Back to school means back to packing lunches and snacks. The important part is to know what to pack for healthy options to keep kids fueled throughout their day. Often times as parents we go for what is easy and convenient, while it is the easy route to throw in a bag of chips, crackers, gummy snacks, or even a cookie, it is often not the best idea for total health, and certainly not for dental health.
Nutrition is the basis for everything we do, proper nutrition keeps us going throughout the day, keeps our mind sharp and our bodies functioning. Calcium is crucial for developing bones and can be found in dark leafy greens, milk, or even in fortified cereals. Iron a nutrient essential for our blood is found in eggs, red meat, and legumes. Beta-carotene which our body uses to convert into Vitamin A is essential for eye sight and is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and even grapefruits. There are many other micro nutrients we get from our diet too. However, we tend to focus on what are called macro nutrients – PROTEINS, FATS, and CARBOHYDRATES. When we eat a diverse diet that is balanced in the 3 categories of macronutrients, we tend to fulfill our bodies needs for micronutrients. A good rule of thumb is to eat a colorful plate – think veggies and fruits, some lean meat, and a portion of brown rice or healthy carbohydrate. Things to avoid are breads crackers, bars, chips, and dried fruits.
As dental professionals we are concerned with how our diet affects our teeth. For example, eating dried fruits is a source of carbohydrates, but that also means it has the opportunity to stick to our teeth and lead to cavities. Carbs are the easiest source of fuel for the bacteria that causes cavities, and when it’s stuck to the teeth it leads to a higher risk of cavities. So, what does this mean for healthy snacks? It just means moderation, balance, and a bit of pre-planning. You don’t have to completely avoid dried fruit, rather use them as a treat, after all dried fruit is healthier overall then skittles or fruit snacks.
Best back to school snacks:
- Fresh fruit w/nut butter or sun butter
- Fresh veggies w/hummus or yogurt-based dressings
- Plain Greek yogurt w/cinnamon and berries if you have to sweeten try small amounts of xylitol or stevia
- Cheese sticks
- Lunch meat
- Nuts (in moderation) dry, raw, and/or lightly salted
- Hard boiled eggs (the instant pot makes a bunch and they are easy to peel, or buy them pre-done at your local grocery store)
- Kid protein bars – However, limit to those times you are in a bind as they are very sticky
- A bowl of plain ice cream – has calcium and doesn’t stick to teeth
- Dark chocolate is great for a treat as well