Now that kids are well into the school year, parents may be conflicted with what they should pack for their kids’ school lunch. This is especially true with Halloween having just passed. With so much candy in the house, it may be even more difficult to decide if your kids get trick-or-sweets for lunch, too.
Though most K-12 schools provide lunch for students, some parents still like to pack their kids a healthier alternative.
Dr. Kevin J. Donly, President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), tells Parentology about his experiences being a father of three, and what AAPD recommends parents should pack for their kids.
What to Pack for School Lunch
Donly says that one of the many mistakes that parents could be making is packing their child a sandwich with non-whole wheat bread. “Whole wheat bread is the best because it has a lot of fiber. Also, it doesn’t have near as much sugar and starch that later turns into sugar,” he says. For school-age kids, Donly also suggests parents pack skim milk. He mentions this is part of a larger grouping of beverages that are recommended by the Key National Health and Nutrition Organization in a journal titled, “Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood Recommendations.”
According to the organization, “Overconsumption of unhealthy beverages along with inadequate consumption of healthy beverages in early childhood can contribute to risk of diet-related chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, or dental caries.
The latter is one of Donly’s major concerns when it comes to what parents are providing their children. Chips, for example, are not an ideal snack for children because they are often very starchy and very salty.
A better and fresher alternative is fruit. Donly says the association always recommends whole fruit or 100% fruit juice and advises parents to stay away from any type of boxed-fruit juices. These contain a lot of additional sugar with no nutritional value.
Establishing a Dental Home
Along with providing your children nutritional snacks, Donly suggests providing them with the proper resources to establish a healthy lifestyle. You may already have a primary care physician for your child, but what about an established dental home?
“The AAPD, as well as the American Dental Association, encourages parents to bring their kids to a dentist before their first birthday,” Donly says. “We recommend establishing a dental home by the first year of age because typically the first tooth comes in between six months and one year. We recommend prevention at that time because we want to keep kids cavity-free.” The AAPD also recommends brushing that first tooth with a tiny smear of fluoridated toothpaste so that the fluoride is being taken up in those teeth that are just erupting. “Move to a pea-size [of toothpaste] when they are toddlers.”
By creating this foundation now, Donly says you’ll see transformative results in your kids. His own children started their healthy habits young and have developed traits that he’s proud of today.
However, you have to give-in a little during the Halloween season because your kids are going to want a piece of candy.
Donly says that when it comes to Halloween candy, the key is to only put one piece in their lunch box and encourage them to brush their teeth at school with a to-go brush. He adds, “If they’re going to have candy at home, do it on a certain time and that’s it. Avoid them munching on candy all day long. Every time they take a bite it drops the pH in their mouth and it becomes acidic. The more times you drop that pH the more chance you have of having cavities.”
What to Pack for School Lunch — Sources
President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), Dr. Kevin J. Donly
Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood