier and full.
Cheese is an excellent source of calcium which can strengthen tooth enamel and bones. Look for a low-skim cheese that your kids can enjoy and benefits their health. This dairy product is also typically a kid favorite, making it a win-win for everyone.
Peanut butter is full of protein (and also a great option for picky eaters!). It is also very filling and a great way to get your kids to eat fruits and vegetables; many kids won’t eat apples or celery on their own, but dig in when they are dipped in peanut butter. Shop for a natural peanut for a low-sugar option that is healthier for their teeth.
Most kids can’t (or won’t) take a toothbrush to school. Water is a great alternative because it can wash away the sugar and bacteria that can cause tooth decay. Avoid waters that are sweetened with sugar; sugar from these drinks can cause cavities (though many sweetened waters are healthier than soda).
Carrots are crunchy and packed with vitamins, making them another weapon in the fight against tooth decay. Crunchy foods can stimulate the production of saliva that washes away the sugar and bacteria that combine and decay teeth.
These kid-favorite fruits are sweet and high in fiber and other vitamins and nutrients (plus they are crunchy which activates saliva!). Be cautious about packing squeezable apple sauces too often; these products can flood teeth with sugar. For the same reason, avoid fruit snacks and leathers which can stick to teeth and hasten tooth decay.
Dairy milk is rich in calcium, which is an important mineral for strengthening tooth enamel and washing away bacteria that can cause tooth decay. For best results, pack white milk instead of chocolate or flavored milk which tends to contain more sugars.
Whole-wheat bread (or wrap)
The sugars in carbohydrates can play a significant role in the perfect storm that causes tooth decay. For that reason, keep the amount of carbohydrates (i.e. pretzels, crackers, etc.) to a minimum. However, breads and wraps are a popular main course for students; choose a whole-wheat bread or wrap which is a healthier option than white breads and wraps.
As another calcium-rich food, yogurt can play a key role in strengthening tooth enamel and bones. Yogurt also comes in many different kid-favorite flavors; some yogurts also contain fruit which is a vital part of a healthy diet. When grocery shopping, seek out low-sugar yogurts that are better for teeth health.
Celery is the vegetable-equivalent of a dental scraper because it is so crunchy. To make it more appealing, add (low sugar) peanut butter and a few raisins for a yummy treat (commonly called ants on a log).
Protein is another major player in strengthening tooth enamel. This nutrient also develops and repairs tissue, an important part of a growing child’s development. When boiling eggs, make sure the eggs are completely cooked and refrigerated properly. Then, sit back and watch your kids grow health and strong—with annual doctor check-ups and regular dental cleanings and exams, that is.