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The Perfect Packed Lunch

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The thing a lot of us think of when we’re packing our kids’ lunchboxes for school is how do you keep them full for the day? What may not be top of your mind is how much sugar is in that lunchbox. It’s an important thought, not only when thinking about reducing tooth decay, but health in general. Food and drinks high in sugar create an acid in the mouth that targets enamel, slowly eroding and causing decay. This decay is preventable though by carefully considering each part of the lunchbox.

We’ve listed a few options that can help to keep your child’s teeth strong and smile healthy.

When looking at packaging always remember the recommended maximum daily amounts of added sugar:

4-6 year olds – 19 grams / 7-10 years old – 24 grams / 11+ years – 30 grams

The Snacks

We all love snacks, right? They keep the kids going throughout the school day, providing energy in-between meals and keeping their minds switched on. But certain snacks aren’t exactly great for their teeth, especially when loaded with sugar! This isn’t something to worry about though, there’s a big list of alternatives…

Filling the lunchbox with super snacks that contain not only minimal sugars but also add nutritional value is the best option to prevent decay. Options can include nuts and seeds, allergies permitting, as well as fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Within the fruit and veg category you’ve got carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, bananas and apples all providing nutrition without causing extensive decay, giving the children the boost they need without doing damage.

If you already have some staple snacks that are embedded into the lunchbox routine, check the packaging just to make sure there isn’t a high amount of added sugar. Some options you may think are good for the teeth contain added sugars to sweeten the product that can be potentially damaging to teeth.

The Drinks

Healthy drinks don’t necessarily make for healthy teeth. Fruit juices may seem like a brilliant option, but they contain sugars and acids that can cause decay. This is the same for smoothies, although loaded with fruit, they’re also loaded with sugar! We don’t want to put you off them, but limiting the intake is best.

We know it may seem boring, and can be difficult to get children to drink it, but water is usually the answer when looking for the best drink to prevent decay. In a lunchbox, ‘no added sugar’ drinks can be considered as well, but kept to a minimum and consumed with the main meal. This is because they still contain sugars that may cause damage if consumed over a long period of time.

If fruit juices are part of the routine, drinking through a straw means contact with the teeth is minimised, meaning less erosion.

The Meal

There are a few food groups to look out for when packing our kids lunchboxes. It’s difficult for them to brush their teeth at school so dairy foods can always be in the conversation. Cheese sandwiches contain calcium which promotes healthy teeth, and if using wholemeal bread, the whole meal has additional nutritional benefits and a brilliant lack of sugar. Other advantageous sandwich fillers include proteins such as ham, chicken or fish, all providing a low in sugar alternative, just be wary of added health concerns surrounding processed meat.

If bread isn’t the way to go, you can make salads complimented with cheese or protein. Always remember to check that packaging, if you’re buying flavoured chicken or seasoning a salad, have a look at how much additional sugar is included in the sauce.

The Dessert

Finishing off the meal with something sweet often means something with high sugar content, but fruit is the answer. This sugar doesn’t bathe the teeth like a smoothie or fruit juice does, and is solely natural sugars.

Yoghurt can also be on the list, but take great attention to the amount of sugar content in them; yoghurts targeted at children can have as much sugar as a can of coke – always read the label for sugar content! If nuts weren’t in the snacks, then oat bars can be a good substitute for dessert.

 

Got any questions regarding foods in the lunchbox? Let us know over on Facebook or ask one of our dentists next time you’re in! Or if you’re looking for more hints and tips regarding sugar, head over to Change 4Life from the NHS.

RETURN TO CHILD DENTISTRY PAGE

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