Whether you’re brimming with excitement, or filled with dread, it’s that time of year again: Back to School. You’re probably right in the thick of back-to-school shopping and preparations, but we can’t forget school lunches! Whether you pack your children’s lunches or they do it themselves, it’s important to have healthy snacks on hand, not only for their overall health and energy, but also for maintaining good oral health. We all know that soda pops and fizzy drinks are linked to tooth decay, but even some fruits, cereals, and breads contain sugars and starches that can be harmful to our oral health.
No need to add any more stress to the back-to-school preparations, here is a quick reference guide for packing a healthy lunch for healthy teeth:
Keep the Sugary Snacks to a Minimum
We all know kids love candy, and it might be unrealistic to eliminate sweets altogether from your child’s daily routine. Try to pack only “healthy” treats per lunch; like a granola bar, dried fruits or yoghurt. Each time kids eat a sugary snack, bacteria from the mouth produce damaging acids which affect their teeth for almost a half an hour before they are neutralized and can’t do any more harm. So, the more sweets they consume during the day, the more often bacteria is fed the fuel they need to cause plaque and tooth decay.
Watch Out For Hidden Sugars
Candy isn’t the only culprit when it comes to sugar. Foods such as pizza, breads, and cereals may also contain sugars. To avoid these, simply check the Nutrition Facts panel on the package for information on the quantity of sugars and fats in the product.
Don’t Overdo Acidic Foods
Not only do sugary foods threaten tooth decay, but we often overlook the harm that acidic foods can cause to out oral health. Although oranges and grapefruit are considered a healthy treat, they are high in acid which erodes teeth over time. Limit these acidic foods just as you would limit sugary foods.
Snacks to Limit or Avoid
Citrus Juice (Grapefruit, Orange)
Contains high levels of acid, creating a high erosion potential. These juices are fine on occasion, but not for every day, due to the continual acid attack on teeth. “If you want to drink fruit juices or any other acidic foods, try to eat something alkaline such as cheese or milk afterwards which can neutralise the acid effects of sugar in your mouth.” Read more here. Not only that, but boxed juices generally also contain a lot of sugar (sucrose, glucose, fructose, etc.).
Raisins & Dried Fruit
Not only are these treats sticky and chewy (not good for braces!), and more difficult to wash away with saliva, they are often consumed in high quantities. In it’s purest form, dried fruit is simply fruit with the water content removed, but the sugar and fat contents stay relatively the same. Unfortunately, we (and our kids) tend to eat with our eyes, consuming far more of these than we should. If you want to pack dried fruit, just watch the serving size: 1 cup of fresh fruit is close to about ¼ cup of dried fruit. It is also important to read the labels on dried fruits, as many contain added sugars or colours.
Snacks to Pack
Meat, fish, Tofu
Loaded with phosphorus, another important mineral that can protect tooth enamel.
Carrots, celery, raw pear
Sometimes teeth require a little work to stay strong. Crisp, crunchy, foods that contain a large quantity of water (and require more chewing) are great for maintaining oral health because they can help to gently “brush” teeth, and stimulate the flow of saliva. Saliva contains good enzymes that combat those acids present in food and help to clean bits of food between teeth.