As the beloved winter break comes to a close, kids start heading back to school. Make sure they start the calendar year off right with a list of healthy, kid-friendly foods. If you pack their lunches, skip the junk and give them the nutrients they need to keep up their energy throughout the day. Not only does good food affect the body's wellbeing, it also plays a part in the health of your teeth.
You'll want to cover all of the bases: grains, fruits and vegetables, protein and calcium. Keep this in mind while packing.
Sandwiches are a mainstay, but it can be tricky to keep this lunchbox classic from getting old. First, be sure to use whole-grain bread. According to a Harvard University-based nurses' health and the health professional follow-up studies, whole-grains pack plenty of fiber to improve digestive health, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart problems down the line. To keep things fresh, you can swap two regular slices out for whole-grain bagels, pita or tortillas - all of which are the foundation for a healthy sandwich.
Throw in a layer of cheese. This dairy product is an excellent option to promote healthy teeth. A study from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) showed that cheese, besides being a good source of calcium, can protect your teeth against harmful acids, which erode dental enamel.
"It looks like dairy does the mouth good," AGD spokesperson Seung-Hee Rhee said in General Dentistry. "Not only are dairy products a healthy alternative to carb- or sugar-filled snacks, they also may be considered as a preventive measure against cavities."
If your kiddo doesn't like cheese, incorporate milk. Pack it in a thermos or have them buy it at school. After all, calcium and and vitamin D - both found in milk - are two of the best ingredients for a healthy mouth. Calcium builds strong teeth and bones, while vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which increases bone density and reduces the risk of soft bones.
If you're going to buy fruit juice, make sure they're 100 percent juice. Oftentimes, these beverages contain more sugar than we may realize.
Fruits and veggies
Choose fresh fruits to round out the meal. Make strawberries, pineapple or apples easy to eat by cutting them into bite-size pieces. Who doesn't love finger foods? Throw in a bag of seedless grapes or baby carrots. Everyone likes something to munch on. With the highest amount of antioxidants of any fruit, blueberries are a lunchbox must-have. To prevent them from getting smushed and losing their appeal, you can pack them in hard containers. Yogurt with active culture is another tasty option. The American Dietetic Association pointed out that yogurt alleviates some bad breath by creating an inhospitable environment in the mouth for bacteria growth.
Sweet and savory
Sure, you can toss in a dessert every couple days to keep your kids happy. If not, in all likelihood they'll trade those grapes at the lunch table for something much more sugary. Dark chocolate is your best bet, as it contains antioxidants that benefit your mouth and teeth. In particular, dark cocoa has polyphenols that limit the effects of bacteria, neutralizing the microorganisms that cause bad breath.
Healthier smiles means less absences
Teeth-friendly lunches could have a far-reaching impact on student performance. Studies have shown that kids without teeth problems have a higher attendance record. In a Los Angeles-based research program, dental problems were responsible for nearly one in every three school absences. If they're not bothered by toothaches, they'll be less likely to miss class for cavity treatments.