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Ask the Dentist: Healthy lunch box, healthy teeth

Lucy Stock, Dentist at Gentle Dental Care, Belfast on why it's important for you child's teeth that you pack the right foods in their lunch box

It's time to take control of your child's lunch box for the sake of their teeth

WITH the final flourish of activity to get all the children ready for the new school year it's a great opportunity to have a re-think about what's going to go into their lunch boxes.

We want the best for our children and what they are eating obviously has a direct effect on their health and wellbeing.

However, this idea of wanting the best for our children is in contrast to studies that show that parents are still packing their children’s lunch boxes with junk food, despite high-profile awareness campaigns on tooth decay and obesity.

Research from Leeds University found that only one in five lunch boxes contained any vegetables or salad, while 52 per cent to 60 per cent contained too many sweet and savoury snacks, or sugary drinks (42 per cent), leading to high levels of saturated fat, sugar and salt and not enough minerals and vitamins.

So, take five minutes to have an honest think about what goes into your child's lunch box; is it really good for them? If not, then you don't need to keep going down the same road towards giving your child painful rotten teeth, you can opt to switch lanes and give your child a brighter future.

Admitting that what you’re doing is not the best for your child may bring feelings of guilt, but try to move on from these negative thoughts as they are ultimately unhelpful to the child. It’s never too late to change – but it does take a little focus and persistence.

Try getting your child involved in the decision making and preparation of their lunches. Take them shopping and encourage the discussion about which foods to buy. Remember, you are in charge of the foods that enter the house. Saying no is an option!

By buying fewer junk foods, you'll naturally put more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products into their lunch box. Just like adults, children are generally more interested in eating what they've created.

Think about how the foods are presented. Kids love little boxes and sorting things out, so by changing how the food is presented, you can change their eating choices with less nagging.

Veer towards natural foods. Generally anything in a packet tends to contain sugars. This is especially true for drinks; only water and milk are tooth-friendly. Watch the fruit bars and yoghurts as these can be crammed with sugar.

The key thing to remember with any changes is to persist – it can take up to 10 times before you succeed. The more frequently children can try healthier foods, the more likely they are to eat them.

Good luck!

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