Throughout Yuba City and Marysville, children are back to school. It can take a little while to get into the school routine and sometimes parents worry about packing lunches. How do you keep children happy with their lunch, but healthy at the same time? Here are some thoughts from the Yuba City Dentistry Group for lunches that are low on sugar, cheaper than the cafeteria, and healthy too.
How to Have a Healthy School Lunch
- Read Labels — Unless you make the food yourself, you don’t know what’s in your child’s lunch without reading the labels. Look for if and when sugar, high fructose corn syrup or similar sweeteners show up in the ingredients. If sweeteners are the first or second ingredient, that’s not good.
- Limit Pudding and Gelatin Cups — They may be easy and portable, but they’re loaded with sugar. Make them a special lunchbox treat every once in awhile, not a daily staple. Jazz up lunch with low-sugar yogurts or cottage cheese containers with blueberries or strawberries. Unsweetened apple sauce cups are also a great choice.
- Milk? Go Plain — Milk is a great source of calcium and a lunch box staple for many, but chocolate or strawberry milk has lots of added sugar. To prevent tooth decay and still get the recommended daily dose of calcium, pack plain milk or include cheese for a protein-rich snack. (If you child deals with weight issues, skip the cheese, which contains a lot of fat.)
- Plain Water — If you use a refillable container, it’s the least expensive option available. It’s also the best possible hydrator during hot or active days.
- Fruit is King — Fruit snacks and wraps are popular for kids, but not among dentists. If they’re made out of fruit, without added sweeteners, fine. (Again, it pays to read your labels.) But some processed fruit snacks are really just candy. Also, they tend to be sticky, coating teeth with fructose that encourages plaque formation. An easier option with more fiber and likely more substance? Ordinary apples, berries, grapes, bananas, or oranges for a no-prep healthy alternative.
- Beware Crunchy Foods — chips, pretzels and savory snack mixes might seem like a good choice because they’re salty and not sugary, but these starchy snacks also cause cavities by coating the crevices in teeth with processed carbohydrates. That promotes oral bacteria. Children still craving a crisp crunch? Try sunflower seeds, nuts, baby carrots or celery with peanut butter.
- Go With Vegetables — they’re best for gums and teeth. Vegetables with a variety of colors support the body with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. This supports good gum health and strong teeth!
Heathy snacks and meals contribute to better concentration and energy in addition to healthy teeth and bodies. While it may be a challenge to promote healthy snacking and meals, the benefits outweigh childhood complaints. So we encourage our Yuba City families to eat right, floss and brush daily and keep your appointments for semi-annual exams and cleanings.