Can you believe it is back to school time already? I for one can not believe it at all. I am also in disbelief that my girls will be starting kindergarten this year, but that is a whole emotional saga for another day. Today, let’s talk about healthy food choices. Let’s talk about how we can make healthy swaps in the everyday packed lunch routine that are suitable alternatives to traditional higher sugar content. I know when it comes to packing healthy lunches it comes down to two things: cost and convenience. Let’s also throw in a third contender and that would be child approval, because we all know that without their approval these swaps may not last! So here we are, 10 lunch choices that are high in carbohydrates and sugar, swapped out for a healthier version. Happy Back To School Week Mission Viejo!
Pack Rethink Water Not Juice Box
In lieu of sugary juice (even those labeled all natural), this flavored water looks the same as a juice box so children will not miss the novelty. Rethink water is the complete opposite of juice boxes however in the sense that it is basically water but with a splash of fruit! This means that instead of 20-25 grams of sugar, this box of water only has 1 gram of sugar!
Pack M & M’s Not Fruit Snacks
Fruit snacks can be, dentally speaking, a less than ideal snack choice that is super popular in today’s school lunches. Those snacks may contain natural fruit flavor and sugars but their gummy texture means those sugars are sticking in the grooves of the teeth for extended periods of time. For a sweet treat that will melt away easily, try a handful of chocolate M&M’s instead!
Pack Fresh Fruit Not Fruit Roll Ups
Just like fruit snacks, the fruit rolls may state they are made from all natural fruits, but these are way too sticky to be healthy for the teeth. Try dicing up apples and pears, or make a few fruit kabobs with berries and apples instead!
Pack A Cheese Stick Not Cheeze Its
Packed with protein (6-8 grams), cheese sticks give that cheesy flavor without over 20 grams of carbohydrates (which break down into sugars)!
Pack Chickpea Puffs Instead Of Cheetos or Cheese Puffs
Just like Cheeze Its, Cheetos and Cheese Puffs have a nice flavor but can be packed with sodium and very little nutritional value. Chickpea Puffs (like the Hippea brand) have a slightly less carbohydrate content but also add in protein and fiber, and lessen the sodium without compromising on flavor or crunchy texture!
Pack Whole Grain Bread Instead Of White Bread
For sandwiches try substituting whole grain bread with your kiddos instead of refined white bread. Whole grain bread will be higher in both protein and fiber which means your little one will stay full for longer and the whole grain bread will be lower in cavity causing carbohydrates!
Greek Yogurt Pouch Not Pudding Or Jello
While Greek yogurt pouches are certainly not sugar free (8-10 grams), they contain less than pudding and Jello cups and also pack in a heaping dose of protein at about 8 grams per pouch. Chobani is a great brand for this and they sell both pouches and tubes in various flavors!
Homemade or Packaged Protein Balls Not Granola Bars
With the ability to control what ingredients go into this snack, it’s easy to see why this swap is a winner. Protein balls can be made at home in a short amount of time and you can substitute either honey, maple syrup, or dates for a natural sweetener over refined sugar. A recipe that my girls love contains oats, peanut butter (you can substitute sunflower butter for nut free), honey, and chocolate chips for a granola bar like texture but with less sugar!
Raw Veggies Not Fruit/Veggie Pouches
Although not the most popular lunch choice, try sending your child with a small selection of raw veggies like broccoli, carrot sticks, celery, or cucumber slices instead of fruit/veggie pouches. While veggie pouches are not the worst choice out there, the pureed texture is harder on the teeth. Plus the raw form of veggies is known to contain many more nutrients. To make the veggies a little more fun, pair them with ranch dressing or hummus for dipping.
Dr. Mikaeya Kalantari has been a practicing pediatric dentist for over 7 years working in both the children's hospital setting and private practice. She has had a wealth of experience treating children of all ages, and medical conditions. When it comes to serving children, she feels the importance of communication between the dentist and parent can not be emphasized enough. Dr. Kalantari practices in her family owned dental office in Mission Viejo, California.