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The Lunch Bunch

It’s the start of a new school year and you’ve probably already gotten the list and the supplies needed to make sure your child has everything they need to make this year a success.

You might have also made sure your child is all set with new shoes and clothing.

So, what have you done about their health?

There’s been a lot of talk about vaccinations lately, but this is not what we are referring to (thank goodness, right?!) … we’re talking about their DENTAL health.

Here’s a list of what healthy items you should — and should not — pack in those school lunchboxes:

Say NO to applesauce. Although portable, they are loaded with both natural and added sugars. This promotes cavities.

Say YES to real fruit. Not fruit leathers or other sticky fruit-flavored items. These stay on the teeth throughout the school day and encourage plaque. And plaque promotes cavities. Pack the real deal – fiber-containing apples, bananas, grapes and oranges. Fruit juices are also packed with sugars. Canned fruit are also good alternatives for the lunchbox if the fruits are packed in their own juice.

For dried fruit – know that ¼ cup is the same as 1 cup of real fruit.

Say NO to flavored milk. Chocolate and strawberry milk contains added sugars. Try adding a drop of food coloring to plain milk to make it more fun. Or opt for other items from the diary category – like cheese.

Say NO to starches. Pretzels, chips, and crackers are low in sugar, but simple starches can be just as bad as sugar. These starches break down and coat the teeth with a goo that can also promote tooth decay. Try almonds or baby carrots if your child needs a little crunch in their lunch.

Say YES to grains. Whole grains found in things like popcorn, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, brown and wild rice are better alternatives than standard pasta, white bread, and white rice.

Say YES to veggies. Easier said than done, right? Not if you are creative. Instead of the same old/same old, try cherry tomatoes on a stick, snap peas with dipping sauce, celery with peanut butter, or edamame. Be playful and make stick figures with a tomato head, lettuce hair, peppers as arms and legs. And anything coated or dipped in cheese just might get eaten!

Remember – balance is the key. It might seem overwhelming, but it really is easy to get it right. Limiting high sugars and high fats should be your goal. Provide your kiddos with fruits, vegetables, and a protein source like lean meats, beans or soy products, poultry (including eggs) or seafood. They can also get protein from snacks like nuts (watch the salt!) and seeds.

Throw in a low-fat dairy product like plain skim or low-fat milk, cheese, or yogurt to meet their calcium needs for growing bones and strong teeth.  Want to know more about nutrients and portion sizes for kids? Check out https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/nutrition-for-kids/art-20049335

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