Chips and candy are delicious, but when it comes to choosing snacks for your child’s school day, they should be at the bottom of the list – or left completely off. Unhealthy foods can cause some serious damage to your child’s smile, which can also result in health issues down the road.
Eating healthier foods not only ensures kids have a healthier smile, but it also provides fuel for their minds and bodies throughout the school day.
However, when you’re not with your child throughout the school day, “it is difficult for parents or caregivers to keep a watchful eye on snacking or keep an eye on what (kids) consume,” says Dr. Steve Rollins, DMD, of Summit Dental Group in Waterford.
That’s why it’s so important for families to prepare healthy snacks and meals for their children to take to school. Here, he offers advice on healthy food options that are easy on your child’s smile – and help fuel him or her for the school day.
While breakfast is the most important meal of that day, that mid-morning snack provides some additional fuel to tide your child over until lunchtime.
“Finding a snack to get your child through the morning can seem daunting with the everchanging tastes of children,” Dr. Rollins says.
However, there are many pre-packaged snacks, such as granola bars or fruit bars, that aim to be more health conscious – such as including whole grains and real fruit.
When searching for the “right” snack, he suggests reading nutrition labels and avoiding snacks with added sugar.
If pre-packaged options aren’t your family’s favorite, stick with fruit or vegetables.
“Most of the time, we will just toss an apple in our sons’ backpacks and leave it at that,” he adds.
Last school year, Dr. Rollins’ son, who is in elementary school, began asking him for a dollar here and a dollar there.
“At first I thought nothing of it, until I found out that he was buying some kind of juice, candy bar or dessert treat during lunch hours,” he says. “I wasn’t OK with this being a daily occurrence.”
If you’re like Dr. Rollins and would prefer for your child to have a healthier meal – with an occasional snack – pack a protein-rich lunch. Or opt for the school lunch, which includes a protein, fruit, vegetable and whole grains.
“With our son, we typically send him with some kind of lunch meat by itself or in a sandwich or roll-up in a tortilla, accompanied with some carrots, tomatoes, apple slices, or whatever fruit is in season,” he says. “Of course the vegetables can be made more palatable with a dollop of ranch. “
Pair the meal with some milk or water.
Flavored and sparkling water are go-to beverages for many families, but they aren’t the ideal way to keep hydrated throughout the day.
“Most, if not all, of them have a lower pH or are more acidic than normal tap water,” Rollins says. “Acid is no good and can soften the enamel on teeth. Filling up a child’s water bottle with this stuff is leaving teeth in a demineralized or softened state for long period of time and can result in cavities.”
If you’re going to opt to serve these beverages to your child, limit them to mealtime only.
Avoid sports drinks, as well.
“Children and teenagers in sports have a tendency to crave these sugary electrolyte drinks because they have some benefits for hydration, but if the body is dehydrated, then there won’t be enough saliva to adequately clean the sugars off the teeth – so it’s a vicious cycle,” he adds.
Avoid that cycle by opting for water instead.
For more information on Summit Dental Group, or to schedule an appointment, visit summitdentalgroup.com.