The food your child eats for lunch and snacks should provide the energy and nutrients to help them get through the school day, as well as aid in their growth and development.
“Teeth and gums need a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals to grow and be healthy, just like your child’s body,” says Dr. Arthur Worth, past President of the Ontario Dental Association. “Nutrient-rich foods strengthen your child’s teeth and gums, making them less susceptible to tooth decay.”
When planning your child’s lunch, include foods that are nutritious and beneficial – not only for their overall health but for their oral health too. Calcium and vitamin D are necessary for the growth and maintenance of strong teeth. Foods high in calcium help strengthen tooth enamel, while vitamin D allows the body to better absorb calcium.
Other essential vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal oral health include phosphorous, magnesium and vitamins A and C.
Here are a few ideas of what to pack in your child’s lunchbox.
Fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits and kiwi fruit are good sources of vitamin C — important for healthy gums. Carrots and dried apricots contain vitamin A, a nutrient essential for building strong teeth.
Cheese, yogurt and milk all contain calcium. Cheese also stimulates saliva production which helps clear away food particles from your teeth. Low-fat yogurt (with no added sugar), cheese slices on whole-wheat crackers and small containers of milk are great options.
Protein-rich foods like meat, poultry and fish are good sources of phosphorous, which is needed for tooth development.
Smart snacking. Growing children and teens often need more than three meals a day. Smart snacking will ensure they have the energy they need to take them through the school day. Whole grains (in snacks like crackers and granola bars) and nuts provide protein, as well as being rich in magnesium and phosphorous.
Cut the cola. Opt for water, milk or pure fruit juices instead of carbonated drinks. Soda, sports drinks and sweetened fruit juices often contribute to tooth decay because of high sugar and acid content.
“As a parent, I know it can be difficult to get your child to eat more healthy fare, but establishing healthy eating habits and good oral hygiene early on in life is one of the best things you can do for your children,” says Dr. Worth. “It sets them off on the right path to good oral and overall health.”