Healthy school lunch ideas that promote good oral health include nutrient packed foods that will help your kids have strong and healthy teeth. If your kids are like most kids, they’re eating up the summer vacation from school (and maybe devouring all the snacks in your pantry, too!). Maybe you’ve had a more relaxed schedule while school’s been out and let go of some of the “rules” you typically stick to… one dessert a week, one after-school snack a day, or one scoop of ice cream.
As you get ready to return to the routine, it’s also a good time to think about getting back into the habit of eating healthy so your kids can avoid cavities this school year. Cavities are a common problem among children, one that we see often at TrueCare Dentistry.
It’s not all that surprising, considering how easy it is for kids to get caught up in the busyness of school, sports, and fun with friends. When they do, they sometimes let good dental habits slide — habits like brushing, flossing…and eating what’s good for their teeth.
Did you know that eating healthy is one of the most important things you and your kids can do to prevent cavities, gum disease, and other dental problems?
Let’s explore why and what you can do to help your kids stay on track this school year.
Why Nutrition Matters To Keep Teeth Healthy
“A poor diet can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Foods high in carbohydrates, sugars, and starches significantly contribute to plaque acids that attack the tooth enamel. Eventually, these acids can cause tooth enamel to break down, forming cavities.” – Colgate
Strong, healthy bodies are tied to strong, healthy teeth. In an earlier post, we talked about the connection between heart health and oral health. When we focus on a healthy diet for overall nutrition, not only will we give our hearts a better chance of staying strong, but we’ll also build strong teeth.
What Are Some of the Most Important Vitamins and Minerals for Your Teeth?
Lots of vitamins and minerals fuel us, but some of the most important nutrients for our teeth include some specific minerals and vitamins:
- Important minerals:
- Calcium – This mineral strengthens tooth enamel and helps teeth to develop well. We get it through milk, cheese, yogurt, and spinach, among other foods.
- Phosphorus – A good partner for calcium, phosphorus contributes to strong teeth partly by helping the body absorb calcium. Foods rich in phosphorus include fish, soybeans, and lentils.
- Important fat-soluble vitamins:
- Vitamin D helps teeth remineralize, naturally adding minerals back to the protective layer of enamel. Without enough Vitamin D, the process doesn’t work as well. Step into the sunshine for a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Eat fish, eggs, and certain mushrooms, too.
- Vitamin A helps us produce saliva which helps wash food particles and bacteria away from our teeth. Carrots, kale, and cantaloupe are just some of the foods ripe with Vitamin A.
- Vitamin E has antioxidants that help prevent inflammation. Snacking on sunflower and pumpkin seeds can boost your Vitamin E, as can a lunch of salmon and asparagus topped with almonds.
What to Put in a Healthy Lunchbox for School to Promote Oral Health
When it’s time to send your little ones off to school, think about filling their lunchboxes with nutrient-packed foods to keep their teeth strong and healthy this school year. Plan for lean meats, healthy fats, veggies, and fruit. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Meat eaters can enjoy these simple options for building strong teeth:
- Sliced turkey or chicken
- Grilled chicken nuggets
- Boiled eggs
- Beef jerky
Vegetarian and vegan eaters can get the protein they need for strong teeth with:
Healthy fats reduce inflammation and support teeth and gums:
- coconut oil
- olive oil
Healthy school lunch ideas to add healthy fats:
- Sliced avocados – doused in lemon juice to keep them fresh
- Trail mix of seeds and nuts
- Nut butters — almond, peanut, or sunflower seed
- Cheese slices
- Coconut slices
Toss these veggies into your children’s favorite school lunch for a variety of nutrient-packed options:
- Carrot slices
- Celery sticks
- Broccoli and cauliflower florets
- Sliced cucumbers
- Kale chips
- Spinach salad
To satisfy a child’s sweet tooth while protecting their dental health, these easy-to-pack fruits are naturally sweet and healthier than baked goods that have lots of added sugar.
For children with gluten or dairy sensitivities, it’s easier than ever to substitute gluten-free and plant-based alternatives. Know that choosing real food rather than processed food is always the healthiest choice.
And remember to pack water! Kids may love sipping on sugary drinks, but their tooth enamel doesn’t. When they treat themselves to a juice box or another sweet drink, teach them to follow it with water to wash away the sugary residue so it doesn’t hang out on their teeth too long.
Lunch-Packing Tips for Busy Parents
Busy parents shuffling kids out the door then heading to work may feel it’s impossible to come up with healthy school lunch ideas that are good for little ones and their teeth.
Try these tips to make things easier:
Tip #1 – Prepare in advance
Find a time that works well for you and the kids to get ready for the week, and make it a routine part of every week.
- Cut up veggies and fruit for easy access. Store them separately in airtight containers.
- Put snacks in separate containers, too, for easy grab-n-go.
- Cook batches of soup to store in ready-to-pack containers.
Tip # 2 – Let your kids help
As soon as you feel the kids are old enough to pitch in, let them. They may not be able to cut up the veggies until they’re older, but they can separate them from the fruit and nuts, and do other small tasks. Make lunch packing a fun family activity!
Tip # 3 – Include leftovers
Don’t forget to use up leftovers from family dinners. Have leftover tacos on Monday? Pack tacos for lunch Tuesday.
Want to know more about how healthy eating can keep your kids’ smiles shining brightly? Reach out to the team at TrueCare Dentistry and schedule a dental checkup today.