Brushing, flossing and seeing a dentist are all important for a healthy smile, but watching what children eat and drink is important for their oral health, too.

Parents and caregivers are role models and can have a big impact on a child’s health. Because eating right is important for a healthy body and smile, it’s never too early to help children start good eating habits.

When children are home for the summer, it’s not as easy to prepare meals as healthy as they can get at school. Instead, it’s often easier to grab quick items from the corner store or freezer. But, there are certain foods that not only give children energy, but can actually help keep their teeth cavity-free.

Preparing child-approved, healthy lunches are worth the effort if you can spare the time. Plus, there are lots of convenient and healthy choices that taste great and promote good oral and overall health.

Consider these for a healthy summertime lunch:

  • Dairy products: Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are great picks with lots of calcium to help keep teeth strong. Be sure to read labels though, since some products aimed at children are high in fat and added sugar. Children ages 2 through 18 should have less than 25 grams of added sugar per day.
  • Protein: Lean roast beef, turkey, chicken and cheese are good sandwich options. Use whole-grain bread instead of more processed alternatives, and try adding some lettuce and tomato.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Grapes, apple chunks, oranges, celery and carrots are great additions that are high in vitamins and minerals.
  • Beverages: Water is a great choice for lunch, along with low-fat milk. Avoid soda pop and juice drinks, as they have lots of added sugar and can be high in calories.

Providing healthy lunches doesn’t mean children have to avoid all sweets. After all, summer is about having fun. Things like ice cream, chocolate or candies are okay in moderation, although sticky candies often get stuck in the tiny spaces between teeth.

If children indulge in a sweet treat, it’s important to drink water afterward to help rinse the sugar off teeth. Or, better yet, take a break to brush.

Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.

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