School’s in, which means you and your kids are getting back into a routine. And what’s part of that routine? Packing lunch boxes. So let’s talk about teeth friendly lunchboxes!
Now, I don’t have kids, but from what I hear, packing lunch boxes day in and day out can be a mighty pain in the b***. Add to that, some kids can be quite fussy eaters. So, trying to think of different options to make sure your hard work doesn’t end up in the bin at the end of the day and making sure these options are all healthy would do anyone’s head in.
To top this off, many foods that are considered “healthy” (or marketed that way) may not be so healthy for their teeth! Trying to figure out what you should or shouldn’t pack for their lunch boxes now seems like mission impossible!
We can’t physically pack your kids’ lunchboxes, BUT, what we can do is give you ideas of which types of foods are teeth friendly. And more importantly, tell you why they’re teeth friendly. That way, if your kids do eventually get tired of these suggestions, you can apply the same principles to variations of these food types and be confident their teeth aren’t in the firing line.
How Tooth Decay Works
As we all know, our mouth is a cesspool of bacteria. Fortunately, not all of them cause trouble. But the ones that do can wreak havoc if they’re not kept in line.
Tooth decay happens when we feed the decay causing bacteria in our mouth with sugary & starchy foods. What we eat, the bacteria that hangs out on our teeth also eats. As a by-product of this process, the bacteria produces acid. This acid dissolves tooth enamel, and over time, cavities can form.
The problem is, ANY carbohydrate can cause tooth decay if allowed to linger on the tooth surface for too long. This is because carbohydrates get broken down into simple sugars. Thankfully, some carbohydrates are “safer” than others for your teeth. It’s also important to note that it’s not the amount of sugar we eat, but how often we eat sugar that plays a more significant role in causing tooth decay.
Read all about kids and tooth decay here: https://www.methoddental.com.au/the-3-surprising-reasons-kids-get-tooth-decay/
Teeth Friendly Foods
The best kinds of teeth-friendly snacks are ones that are:
- Low in sugar
- Not acidic
- Not sticky
- Contain tooth friendly minerals like calcium or phosphorus
- And can stimulate saliva production which helps neutralise acid and remineralize tooth enamel
You might think finding something in the supermarket that ticks all these boxes is like a unicorn, it doesn’t exist. But it does! Here are a few lunchbox and teeth friendly foods that won’t break the bank!
Plain yoghurt without added sugar is an excellent snack for kids. It’s packed with probiotics, high in calcium (which is great for teeth & bones) and keeps them feeling fuller for longer.
And if your kid has braces, yoghurt is the perfect treat as it’s gentle on teeth, won’t get stuck in hard to reach places and requires no chewing. Winner winner!
Cheddar, mozzarella, brie..whatever floats your boat. Cheese, another source of dairy, is a great choice for snacking in between meals. Not only is it high in calcium and phosphorous which helps strengthen teeth and bones, it also helps neutralise the pH in the mouth which is important in reducing your kids’ risk for tooth decay.
Carrot, Celery, Cucumber
Surprise, surprise – fresh vegetables made the list. But specifically, it’s the texture of these vegetables that make them really good for your teeth. That’s because chewing on these crunchy, fibrous vegetables can act as a “natural toothbrush” and scrub away plaque from teeth. The amount of chewing involved in breaking these vegetables down also helps stimulate saliva flow. And saliva, as we have already mentioned, is great at helping to neutralise acid in the mouth and remineralising tooth enamel.
If your littles ones need a little convincing eating vegetables, try these Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins with Zucchini courtesy of Goodie Goodie Lunchbox. While this recipe does contain “sugar” in the form of honey, it is naturally derived and therefore more teeth friendly. https://www.goodiegoodielunchbox.com.au/lemon-poppy-seed-muffins-with-zucchini/
Fresh Apples & Pear
Fresh fruit of any kind is healthy. But fresh apples and pear specifically are very teeth friendly because of their high water content which helps dilute the fruit’s natural sugars. Similar to the benefits of chewing on carrots & celery, eating apples & pear help stimulate saliva production and wash away any food particles & plaque buildup on teeth.
What about dried fruits you ask? While both fresh and dried fruits contain sugar, it’s the chewy and sticky consistency of dried fruit that makes it harder to clean off of teeth. The concentrated sugar ends up hiding in nooks and crevices and make your kids teeth vulnerable to tooth decay.
For something cheeky, check out this “Dad Style” Banana Bread recipe courtesy of School Lunch Box. All you need are bananas, wholemeal bread and some cinnamon. Unlike standard banana bread receipes, this one doesn’t contain any added sugar and is super easy to make! https://schoollunchboxblog.wpcomstaging.com/2018/05/05/banana-bread-dad-style/
Raw or roasted (unsalted & not sugar/chocolate coated), nuts are plant based and a great source of protein, calcium, vitamins and antioxidants. They also contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and fibre which help you little ones feel fuller for longer.
As a lunchbox option, boiled eggs are probably the only variety that makes logistical sense. So if boiled eggs aren’t your kids’ thing, then you might have to give this a miss. However, if your kids don’t mind the texture of boiled eggs, then this is a great snacking option. Eggs are another great source of protein and they’re also rich in phosphorus which is an important mineral in the remineralization of tooth enamel.
Check out this “Sweet Corn and Spring Onion Frittata” recipe courtesy of Goodie Goodie Lunchbox. The ingredients list is super simple, super healthy and it’s also super easy to prepare. What’s also great about this recipe is you can swap out the ingredients for whatever tickles your kids’ fancy. https://www.goodiegoodielunchbox.com.au/microwave-muffin-tin-frittatas/
Do your kids make toothbrushing time a battle? Download our FREE eBook “A Guide to Brushing Kids Teeth” here!
What About Teeth Friendly Drinks?
To stay hydrated throughout the day, you can’t go past tap water. It is literally the best thing for your kids teeth. It’s easily available and better yet, contains fluoride which helps reduce risk of tooth decay.
Milk (unsweetened/unflavoured) is also a great option for a midday snack. Rich in calcium, casein and phosphorus, these minerals help fortify and protect the tooth enamel from decay.
Snack Smart To Prevent Tooth Decay
While the list above may not be extensive (there is so much more but we can’t possibly write about all of them), hopefully it’s enough to get you started on the right track. Trying to do everything right and perfect can be overwhelming, consuming and crippling so it’s not about following these rules to a T. But as long as you have the basics down pat, the smaller details won’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things.
And remember, your kids eating sugar isn’t a death sentence. It comes down to how often they eat it, rather than how much they it that increases their risk of tooth decay.
Jasmine Ooi BPharm
with Dr. Grant McGrath BDSc
Co-Founder, Principal Dentist