Dr Ben Atkins BDS


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Dental Education

Filling their school lunch box for fewer fillings

15th September 2015

Aaah, the new school year!

As a parent, I know how stressful it can be…and as a dentist, around this time of year I often get asked what I think about school dinners.

The fact is, the quality and choice have come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years, largely down to high profile campaigning from people like Jamie Oliver. Now the meals provided are healthy, nutritious and much better for our kids.

But what if you decide to pack your children off to school with a packed lunch? What’s best to put in their lunch box, from a dental point of view? Here I’ve put together a few handy tips to help any parents out there make sure they get it right.

A good place to start is with some simple guidelines. Based on current national standards, I’d recommend you include:

  • a portion of fruit and a portion of vegetables – try fresh fruit salad or sliced red peppers or carrot sticks to make it fun!
  • a milk or dairy item – such as cheese or yoghurt
  • a portion of meat, fish or other protein – lean ham is good, as is tuna
  • a portion of a starchy food, such as bread, pasta or rice

It’s easy to make lunches more interesting for kids too, simply by including a colourful mix of fruits and veg, or by cutting sandwiches into different shapes for instance; try adding salad to brighten up sandwiches too.

It’s important to make sure you include four things in their lunches:

  • calcium
  • protein
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin D

The calcium comes from milk and dairy foods, and helps make teeth and bones strong. And eating cheese at the end of a meal helps fight decay. Vitamin C is in foods like red peppers and oranges, while boiled eggs and tuna are packed with vitamin D, which help the body absorb calcium and protein. Protein-rich foods such as chicken, ham or turkey help to strengthen enamel.

Foods such as celery, apples, pears and carrots also help generate more saliva from chewing, which helps reduce bad bacteria in the mouth.

So what are the no-nos? As usual, anything with too much sugar (public enemy number one for young teeth!) – sweets, sugary drinks, that sort of thing. Ideally, it’s best to take them out of your child’s diet altogether. But of course, that’s easier said than done…so if you can’t, just make sure you keep them to meal times only.

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