Tips for Packing School Lunch Without Packing a Lot of Added Sugar

Elementary school teachers will tell you: October is when the shine of the new school year wears off and students face the harsh reality of the daily grind. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new school year. But as the folders get crumpled and homework rolls in, it’s important to keep talking about good lunchtime nutrition with your kids. Help your child settle in to good lunchtime habits.

School lunches are a great – and unexpected – place to educate your kids about oral and overall health. Since baby teeth are more vulnerable to decay than adult teeth, reduced exposure to sugar really helps keep those smiles beautiful and bright. When a child is exposed to sugar throughout the day, whether it’s juice, candy or something else sweet, there is no time for the saliva to help reset the mouth to a healthy balance.

Cavity-causing sugars sneak into kids’ lives throughout the day and lunchboxes are a big culprit. Sugar is an expert at concealing itself and hides in foods and drinks marketed as healthy.

Making lunches with less added sugar and more smile-friendly foods is an easy way to help protect baby teeth during the day. Since lots of kids have a sweet tooth, it can be beneficial to find snacks that meet that craving but keep those teeth white and bright.

Consider some of our favorite snack options:

  • Strawberries are a good source of Vitamin C. Their sweet flavor helps solve a sugary craving and the fiber means the body has to work more than if it was straight added sugar.
  • Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew contain a lot of water, which is good for hydration and helps wash bacteria away.
  • Popcorn is easy to make at home, which helps eliminate any added sugar or salt. Grab a bag of kernels and, while you can experiment with flavors, a stove, pan and lid is all you really need.
  • Cheese is full of calcium, which is perfect for building strong bones and healthy teeth. It also doesn’t have any added sugars.

Juice, flavored milks and flavored waters are especially full of added sugar that alone can surpass the recommended daily amount of sugar for kids. Tap water is really good for baby teeth and, when it’s fluoridated, helps strengthen tooth enamel. Water isn’t only good for the lunch hour, but it’s the only thing a child should drink between meals and especially at bedtime.

Educators know kids should drink water, which helps revitalize minds, bodies and teeth. That’s why most schools allow students to keep a water bottle close by throughout the day. If your school doesn’t allow this, consider speaking to the administration about changing the policy.

Fill you kids up with foods that energize them for the rest of the afternoon. Choose tooth-friendly foods and help set kids up for a healthy smile for life.

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