Back to school for kids is always a nervous and exciting time for children and parents alike. What teacher will they get? Will their friends be in the in class with them? One often overlooked item is school lunch and their associated snacks. Most schools these days have certain policies of trying to be more healthy and better educate kids and parents in nutrition. As you head back to school, keep in mind what kind of foods and beverages you are giving your children to keep them energized going through their day. Many research studies have shown the importance of nutrition and its role in academic success.
A good lunch (and healthy breakfast) can give kids the energy they need to stay focused throughout the entire school day. Some parents choose to pack their children’s lunch box with fruit juice and other sweet drinks such as Gatorade. Cookies, fruit gummies, and candy bars are also chosen quite often for kids lunch snacks. Most children have little to no chance to practice dental hygiene while at school. As a result, these children are placed at an increased risk for tooth decay. Remember that it is not just how much sugar our kids consume that causes tooth decay it is the length of time the sugar is left in the mouth, and sticky sugars stay the longest.
Tips For Choosing Healthy Lunches and Snacks
–Involve your kids in decisions.Make a grocery list, get kids excited about shopping for items for their lunchboxes. Teach them the proper food choices to make and understand why bad choices are bad for them. Also, gives them control of what they are eating. A child who chooses their lunch and helps prepare their own food is more likely to eat it. Colorful, fun wrappings, baggies and containers make items more visually appealing too.
–Think High Protein. Chicken, tuna, and egg salads can contain a lot of protein, which is great for a mid day pick me up. Do not use heavy amounts of Mayonnaise, as it is high in fat content. A good substitute many kids love is plain regular or greek yogurt, or olive oil mayo.
–Make Whole Wheat, whole grain choices. Try whole wheat bread, pitas, bagels, or sandwich thins to keep sandwiches interesting and healthy. Brown rice, wheat or brown rice pasta,with beans, veggies or cheese, are a great alternative as well. Whole grains stick with you longer than white flour breads, and are not converted to sugar directly in your mouth as white flour and white rice are.
–Vegetables can be FUN! Vegetables can be made interesting for children by pairing them with fun dips. These dips can include low fat ranch, peanut butter, and hummus. Bright colorful pasta salads, and colorful veggie/bean salads are delicious and satisfying.
–Keep warm foods warm, cold foods cold with a Thermos, or ice pack. Use a thermos to pack favorite soups (like chicken soup or even meatballs) and leftovers and keep them warm until lunchtime arrives, many snack containers come with convenient re freezable inserts to keep foods cool. Kids love hot meals at lunch in winter time, and cool, refreshing treats in summer.
–Make sandwiches interesting. Use a cookie cutter to create fun sandwich shapes like dinosaurs, stars, or even hearts, you can even shape fruits such as pineapple and melon with cookie cutters.
–Avoid sweets and candy. Instead of sweets or candy, try fun packs of squeezable applesauce, fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt, baked potato chips, wheat pretzels and cheese as snacks.
-If kids buy lunch at school review the school lunch menu at the beginning of the week with your child, and decide with your children the days that they would like to buy lunch and what choices are best for them.
–Chew Gum after meal. A chewing gum that is sweetened with xylitol is an excellent way to help prevent cavities. Chewing gum, helps pull some of the stickier items out from between teeth, it also increases saliva which reduces the acid content in the mouth, and the xylitol inhibits cavity causing bacteria. It is easy to pack a piece of chewing gum in lunch box for a child to chew for a few minutes ( or have them count to 50) after lunch, and a napkin to place it in after chewing. Make sure to instruct them to dispose of gum when discarding other lunch trash, and NOT to bring it to recess. This habit will reduce sugar and acid content in mouth, and lower the risk of tooth decay. Hope everyone has a great school year and keeps up their dental hygiene and schedules dental examinations as needed.