Lunch is an important meal, and you want to ensure your child eats healthy whether they’re at home, daycare, or school. However, when we look at healthy meals, we often focus on overall health and don’t think about the teeth. No worries, though. Here is a simple guide to help you ensure your child eats a meal healthy for their teeth and their whole body too.
Tooth (and body) Healthy Foods for Lunches
Cheese and Yogurt. Cheese and yogurt both provide calcium and protein that are healthy for your child’s teeth and bones. Yogurt also provides probiotics that are healthy not just for the gut, but for the gums. The good bacteria found in yogurt helps limit the types of bacteria that can lead to tooth decay.
Apples. An apple a day keeps more than the doctor away. Eating an apple helps reduce the risk of tooth decay by stimulating the gums and saliva production, both of which help protect your teeth and mouth from bacteria. Apples are a good way to finish a meal for healthy teeth.
Carrots and celery. In addition to their body-healthy vitamins, the crunchy and fibrous nature of carrots and celery help keep teeth clean of bacteria, reducing cavity risks.
Leafy greens. Leafy greens like kale and spinach are low in calories and high in minerals. They also contain calcium, which is good for your child’s teeth. If your child is resistant to leafy greens, consider making them part of a smoothie or chop them up and put them into a cup with fruit and berries.
Water. Make sure your child has a small bottle of water in their lunchbox to drink with lunch. Water is good for the body and the mouth. Drinking water helps keep the mouth clear of bacteria that can lead to tooth decay.
Foods that Can Harm Your Child’s Teeth (and aren’t that healthy anyway)
Soda and sugary drinks. While tasty, sodas and sugary drinks are bad for your teeth (and overall health if consumed too much). Even fruit juices can be a problem since many contain added sugars. To ensure your child limits their sugary drinks, avoid including them with lunch.
Chips and sugary snacks. While it’s tempting to let your child have some chips and cookies or other sweets with their lunch, you should avoid them. The added sugar is not good for their overall diet. While delicious, chips have starches that can stick to the teeth and promote bacteria growth. Meanwhile, bacteria love the sugar in cookies and other snacks.
Hard candy. If you’re thinking of dropping one or two hard candies into their lunch box, don’t. Hard candies can damage young teeth, leading to further dental problems. Instead, give them sugar-free gum if they absolutely must have something at the end of their meal.
Too much acidic food. Citrus food is healthy, but too much can wear away enamel and lead to tooth decay. If you want to include citrus, make it part of a fruit cup (see the suggestion for kale and spinach above) to ensure they don’t get too much acidic fruit.
Avoid packaged lunchmeats. Meat is a good source of protein, but packaged lunchmeats often included added sugars that are not healthy for young teeth and bodies. Instead of making a sandwich with lunch meat, cook up something like a chicken breast and slice it for a sandwich or to have in chunks. It will be healthier for your child’s body and teeth.
As you can see, there’s a high overlap between foods that are healthy for your child’s teeth and their whole body. Following the guidelines above will help ensure your child eats healthy and keeps their teeth strong.
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