It is almost time to go back to school! That means it is time to start preparing for all the new routines and challenges that fall brings. Making sure that you child is getting a balanced, healthy diet can be more challenging when they eat lunch away from home. Since it is important to maintain a diet that is healthy for your brain, body, and teeth, we have gathered some tips and ideas to help you and your family continue to eat well once the new school year starts.
Fresh Produce Snacks
Many fruits will last well in a backpack or lunch box for a morning before lunch. While fruits can be high in sugar, there are some that also contain fiber that will help scrub your child’s teeth and keep their smiles clean. Try packing a fresh green or red apple! Other fruits like oranges and bananas are also great options that come naturally ready to pack, which will help you save time. Veggies like carrots and sliced bell peppers also make great snacks, packed with vitamins and minerals to keep your child going throughout the day!
Dairy is a great addition to a child’s meal for many reasons, but as pediatric dentists we are specifically excited about the calcium and good bacteria that can help keep your teeth clean and healthy! If your child’s school offers a lunch program, encourage them to get a fresh carton of milk with their lunch. If you have an ice pack and insulated lunch box, send them with a yogurt or string cheese to eat at recess! If your child is lactose intolerant, there are still plenty of foods they can eat that also offer calcium.
Nuts also provide some of the same benefits as dairy, including protein! Try making your own trail mix with your child’s favorites, or switch it up with different types of nuts like cashews, almonds, and peanuts to keep variety in their diet.
All of these school lunch ideas can be adjusted to accommodate braces! Try slicing an apple up and spraying it with a little lemon juice to prevent browning. Slice carrots into thin carrot coins or even shavings, and opt for nut butter as a dip or on a sandwich if nuts are too difficult to chew.
Sometimes it is easier to get kids excited about eating healthy lunches when they are packed in fun and interesting ways! Help them pick out a cool lunch box and use reusable tupperware and flatware with their favorite colors or characters on them. You can also have them help make their own lunches! It is never too early to start teaching responsibility. This will also help them feel like they are part of the decision making process and encourage them to take control of their health later in life.
Cafeteria Food Tips
There are many advantages to school lunches, but loss of control over what your child eats can be a challenge. If your child gets their lunch from the cafeteria, look at the menu ahead of time and talk to them about healthy choices, balance, and what kinds of foods the school serves that they like and don’t like.
Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you and your child feel more prepared for the school year. Good luck this fall, and don’t forget to schedule your child’s dental check up before school starts!