School Lunches for Healthy Teeth

Good Nutrition is Essential to Good Oral Health

Packing a healthy lunch for your kids may sound easy, but did you know that some fruits, milk, cereals, bread and vegetables contain sugars and / or starches? A healthy and balanced diet is essential to maintaining good oral health. Foods containing carbohydrates and sugars come in contact with the germs and bacteria in our mouth that cause plaque.

Plague thrives on the starches and sugars that are found in a great deal of foods.

When plaque combines with the sugars and starches, an acid is produced that attacks tooth enamel and eventually causes decay. According to the American Dental Association, the acid attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more.

A healthy school lunch can help maintain good oral health and establish good nutritional habits in kids and teenagers. The following tips can help you learn how to prepare a lunch that best meets your child’s dental and nutritional needs.

Daily Nutritional Needs

Nutritional needs of children vary with age and sex. The Food Pyramid, provided by the USDA, allows you to input the sex and age of your child to determine his or her average daily nutritional requirements, so that you can easily plan a healthy lunch menu. Below, you can see how the daily nutritional needs of an 8-year-old boy differ from that of a 15-year-old girl, according to the Food Pyramid.

Daily nutritional needs of an 8-year-old boy:

5 ounces of grains

1.5 cups of vegetables

1.5 cups of fruit

2 cups of milk

4 ounces of meat and beans

Daily nutritional needs of a 15-year-old girl:

6 ounces of grains

2.5 cups of vegetables

1.5 cups of fruit

3 cups of milk

5 ounces of meat and beans

Foods to Limit or Avoid:

The following foods are sticky and / or chewy and should be avoided or limited because they stick to the teeth and saliva is unable to wash the sugar away.

  • Raisins
  • Granola bars
  • Honey
  • Dried figs
  • Peanut butter cookies
  • Oatmeal cookies and pies
  • Jelly beans
  • Lollipops
  • Hard candy
  • Caramel
  • Taffy

Helpful Tips:

  1. For snacks, send fruits, vegetables or cheese in your child’s lunchbox.
  2. The best fruit choices are those containing more water, such as apples, grapes, pears, cantaloupes and other melons.
  3. Any type of aged cheese is a good choice, such as Swiss, Cheddar or Monterey Jack. You can also use cookie cutters to cut the cheese into fun shapes. Some studies have even suggested that aged cheese can actually help to prevent tooth decay.
  4. Raw broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, and celery are excellent vegetable choices.
  5. A small container of ranch dressing could mean the difference between your children eating vegetables or not.
  6. Try some different healthy foods or low carb snacks that your children may like.
  7. Send an Oral B Brush Up in your children's lunchbox. Since it is small and discreet, they just might use it.
  8. It's OK to send a fun snack occasionally. I try to add a little extra on Fridays with a note that tells them how much I love them or a cute little handmade craft.

We can’t follow our children around every day to make sure that they are eating healthy and brushing their teeth, but we can have a little peace of mind knowing that we are helping to promote good oral health by providing them with their nutritional needs while they are at school.

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