Lunch-Time Do’s and Don’ts for Healthy Teeth - First Things First
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Lunch-Time Do’s and Don’ts for Healthy Teeth

Back to school season is upon us once again. Whether your little ones are heading to preschool for the first time, or learning virtually from home, there are some lunches that are better for their oral health than others.

Although young children have a tendency to be picky eaters, a steady diet of starchy or sweet foods can become problematic. Below are the best and worst foods for your child’s overall health, including their teeth and gums. And of course, brushing teeth thoroughly twice a day, flossing regularly and using an age-appropriate mouth-rinse is always the best strategy for happy, healthy smiles.

The Worst Lunch Foods for Children

The convenience of mac n’ cheese, canned pasta, and grilled cheese sandwiches has made them popular lunch choices for parents and youngsters alike. Eaten in moderation, any of those options are fine, but dentists note that starchy foods can lead to cavities and tooth decay in young children. Basically, pastas, breads, tortillas, chips and pretzels break down and turn into simple sugars in the body. This process often ends up causing increased plaque buildup in children, which can cause cavities and other dental issues.

Another favorite for kids of all ages is chewy fruit snacks. Unfortunately, these tasty little treats can get stuck between children’s teeth and stay there until bedtime brushing occurs. The hours spent inside the mouth can easily lead to increased tooth decay and a chance of cavities. The treats are fine in moderation, but the sooner your child can brush his or her teeth afterwards, the better.

Finally, it’s tempting to pick a sweet drink for your little one’s lunch like soda, lemonade, or a sugary sports drinks. But these beverages are not only packed with sugar and dyes, they are known to lead to tooth decay and erosion of enamel.

For the littlest ones, be wary of juices and juice box drinks. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has new recommendations on fruit juice for young children: No juice for kids under 12 months. While whole fruit is still recommended as part of a daily diet, parents are cautioned to not give babies juice unless otherwise recommended by a doctor.

Some of the pediatricians’ top concerns include children developing tooth decay and poor nutrition due to the high sugar content in juice.

Best Foods for Children’s Lunch

So, what should I be offering my little ones for lunch, you ask? The possibilities of healthy options are endless. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a win. Celery and peanut butter is a nutritious and delicious crowd pleaser. Plus, the fibers in celery even scrub away bacteria, reducing the risk of cavities and tooth decay.

Sliced apples with cheddar cheese is another popular lunch option too. The calcium and protein in cheese is great for strengthening tooth enamel and lowering the risk of tooth decay. Additionally, the apples increase saliva production in the mouth, which naturally washes away food particles and bacteria.

Sandwiches are a staple in most children’s lunches, but always opt for nutritious multi-grain breads or whole-wheat pitas over white bread for healthier, more dental-friendly lunches. Also, depending on your children’s taste buds, you can load turkey or ham sandwiches up with leafy green and tomatoes for an added nutritional bonus.

Almonds are another wonderful snack to include in your child’s lunch. They are a great source of protein and calcium, low in sugar and can help prevent cavities while strengthening teeth.

Finally, some kids really enjoy hard-boiled eggs. If your child is one of them, you’re in luck. An egg is a quick and easy lunch packed with protein, calcium and lots of Vitamin D.

Planning nutritious, delicious, dentist-friendly lunches doesn’t have to be a burden. There are plenty of tasty options for even the pickiest of eaters to enjoy. As always, don’t forget to schedule bi-annual dental checkups for your children beginning with their first tooth or first birthday.

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