5 ways to pack your kids a healthier lunch

Healthful school lunches

How much sugar is in that lunch? A bag lunch from home can be a cheaper and healthier alternative to the school cafeteria, but it depends on what you pack. Try these tips to give your kids a lunch makeover that even their dentist will approve of.

1. Say no to applesauce

Cups of applesauce are practical and portable, but the snack is loaded with natural and added sugars that promote cavities. Try a small container of cottage cheese instead. To spice things up, you can toss on some blueberries or sliced strawberries for extra flavor!

2. Choose real fruit

Fruit snacks and fruit leathers are popular among kids, but not their dentists. These sticky snacks can cling to teeth and encourage plaque. Go for the real deal instead. Offer slices of banana, apple and strawberries, or try no-prep options like grapes and mandarin oranges.

3. Plain milk is best

Milk is a great source of calcium. But flavored options, like chocolate or strawberry milk, contain added sugars that can cause decay. Swap out these sweet options with plain milk to cut out unnecessary sugar. To make plain milk more fun, you can try adding a drop of food coloring. If your kids don’t like milk, string cheese is another good dairy option.

4. Skip the starchy snacks

Salty snacks like pretzels, chips and crackers may seem OK for teeth because they’re low in sugar, but don’t be mistaken. Simple starches can be just as bad as sweets, if not worse. These snacks break down into a sticky goo, coating teeth and causing cavities. Looking for some crunchy alternatives? Try sunflower seeds, almonds or baby carrots. Other savory snack ideas include hard-boiled eggs and chunks of cheddar cheese.

5. Choose colorful vegetables

Give your kids an assortment of colorful veggies. Kids are more likely to eat snacks that look appealing, and the different colors feature different vitamins and minerals. Red and orange veggies are usually high in vitamin C (good for gums), while leafy green vegetables are good sources of calcium (for strong teeth). Consider cherry tomatoes, strips of red and orange bell peppers and steamed broccoli with melted cheese. Don’t forget about fun-to-eat snacks like snap peas and edamame.

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Published: July 2016

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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