Back-to-School Lunch Ideas for Kids’ Healthy Teeth
It’s hard to believe that summer is over and school is back in session. For the patients at our Denver pediatric dentistry practice, that means it’s time to settle back into routine. The start of the school year is a busy time for youngsters, and it can be just as hectic for parents to adjust. Between getting your kids ready, making healthy lunches and getting your kids to school on time, there’s a million little things you have to do before you even step out the door in the morning.
The doctors at Kids Mile High want your school year to run as smoothly as possible. We also want your kiddos to be as healthy as can be — and to us, a healthy child starts with healthy teeth. With a little bit of planning, you can support your child’s oral health this school year by packing nutritious, delicious back-to-school lunches. Not sure where to start? Here are a few healthy lunch ideas for kids that they’re sure to love.
1. Leafy Green Veggies for Essential Vitamins and Minerals
We know that getting your kids excited about broccoli can be easier said than done. But there’s a reason leafy greens are king when it comes to health-boosting foods. Green vegetables are especially beneficial for the development of strong teeth for a few reasons: they’re chock full of essential vitamins and minerals that work to strengthen enamel. Kiddos not into steamed broccoli or kale salads? That’s okay! There are tons of creative ways to sneak leafy greens into your child’s lunch. Try one of these kid-approved broccoli recipes to get you started.
2. Yogurt, Cheese and Tofu for Enamel-Strengthening Calcium
Dairy products (like cheese and yogurt) and calcium-fortified products (like tofu) are rich in calcium, which also helps to strengthen tooth enamel. Pack yogurt cups in your child’s lunch for a healthy snack (just be sure to look out for harmful ingredients like added sugars). String cheese is also a fun, interactive treat. Want to stick to a more plant-based lunch? Cut tofu into bite-sized cubes or make a tofu scramble for a quick and easy calcium-infused lunch.
3. Crunchy Fruits and Vegetables to Scrub Away Plaque
Ideally, we’d all brush our teeth after every meal, not just in the morning and at night. But youngsters have enough to think about while in the classroom, especially at the beginning of the school year; telling them to brush and floss after lunch might be expecting a little too much. However, that doesn’t mean your kids’ teeth have to suffer during the school year. When you pack the right foods, your child’s back-to-school lunch can do double duty as both fuel and a plaque-fighting powerhouse. Crunchy veggies like carrots and celery work to scrub plaque from your kids’ teeth as they chew. Same goes for crunchy fruits like apples and pears. Bonus: these foods are also full of fiber, which is beneficial for your child’s overall health. To make sure your kiddos eat their veggies, include yummy homemade dips like hummus or ranch.
4. Hard-boiled Eggs for a Protein Boost
All kids like to eat with their hands, right? When their school lunch packs a healthy punch, that’s fine with us! Eggs are one of our favorite school snacks for kids because they’re protein-dense and contain vitamin D, both of which are essential to healthy teeth. Vitamin D also helps you absorb calcium, so eating eggs together with dairy or calcium-rich foods is a winning combo. Hard-boiled eggs are an easy finger food for school lunches, but if you have a picky eater, you could go for a kid-friendly egg salad sandwich instead. Then have them wash it down with a glass of milk or a side of yogurt to make sure they’re getting the most of their lunch.
5. Nuts and Seeds for Healthy Fats and Protein
Nuts are one of the best superfoods out there, thanks to their powerful nutrient make-up. Calcium, phosphorous, protein, heart-healthy fats and more — nuts and seeds have everything your kiddos need for a healthy smile and body. Our favorite nuts for oral health are almonds, cashews and walnuts, all of which are a nutritious snack for kids on their own. If you want to make your child’s lunch a little more interesting, pack apple slices with a side of almond butter to double down on tooth-healthy snacks.
6. Fruit for a Nutrient-Dense Sweet Treat
Most kids have a bit of a sweet tooth, but candy and ice cream aren’t exactly good for their teeth. You can still give them a little dessert in their school lunches by packing fruits like berries. Strawberries (and all berries, really) are packed with vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps repair the collagen in the dentin of the teeth. For a sweet treat at their end of their healthy school lunch, include a small portion of your child’s favorite berries, or add berries to plain greek yogurt for a healthy snack free from artificial sweeteners.
7. Water for Healthy, Happy Teeth
Last but not least: to make sure your child is absorbing all of these essential vitamins and minerals, make sure they’re drinking plenty of water. This will help to wash all of the good stuff through your child’s system, as well as whisk away plaque and harmful bacteria on the teeth. Fluoridated water is especially good for teeth. Known as “nature’s cavity fighter,” it’s the simplest way to avoid cavities and maintain a healthy smile. So always include water in your kids’ school lunches to set them up for a lifetime of good oral health.