Healthy Packed Lunches Save Money and Protect Your Teeth

You might always pack a lunch for your child, but if you hit the drive-through on a regular basis, your pocketbook, as well as your teeth, are probably taking a beating. Take a cue from your kids and bring healthy packed lunches to work so that you have control over what you're eating at noon. The good news is that you can pack yourself and your children the same lunch, saving time and energy. When you pack lunches, make sure you include a healthy mix of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, which fuel your body and protect your health. At the same time, include foods that contain nutrients important to your teeth and gums, such as calcium and vitamins A and C.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are vital for giving your body energy. Including them at lunch time gives you focus and fuel for the afternoon at work and they give your children the energy they need to learn, play and grow at school. Use whole wheat bread to make everyone's favorite sandwich or replace the bread with whole grain tortillas, pita bread or bagels, which is a fun way to keep lunch exciting and new. Use leftover brown rice or quinoa in soup and put it into an insulated container to keep it warm. Pack a bowl of whole grain cereal and a container of milk or have crackers with your favorite toppings.

Protein

Protein is vital for growth and development in kids, but it also keeps muscles strong and healthy. Protein is available from several sources, which allows you to fit it in while also contributing to other nutrient needs. Use peanut butter or lean turkey in sandwiches. Slap on a slice of cheese for extra protein. Have nuts or string cheese on the side.

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats promote the well-being of your brain and eyes. You don't need a lot, but adding some to your lunchbox helps you meet the recommendations. Spread a turkey sandwich with avocado instead of mayonnaise, toss some nuts into a salad or a bag of trail mix or heat up leftover salmon when hunger strikes.

Other Nutrients

Calcium is perhaps the most important nutrient for your teeth. An inadequate amount could spell trouble in your mouth and your children's mouths. Include cheese or milk in your lunch to help you get enough. If your child's school doesn't offer milk in the lunch line, send a container with him or give him an extra glass at dinner to make up for it. Vitamins A and C are also important for keeping your mouth healthy and your teeth strong. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of these vitamins. Pack a fruit and vegetable with your lunch each day. This could be an apple, banana or orange, or you could grab leftover salad or steamed vegetables from dinner the night before.

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