When packing their child’s lunchbox, most parents will include healthy foods that provide their kid with plenty of energy to get through the school day. However, it’s not always easy to pick tooth-friendly solutions, especially when popular options are often high in hidden sugars. For example, a snack-sized box of sultanas may provide useful nutrients, but any form of dried fruits is high in sugars. Yoghurt can contain calcium and protein, but flavoured yoghurts can contain a considerable amount of sugar. Fruit juice is particularly high in sugar and is best avoided. Soft drinks and energy drinks are popular choices for lunchboxes, but a 600 mL soft drink bottle can contain as much as 16 tablespoons of sugar. Even a granola or muesli bar can contain far too much sugar for good dental health.
It is a problem because around a quarter of Australian children aged between five and 14 have tooth decay, and it’s estimated over 70% of children eat too much sugar. It is a real concern when children don’t see a dentist regularly and may develop untreated tooth decay. As a result, many children need to go to hospital to have teeth removed because they are too badly decayed to be restored. When a child has such a negative experience of dental care, where the first time they see a dentist might be when they are in pain and discomfort, it can leave them with deep-seated dental fears and anxieties that last for life. Additionally, eating a diet that is too high in sugars can cause other health problems, increasing the risk of a child developing obesity and type II diabetes later in life.
Ensuring children don’t eat too much sugar is an important factor in helping prevent tooth decay. As part of a preventive approach to dental care, we strongly suggest that parents of young children eliminate sweet treats from their children’s lunch boxes. Instead, it’s better to base lunchboxes around fresh fruits and vegetables, using these to replace popular items like biscuits, lollies and chocolates.
Follow Our Easy Tips to Make Lunchboxes Healthier
Following our seven easy tips will help make your child’s lunchboxes healthier while ensuring they have enough energy to learn and enjoy the school day.
- Aim to include one of each of the five food groups: fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes and beans, dairy, and lean meat.
- Replace biscuits, chocolates or crisps with fresh fruit or crunchy vegetables like baby carrots and celery sticks.
- Aim to reduce snacks high in saturated fats and sugars like muesli or granola bars, doughnuts, biscuits and cakes.
- Processed snacks like granola or breakfast bars should be limited to one item, and ideally, choose low sugar snacks like rice crackers and cheese.
- Replace fruit juice with whole fruit, which contains more fibre, and is more filling while having a lower sugar content.
- Instead of a soft drink, pack a refillable bottle of water.
- Look for snacks that are high in fibre and whole grains.