The holidays are over and we’re all readjusting to our usual routines of school and the office. It can be overwhelming getting back into the swing of it, especially coming up with healthy-packed lunch ideas every day. So iDental Surgery is here to help!
What’s It All About?
While all of us need to eat a balanced diet for our overall health (including our oral health!), children in particular need a variety of foods to support their growth and development. The nutrients in our diet provide us with all the energy we need for our daily tasks and exercise, as well as keeping our immune system fighting fit, supporting brain function, and ensuring our bones and muscles are functioning properly.
So What Is A Balanced Diet?
It’s recommended to eat something from each of the following food groups every day:
- Vegetables and legumes (such as beans and lentils)
- Protein (lean fish, meat, tofu, seed and nuts)
- Dairy or alternatives.
These foods together provide us with the carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals we need. Packing as much colour as possible into a meal is a good indication that it has a wide variety of nutrients. Fresh foods are typically more nutrient-rich than processed foods.
Even healthy foods should be eaten in moderation. Fruit is full of vitamins and minerals, however, it also contains natural sugars, which may cause tooth decay. In addition, citrus fruits are acidic which can damage tooth enamel. Below the age of 4, children should eat only 1 serving of fruit per day. From 4-8 years old, this increases to 1-1½ servings, and 2 servings from 9 upwards. Eating fruit as part of a balanced meal, rather than snacking on fruit by itself, helps to minimise the effects of sugar and acid on the teeth.
And of course, thorough brushing twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste will ensure nasties don’t hang around in the mouth for too long!
What Does A Healthy Lunchbox Look Like?
Try to pick something from each of the 5 food groups for every packed lunch, the more colour the better! Here are some ideas.
Vegetables & legumes: Carrot (grate it as a sandwich filling, or cut into batons for dipping in hommus), cucumber, cherry tomatoes, capsicum, avocado. Roasted chickpeas or fava beans, lentil chips.
Fruit: A small banana, apple, watermelon, berries, pineapple, sultanas.
Protein: Hard-boiled eggs, chicken, tuna, ham.
Wholegrains: Pita pockets, wholegrain wraps, wholemeal bread or pasta, wholegrain crackers.
Dairy: Low-fat choccy milk, yoghurt (no added sugar), low-fat cheese cubes.
What About Drinks?
Plain tap water is the best! Milk is high in calcium and B vitamins. Low fat is best from age 2 onwards. Sparkling water, even without syrup or flavourings, is acidic and can damage tooth enamel.
Fruit juice should be limited to an occasional treat as it can be high in sugar and acid, but without the benefits of fibre, we get from eating whole fruit.
Fizzy drinks such as cola and lemonade or energy drinks are very bad for our teeth and contain almost no nutrients. They have LOTS of added sugar and because they’re fizzy, they are acidic.
Disclaimer: You or your child may have dietary restrictions, allergies or specific medical requirements that override the above guidelines. Seek advice from your doctor if you are unsure.