Another school year is under way, and parents are stocking up on lunch box staples. You learned it in school, but think the five food groups when you pack lunches. A tooth-friendly lunch box should contain a serving of dairy, fruit, grains, protein and vegetables.
These food suggestions are not just for kids. They’re tooth-friendly for adults packing lunches for work, too!
Beverages: Water or milk. Juices and soft drinks are loaded with sugar. Consider buying water bottles with fluoride for extra tooth protection. Remember flavored water is not truly water but contains added sugar. Milk is another excellent lunchtime drink choice because it contains calcium that’s needed for strong teeth and jawbones.
Fresh fruits. Fresh fruits have natural sugars but are higher in water content. This water helps dilute the effects of sugars and increase the flow of saliva, which in return washes away food particles on the teeth. Choose fresh fruits over canned and prepackaged fruits, which often have additives to maintain freshness and are loaded with extra sugar. Avoid chewy fruits, such as dried fruits, craisins, fruit rolls and fruit snacks, which stick on and in between your teeth long after you’ve eaten.
Lean protein. Protein-rich foods, such as turkey, chicken and ham, help build tooth enamel. Nuts, hard-boiled eggs, beans and canned tuna also are great sources of protein for lunchboxes.
Dairy foods. Calcium and phosphorus are needed for strong bones and teeth. Cheese and yogurt are usually big hits with children and contain both calcium and phosphorus. Read yogurt labels carefully as some yogurts contain more sugar than others.
Raw vegetables. Crunchy vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, celery and broccoli stimulate the production of saliva. You may have to get a little creative to entice your child to chow down on veggies. Serve a dipping sauce on the side like hummus, cream cheese, plain yogurt and peanut butter (or a peanut butter substitute like sunflower butter if your school has a nut-free policy).
Whole grains. Don’t limit lunches to sandwiches on whole grain bread. There are a variety of whole grain possibilities. Whole grain pastas, crackers and cereals also make great lunch box meals. Whole grains do not stick to the teeth as much as enriched grains.