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Healthy Lunches for Back to School

Posted on September 5th, 2013 by Dr. Nikoo Daftary

In all the stress of going preparing your kids to go back to school, we sometimes forget the seemingly minor details in what the new school year brings. More school systems are trying to promote more nutritional options for school lunches, but it is ultimately a parent’s responsibility to ensure kids are eating healthy each day. It is often easier to pack a kid’s lunch with sugar-filled drinks and treats that don’t take much time to prepare.
In most cases, kids do not have the opportunity to practice dental hygiene while at school, and as a result, they are at higher risk for tooth decay. It is not only the amount of sugar consumed that causes decay, it is the length of time the sugar is left in the mouth. Here are some tips for choosing healthy lunches and snacks that your kids will enjoy.
Involve your kids: Make a grocery list and get your kids excited about shopping for their own lunch items. This is a perfect time to teach them about proper food choices and understand why certain things are bad for them. It also makes them feel like they have some control in what they are eating – a child who chooses their lunch and helps prepare it will more likely want to eat it.
Think high protein: High protein meals such as chicken, tuna and egg salads, are great for a midday energy boost. Do not use heavy amounts of mayonnaise, since it is high in fat content. A good substitute for mayonnaise is plain or Greek yogurt, or mayo made with olive oil.
Make whole wheat and whole grain choices: Try whole wheat bread, bagels, pita or sandwich thins to keep sandwiches interesting and healthy. Brown rice, whole grain pasta, veggies or cheese are great alternatives as well. Whole grains are not converted to sugar directly in your mouth like white flour.
Make veggies fun: Vegetables are more interesting for kids when paired with different dips, such as low fat ranch, peanut butter or hummus.
Keep warm foods warm and cold foods cold: Use a thermos or ice pack for soups or other leftovers to keep them at an appropriate temperature until lunchtime.
Spice up your sandwich: Use a cookie cutter to create fun sandwich shapes like stars, hearts or dinosaurs. You can even use a cookie cutter on certain fruits like melon and pineapple.
Avoid sweets: Instead of candy or other sweet treats, try applesauce, fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt, baked potato chips or wheat pretzels as snacks.
Plan it out: If your child likes to buy lunch at school, review the school lunch menu at the beginning of the week, and decide with your child which choices are best to buy at school and which days they should bring their own lunch.
Chew gum: Gum sweetened with xylitol is a good way to prevent cavities, especially when kids are at school and unable to brush after lunch. Chewing gum helps pull some stickier items out from between teeth, and increases saliva, reducing the acid content in the mouth. Put a piece of gum in their lunch box to chew after lunch for a few minutes (or tell them to chew and count to 50) and then throw away before going back to class. This will reduce sugar and acid content in the mouth, lowering the risk of tooth decay.
We wish all kids and parents a great school year! Make sure smiles are always healthy and sparkling with regular dental visits!
 
Courtesy of Dr. Perrone
http://drperrone.com/blog/healthy-choices-for-school-lunches/

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