Summer has come to a close, which means kids are going back to school! This event brings about a myriad of changes to our routines, including our healthy dental habits and our food habits. Food plays a large role in our dental hygiene. Not only does it necessitate that we apply ourselves diligently to basic dental hygiene routines such as brushing and flossing; it requires that we pay close attention to the foods we are providing and consuming. Healthy eating is an underestimated benefit to our teeth. So today, we’re reviewing some healthy tips and strategies for the back-to-school season complete with explanations of exactly how they will benefit you and your kids.

Healthy Dental Tips for Back to School

Healthy school lunches are imperative. Experts generally agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You are, after all, breaking your fast to jump-start your body from the sleeping state to the active state. Nevertheless, lunch is similarly important, especially for our kids, due to the fact that their morning has been full of both physical and mental exercise, and they need to replenish their bodies to handle the rest of the school day. Efforts have been made in numerous school districts to provide healthier cafeteria meals. If your kids will actually eat the cafeteria meals, then be sure to review the cafeteria lunch menu. What to look for:

  • Are fruits and vegetables part of the lunches?

  • Is there a dairy component?

  • Is there a protein component that isn’t deep-fried?

Talk to your kids about the cafeteria menu. Review with them the night before or in the morning at breakfast about what they can expect on their tray at school. Encourage them to eat the vegetables and fruits.

If your kids refuse to eat cafeteria food, or if you’re unsatisfied with the menu, then the responsibility for healthy school lunches falls to you (or your independent and helpful teenager). Packing lunches may seem overwhelming, as in most homes the morning crush to wrangle everyone out the door doesn’t have time for more tasks. However, with planning, packing lunches the night before can be an undertaking that involves your children which can help them develop healthy eating habits.

Healthy Lunches Should Include the Following Foods

  • Crunchy fruits – Fruits provide our bodies with vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants therefore, we definitely want a fruit component present. Specifically, for the purposes of dental health, endeavor to include crunchy fruits. Apples and pears are our favorites due to the sweetness that kids typically enjoy, and the fact that they don’t stick to the teeth like other softer or chewier fruits due to their crispiness.

  • Crunchy vegetables – A crunchy trait applies when you’re considering which vegetables to include as well. Carrots and celery have high quantities of vitamin A which aids in maintaining the enamel on our teeth, while spinach, kale, and broccoli are flush with folic acid which is essential for healthy gums. Crunchy vegetables (and fruits) will also help clear the crevices of the molars of food residue.

  • Cheese and yogurt – These two dairy characters contain calcium, casein, and phosphorous which will help protect and strengthen tooth enamel. Aim for low-fat cheeses and be mindful of the amount of sugar added to the yogurt you buy. This is especially worth checking if you typically buy low-fat yogurt. Often manufacturers add more sugar to their low-fat products in an attempt to compensate for the lighter flavor. Yoplait Go-Gurt, Yoplait Light, Dannon Light & Fit, and Stonyfield Yo-Kids are all name brands that feature 10g of sugar or less.

  • Eggs – Hard-boiled eggs are a staple in my kids’ lunch packs. They provide protein, calcium, and vitamin D. The latter works wonderfully to help the body absorb all the calcium you are consuming.

  • Nuts – Cashews, almonds, and peanuts are packed with protein but you might not know that they also contain calcium and phosphorous. In addition to the well-known benefits of calcium, phosphorous works to replenish enamel minerals that are stripped away by the acids found in other foods or drinks.

Change It Up a Bit

  • Swap out the white bread. If you typically include a sandwich, switch it up a bit! Make a wrap with a whole-wheat tortilla, or a sandwich pocket with whole wheat pita bread.

  • Instead of giving up on the idea of a large wrap for younger kids, simply cut them down into easy-to-eat pinwheels.

  • Instead of spreading mayonnaise on the sandwich, lightly spread some plain or Greek yogurt.

  • Introduce your kids to humus. Instead of pairing crunchy vegetables with a ranch dip, bring them onto the hummus wagon. Humus adds protein and fiber to your diet.

  • Switch out spaghetti sauce to a pesto. Pesto sauce often contains pine nuts or walnuts, and can be eaten hot but is also delicious cold.

  • Swap out the pasta noodles for a whole-wheat or quinoa pasta.

Involve Your Kids

Studies show that involving your kids in meal planning and food preparation has a positive influence on their eating behaviors. Your older teens can have their own fun with making interesting meals to take to school for lunch, they might even surprise you with the ideas they find on their own. Younger kids can become excited about their meals by being a part of the packing and planning. Just think how much more likely are they to eat all of their lunch when they’ve been anticipating it all morning?

Don’t Forget to Brush!

School mornings can be a challenge, we know that. Nevertheless, remember to brush! Ensure your kids (and you!) take the 2 minutes for a thorough brushing in before you run out the door. Encourage your older kids to pack a travel toothbrush and toothpaste to brush their teeth at school after lunch. Healthy and happy smiles happen with healthy dental habits at home!

Come and See Us

When was the last time your kids had a dental cleaning? If you couldn’t come in during the busy summer months, please find time now. Prevention is an integral part of your kids’ overall dental health and routine checkups and cleanings help us catch potential issues before they grow to urgent, and therefore painful, concerns.