How to Pack a Tooth-Friendly School Lunch: Healthy Snack and Meal Ideas for Kids

Pack a tooth-friendly school lunch.

Tooth-friendly foods can help make a balanced lunch fun.

Lunchtime can be a big deal at school. What should you pack for school lunch? Who do you sit with? Do you bring your lunch or buy your lunch at school? Cut down on some of these questions by having your child help create their own lunch menus at home, and even help pack their own lunch to have at school.

To bring or not to bring…that is the question.

It seems as children get older, they want to bring their lunch to school. While school lunch programs, as well as the breakfast programs, in the United States follow strict guidelines from the USDA, not all children may be fans of what is being served on a given day. Before the start of the new school week, sit down with your child and look at the lunch menu offerings at school for the week.

If your child sees something that piques their interest, have them circle the meal on the calendar. This can mean that they will be buying their lunch that day. If there is no circle on the calendar, this can be the day they choose to bring their lunch to school. By having your child exercise their freedom of choice, you can help them become more confident in the choices they make in their lives.

Choose to pack tooth-friendly foods for school lunch.

Eating tooth-friendly foods is a very important part of eating a healthy meal. But what are some tooth-friendly foods? 

Some of the best tooth-friendly foods are those that are crunchy and leafy. Celery is known as nature’s toothbrush. That is because celery is fibrous, the fibers of the celery stalk can help brush away any tartar buildup on the surface of the teeth as you chew. Carrots and apples are also great tooth-friendly foods because of their hard, crunchy nature. Because you tend to chew foods like carrots and apples more than other foods, they can help with removing some surface plaque and tartar from teeth. Leafy greens, like spinach and kale, are also tooth-friendly foods for the same reasons stated above.

All of these foods are also packed with essential vitamins and minerals that not only target tooth health but your body’s overall health too.

Keep sugar intake to a minimum.

Sugar is the main ingredient that bacteria feeds on, so you want to keep your child’s sugar intake to a minimum to help keep bacteria from growing and creating tartar and plaque, which is what sticks to teeth and can cause cavities and tooth decay.

While it is okay to have sugar in moderation, keep the focus of your child’s lunch on healthier items. Consider packing trail mix instead of sugary fruit snacks. Try yogurt as a snack over a cookie.

One thing people don’t realize is that fruit juice contains sugar. While you can still give your children juice, make sure they don’t sip on it all day because doing so gives bacteria in the mouth more of a chance to form. Instead, make juice an option at lunch, and then offer water to sip on throughout the day. Water will help wash away some of the bad bacteria in the mouth.

What about healthy snacks?

While it may be easy to grab a pouch of fruit snacks, which contain added sugar, or a package or cookies or crackers, the snack you pack your kids should be chosen with their tooth health in mind.

A great snack that travels well is an apple. You can pack a whole one in your lunchbox, or slice the apples for younger folks. The best part about an apple? You can add a dip for some extra flavor, and extra vitamins. Think nut butters, yogurt, or any other yummy dip your child prefers. Apples are also great tooth-friendly foods because their crunchy nature requires more chewing, which helps to swipe away bad bacteria in the mouth.

Another healthy snack that packs well is sliced cheese. Low fat cheese is high in calcium, which helps strengthen tooth enamel. Sliced cheese comes in many varieties and can be paired with many other foods, or enjoyed on its own.

Get the kids involved.

The easiest way to get your kids excited about their lunches and snacks is by getting them involved. Have them help pick out some of the healthy items they want in their lunch, like the type of lunch meat they want for their sandwiches, or the type of fruits and vegetables they want to snack on during the week. 

You can also get your kids involved by packing their own lunch the night before. This allows your child to be more involved in their daily routine, and allows them to make choices about the types of foods they are putting in their bodies. The more choice your child has, the happier they’ll be, not to mention more excited to eat the lunch they packed!