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Lunches That Make You Smile!

Aug 28, 2013

Photo source: southparkmusicskins

The days of square pizza Fridays are over.  As Dean mentioned in last week’s AST article, school lunches can be a doozie on your child’s teeth.  In recent years, school lunches have vastly improved in both taste and nutritional value.  It’s a School Lunch Makeover! 

Today we’ll explore what’s going on at the lunch table (besides dessert trading and making milk carton bombs) and how what your kids eat affect their teeth.  We will even give you some great brown bag tips for those children who don’t partake in the cultural phenomenon of school lunch.

According to the USDA, “the National School Lunch Program provides meals to tens of millions of children each day, accounting for a significant portion of students’ recommended daily calorie needs. In exchange for participating in the National School Lunch Program (which sets minimum nutrition guidelines for meals), schools receive a reimbursement for each qualifying meal provided in school.” 

This seems pretty straightforward, but what does it really include?  Schools are now providing more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  There has also been a shift to low-fat or non-fat milk products as well as a limit on caloric intake, sodium and unhealthy fats. 

We have come a long way from the 1988 lunch tray of “chicken nuggets” (I use that term very loosely), a ladle of plastic-looking peas and carrots and a dollop of fake boxed mashed potatoes.  Don’t forget the ice cream sandwich you could add on for $0.50.  These days, my Kindergartner’s lunch is composed of a quality meat, two veggies, a fruit, a grain of some sort and milk.  Luckily he is not a stranger to eating a well-balanced meal since grass feed meats and veggies are a huge part of our diet at home.  I have never had to convince him that his school lunch will be good. 

So while you can rest assured that they are getting a good meal at school and it will make their bodies strong and healthy and all that jazz, you still need to think about how these foods are affecting their oral health.  Here is a good list of foods that are usually included in school lunches that may encourage the Tooth Fairy to increase her payouts:

  • Cheese will help strengthen bones and the calcium helps replace minerals stripped from teeth by acids.
  • Nuts have essential fats in them that help the body use energy more effectively throughout the day and they give teeth a nice polish from chewing.  They also contain essential vitamins that help keep your teeth strong.
  • Veggies like carrots and celery not only help scrape tartar off the teeth, they help the mouth create more saliva which is the first line of defense against bacteria settling in.
  • High fiber foods work like a detergent on your teeth.  They scrub as you chew and also aid in saliva production because they generally require more chewing! 
  • Water is essential for life… and your teeth.  Water is not only good for helping with saliva production (it’s the main ingredient of course), it helps to wash away all of the sugar.  Since milk is usually the drink of choice for a school lunch, we always have our son drink a glass of water with dinner and before bedtime.  If you have a brown bag kid, you can include a small bottle of water in their lunch.
  • On a cold fall or winter weekend, don’t be afraid to give your kids homemade hot chocolate.  Studies show that cocoa has strong anti-mutant streptococci properties which can help ward off cavities and the milk will benefit them as well.  Who knew snuggling with a cup of cocoa and your kids had double rewards… Next time they say “No way” to cuddling, tell them their teeth depend on it! 
  • Other tips for kids that brown bag it:

  • Veggies that you can dip are popular, easy and make the teeth happy.  Try carrots and a veggie humus made with red peppers and zucchini.  (Fun fact: Red peppers are higher in vitamin C than oranges. Who knew?!)
  • An apple a day in their lunch will keep the doctor away and their bad breath!
  • As easy as it is to throw gummy fruit snacks (I prefer sharks, thank you) into their lunch box, don’t do it! They will just get stuck in their teeth and the sugar will sit and sit waiting for Mr. Cavity to join the luncheon. 
  • Give your kids an alternative dessert option at a different time of day.  My son is a big fan of yogurt, fresh fruit and a couple chocolate chips mixed in his favorite bowl.  While we generally don’t do this for lunch because it would be all over the cafeteria, we do promise him a treat at the end of the day if he is well behaved and eats a good dinner. 
  • We hope that your kids have a safe school year and have their fill of outstanding lunches.  A healthy diet makes for healthy teeth which make for healthy kids and parents.  Thanks for joining us today and we will see you again next week! 

    Copyright 2013 Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©

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