With schools preparing to start back in late August and early September, it’s time to talk about packing lunches. We know that packing lunches is something many parents dread. Not only do parents have to remember to pack them, but they also have to make sure they pack food that is healthy. And, with all the pre-packaged lunchbox options like chips and cookies, it makes it even more difficult to pack food that is good for them and their teeth. Your Houston dentist is here to help!
COVID-19 and Cafeteria Worries
The 2020-2021 school year is bound to be different because of the pandemic. But one area that will be noticeably different at schools all across the country is cafeterias. Chalkbeat explains, “Instead of eating in the familiar, raucous spaces they remember, students can instead look forward to breakfast and lunch in their classrooms, or more of the take-home meals that districts have conjured on the fly to replace their conventional food-service programs.”
Moreover, many parents are worried because of the spreading virus. As a result, there will likely be more parents packing school lunches rather than allowing their kids to eat meals from the cafeteria. The Grocer claims, “Our research shows 57.3% of parents of school-aged children are now more inclined to give their kids lunches packed at home to avoid the risk of contamination and have more control over what their children are eating.”
Therefore, it is understandable that parents are looking for healthy lunchbox options.
The Problem with Parents Packing Lunches
The problem is that most parents don’t do a very good packing lunches that are healthy for their kids. Take any trip to the grocery store and the food that is marketed for school lunches is not healthy and nutritious. Much of it contains high amounts of sugar, which will do significant damage to a child’s smile.
According to The Grocer, “A 2016 University of Leeds study that found just 1.6% of kids’ packed lunches meet the nutritional standards set for food served in school canteens. It revealed just 17% of children’s packed lunches contained vegetables and 52% featured more than the recommended number of sweet snacks.”
Those numbers are startling! Not only do most kids go to school with lunch boxes filled with food with little to no nutritional value, but most kids have more sweet snacks than recommend! That’s a problem. But, again, a walk through the lunchbox aisle explains why parents struggle with filling their kid’s lunchboxes with the right kinds of snacks and foods.
What You Should Pack in a Lunch Box for Healthy Teeth
Several foods are good for your kid’s teeth. Essentially, you just need to move away from pre-packaged processed foods and aim to get more fresh, natural foods. Don’t worry – it’s not as hard as it sounds.
- Crunchy Vegetables – Crunchy vegetables, such as carrots, bell peppers, celery, broccoli, and cucumber, are great for your kid’s teeth. The vegetables contain water, and the amount of chewing done to eat these vegetables will stimulate saliva. Both are great ways to wash away food particles on teeth.
- Cheese – Cheese is high in calcium and phosphorous, which is great for strengthening your teeth. Plus, eating cheese also increases saliva helping to fight against tooth decay and cavities. Another good thing about packing cheese for this school year, in particular, is that many brands come individually wrapped, so parents don’t have to worry about cross-contamination.
- Nuts – Nuts are a wonderful source of protein for kids. Additionally, nuts contain folic acid which helps protect the gums and prevent periodontal disease. However, some nuts are difficult to bite without causing damage to your teeth, such as almonds. In this case, look for nuts that are already cut when grocery shopping.
- Fruit – Similar to crunchy vegetables, many fruits work to cleanse the teeth with their natural water content. Plus, eating fruit, like apples and pears, increases saliva production. As a kid bites into an apple, it works like a natural toothbrush. Additionally, sweet fruits, like strawberries, make great substitutes for sugary treats.
- Water – Instead of buying your kid the pre-packaged fruit juices that are high in sugar and incredibly damaging to teeth, choose to send him or her to school with a reusable water bottle. Not only will this save you money, but it will also prevent your kid from going to the germy school water fountain.
Other Lunchbox Ideas for Healthy Smiles
In addition to the other suggestions above, your Houston dentist has a few more tips for packing healthy lunches. For example, make sure you include protein (such as nuts and chicken). As Colgate explains, “Protein is vital for growth and development in kids, but it also keeps muscles strong and healthy. Protein is available from several sources, which allows you to fit it in while also contributing to other nutrient needs.”
You can switch back and forth between cheese and yogurt. Yogurt is a wonderful source of calcium, which your teeth need. Just make sure you go for plain yogurt and not any with the sugar added. Yogurt is also a great dip for the fruit you pack in their lunchbox.
Tips for Packing Healthy Lunches
The first thing you want to do is stock up on reusable lunch containers or bento boxes for packing your child’s lunches. Most of the items we listed will not come pre-packaged, which means you will need to have ways to store them and pack them.
Two different tactics work well for packing healthy lunches for kids. The first idea is to spend Sunday prepping all the lunches, so they are ready to grab and go each morning. The second tactic is to teach your kid how to pack his or her own lunch. You should have designated foods for each category in easy to reach places in your refrigerator or pantry, and then instruct kids to pick one food from each category.
Before School Starts Schedule a Teeth Cleaning with Greenspoint Dental in Houston.