What should I put in my child’s lunch box for school to avoid tooth decay and extra visits to the dentist?
As your children return to school for the new year, we would like to take a look at what they should have in their lunch boxes.
It is crucial to pack a very important box – what your children eat at school and how they maintain oral hygiene can significantly affect their teeth. While the occasional treat poses no harm, the regularity of poor habits can result in decay and long-term issues.
It is a well-known fact that parents believe children need a snack when they are picked up from school. We see this at the school gates when parents offer their children a treat alongside their sandwiches and fruit. However, why is this the case? It is simply a habit we develop from a young age.
In this week’s blog, we provide some tips and advice on how children can maintain good dental hygiene at school. But don’t worry, not every child would gladly eat a lunchbox filled with uninteresting healthy food!
We start by saying hold off on the treats,
What harm is done by putting a treat in their lunchbox every day, or even more than one?
What can these treats be?
Is it a large cake covered in sugar that you eat all at once, or a packet of jelly sweets that you have throughout the afternoon?
Most people would say the cake, due to the calories, but in fact, a cake is eaten all at once while sweets are often kept for grazing, which has a greater potential to damage your teeth.
Every time you eat sugary and starchy foods, the plaque bacteria in your mouth create acid that attacks the tooth enamel, causing decay.
We are not suggesting that if you already have this habit, you force your child to completely stop, but reducing the amount of sugary foods is a good starting point. The best way is to not start it in the first place.
What is a healthy treat? Head for fruit and yogurt, right?
So fruit is healthy, yogurt is healthy so why can these not be in the box?
Fresh fruit is certainly healthy, it can still be high in natural sugar, but reaching for the box of raisins or dried fruit is not advised because it is often much higher in sugar and is a real tooth destroyer.
Think of dried fruit as a snack akin to sweets rather than being a good source of one of the five a day – they work much of the time in the same way as those sticky sweets we mentioned earlier.
Yogurt is considered a healthy snack but check the sugar content first. Buying fresh, natural yogurt and add some fresh fruit is good.
Sadly, the cheaper or child-based ones are often high in sugar.
As with the difference between white bread and whole meal, the concept of hidden sugars is important – it is easy to think we are giving a relatively healthy option when the food contains yet another dose of sugar.
Small chunks of cheese is a good way to end a meal.
But why is this a concern? Because when teeth are exposed to small amounts of sugar throughout the day this becomes a dangerous mix. High sugar frequency = high risk of tooth decay.
What shall I put in my child’s Sandwich?
The good old common sandwich could be very nutritious- just bread, good quality chicken/ham and salad its great or it could be a sandwich filled with thick jam or chocolate spread.
Even the type of bread matters – white bread has a very high sugar content whereas wholemeal or grain bread is full of fibre and great for the teeth.
We do know that children can be fussy eaters and you may feel options are limited, If you child states “ I will only eat Jam” then buy sugar free.
What are the other options to sandwiches?
- Chicken breast
- Quorn bites
What can I put in for a drink?
We cannot stress enough the importance of staying hydrated, both for oral health but also health in general.
Encourage your children to drink regularly, to sip at their water throughout the day and to drink plenty with their lunch.
They should also drink as they finish lunch, this helping to rinse away some harmful sugars and acids that might have been present in food. The hydration should be of a healthy kind – water or milk are ideal and sugar-filled fizzy drinks a complete no. If your child finds water too bland, it can be diluted with squash but, again, opt for a sugar free version.
Before school tips,
Before they even leave for school a good morning routine is a must,
This means teeth brushed before breakfast, avoid letting your children rinse their mouths after brushing. This is because it will remove the protective layer of fluoride.
If they brush after eating, they must wait half an hour before doing so (or let them rinse their mouth with some water if they are in a rush!).
Avoid sugar-based cereals too, always check the box!
After school Hunger, how to avoid a hangry child,
opt for dry snacks like a rice cake, A few low fat crisps, carrot and humous, crackers and low fat cheese form good habits from a young age and remember our children learn from us so set good example
For more top tips look at the change4life site and app also has a wealth of healthy eating tips.
Bringing your child in for regular check ups from around 18 months old is vita and good habits start as soon as they start to eat.