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Back to school, but what’s for lunch?

After a, shall we say, ‘interesting’, start to the year it’s finally time for many of our little ones to get back to school. You’ve got the uniform bought, read, re read and discussed all communications from school about what the new normal will look like. Have you thought about break and lunchtime?

Between snacks, lunches and drinks- we want to ensure our little ones have a balanced diet which keeps them well fuelled through the course of the day, whilst also not compromising their oral health. A healthy diet supports growth and learning as well as promoting a healthy immune system.

Below are Growing Smiles’ suggestions for relatively tooth friendly, healthy foods for lunchboxes and drinks to take to school. 

Break time snacks can be a bone of contention, particularly as snacks between meals should be sugar free and healthy. Fresh fruit, plain rice cakes, bread sticks, plain toast, hard boiled egg or low fat cheese are examples of what you could offer your child for break time. Fruit and vegetables are always great for growing children. Make it fun – cut them and put in a colourful container to create a more appetising snack. Often it’s how it is presented, so taking the time to make it a bit more interesting can be well worth the effort.

Natural yoghurt with fruit added is another good snack or part of lunch. Many yoghurts have added sugar and although often seen as a ‘safe’ snack, these can be a source of hidden sugar. Make sure you read the labels, checking the ingredients list for anything ending in ‘ose’ (glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, maltose), as these are all forms of sugar, as are honey, agave, molasses and syrups like corn and rice syrup. The higher up the ingredients list, the more sugar the product contains. Click here for more information. 

It is also important to mention that dried fruit is high in sugar and can be bad for teeth, so only ever give it to children WITH meals. Encourage children to eat breakfast before they go to school to avoid sugar cravings mid-morning. 

Drinks– Stick to water and milk (not flavoured) to drink. Water is great for health and a hydrated brain works best! Warm water isn’t much fun, so try adding some ice cubes or even filling the bottle 1/3 full of water and freezing overnight (make sure the bottle is ok to go in the freezer!), top up in the morning and water stays cold all day. If your child won’t drink anything without a flavour, use sugar free diluting juice (squash) – well diluted – 1 part juice to 10 parts water.  Save money by avoiding fizzy drinks. Keep these for special treats.

Lunches – A ham, low fat cheese or other savoury sandwich can either be eaten at break time or at lunch. There are lots of fun cutters available to make shapes so sandwiches look more fun and appealing. During lockdown did you cook more from scratch? Get the kids help to plan and prepare healthy snacks and lunches.

Bored of sandwiches? You could try wraps, cheese and crackers or a crunchy salad bowl as an alternative. For younger children try rolling fruit inside thin sliced cooked meat, spread with low fat cheese spread or marmite. Or how about cucumber crackers (a slice of cucumber) with tuna on top? Hard boiled eggs, chicken legs, hummus and veggies to dip and dunk or even mini quiche might go down a treat to mix things up a bit. A packed lunch certainly doesn’t have to be boring! 

Try to be creative and plan ahead. Involve the children – is there something you can prepare at the weekend and freeze to use during a busy week? 

Growing Smiles also offers a range of sugar free sweets and chewing gum sweetened with Xylitol, which may be a useful for little ones who have a particularly sweet tooth. Xylitol is a natural sweetener (from the birch tree) which can reduce bacteria growth and prevent bacteria from sticking to the tooth, meaning much less chance for cavities. It also helps repair damaged teeth. Click here to view the range of Xylitol treats which includes lollipops, toffees, hard sweets and chewing gum. For older children chewing sugar free gum is great for stimulating saliva flow, helping to buffer and neutralise sugars in the mouth – just remind them to put it in the bin after chewing! Find out more about chewing gum here.

Remember – The more frequently sugar of any form is put in the mouth and the longer it is in contact with the teeth, the more likely this will result in tooth decay. The more frequently acidic food and drink are taken the more likely this will result in acid erosion.  We therefore suggest keeping these things to mealtimes only and avoid anything sugary the hour before bedtime.

Happy return to school everyone!

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