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Much to Munch with School Lunches

Aug 19, 2014

By Dean George

Hollywood icon Orson Welles once said, “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” Anyone who saw photos of Welles’ girth in his later life may think he wasn’t kidding.

American free market economist and writer Milton Friedman cautioned, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Of course, 47 million or so people might disagree but let’s not quibble.

First Lady Michelle Obama has split the difference by mandating schools serve healthier lunches that are free of salt, fat, and many students would say taste.

Healthy School Lunches

Okay, I’m just kidding, mostly. I’m being a little defensive because when I asked for apple crisp at Grandparents’ Day, I suspect the kitchen staff reported me and recommended a nutritional audit of my grocery list for the past five years.

Anyway, Felicia and I have both blogged about the importance of lunches on oral health. And as previously reported in Dental Wire, oral health can affect grades, attendance and participation in after school activities.

That’s why we’re offering more good lunch tips for kids that either brown bag their lunch or play the daily school lunch lottery.

School Lunch Recommendations

Vegetables like celery and carrots aid in saliva production and help scrub tartar from teeth. They also are helpful for maintaining healthy gums. If veggies don’t stimulate your child’s taste buzzer, coating the veggies with peanut butter or adding a ranch or guacamole dip can help make Mom a hero.

Cheese contains calcium, phosphate and lactic acid that helps replenish minerals that acids strip from teeth. Speaking from personal experience, a thin slice of Colby or cheddar cheese can ramp up the yummy factor of a ham or turkey sandwich and move it up the lunch meter from boring to satisfying.

High fiber foods act as a tasty detergent and help scrub your teeth as you chew. Some good lunch foods high in fiber are bananas, pears, raisins, figs, air-popped popcorn, oat bran muffins, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lima beans and black beans.

Low-fat or skimmed milk is pretty much a school staple, but wise parents may also include a small bottled water in their child’s book bag to help wash down a hot school lunch or snack.

Brown Bag Lunches

As we mentioned last week when discussing tooth brushes, toothpastes and mouth rinses, involving your child in some of the decision making with their school lunches can help teach them good food choices and how to avoid bad ones. Besides, letting them help with the food prep can make it exciting for them as they may tell their friends, “This is what I made for my lunch today.”

True story – during a rare weekday sleepover this summer my 5-year-old granddaughter wanted to help me make my lunch that morning. She was enjoying putting the Black Forest ham and Colby cheese on the wheat bread, but when she started loading it with Fig Newton cookies I asked what she was doing. She said, “I wanted to make you something different!” 

Here are some brown bag suggestions that aren’t necessarily different, but they are healthy and good for your teeth:

Tuna, chicken and egg salad are high in protein and other minerals good for teeth.  Any of these will help keep your child sharp later in the day when they are learning about dangling modifiers or Isosceles Triangles.

White flour breads convert directly to sugar and don’t stick with you as long as whole grain breads like honey wheat, multigrain or oat bran. Sandwich wraps are also popular and kids may enjoy an occasional pita sandwich with a veggie hummus.

Nuts are high in protein, essential fats and contain vitamins that keep teeth strong. Popular “lunch nuts” are pistachios, pecans and almonds. Due to student peanut allergies many schools may not allow nuts at all, but if your kids’ school does, these nuts have the Tooth Fairy seal of approval.

Desserts are often the cherry on the lunch sundae but it is important to avoid packing things like candy bars, sour candies and sweets in general. Many kids enjoy the natural sweetness of yogurt and fresh fruit or maybe a healthy squeezable like applesauce. The important thing is to give your child a healthy dessert alternative over the usual sweet culprits like Twinkies®, candy or cupcakes.

Thanks for reading this installment of our Back to School series, and if you really want to make an impression on your child’s teacher, be sure to let them know that you follow us on  FacebookTwitter, PinterestGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Photo source:

Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC© 

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