Even though it’s summer, many of our younger patients still have summer school or summer programs to attend. Long Beach Unified School District offers summer sessions for students of all ages. There are tons of great opportunities to catch up, get ahead, or simply learn something new for every student! Of course, kids need proper nutrition to pay attention in class, especially during the sweltering months of summer. Luckily, our Long Beach dentist, Dr.Eveline, being a mother of three, knows all about the best kid-friendly, tooth-healthy foods for summer. Using her advice, we’ve created a review of the best items on LBUSD’s summer school menu, so parents can know what options are best for their children.
Long Beach Unified School District serves the same meals at all their schools, just on different schedules. Since the summer session is quite short, there are fewer meal options available than there are for the school year. Nevertheless, all of the meals are planned by registered dieticians on staff, so that they meet national guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The worst part about summer school for kids is probably not being able to sleep in! Luckily, the summer session is usually shorter than a regular school session, so students still have more time for recreational activities after class. To make getting up early during summer break a little less tedious, LBUSD offers breakfast at the cafeteria. Below are the best and worst items on their menu according to our Long Beach dentist.
- Cereal: Cereal is quick, easy, and nutritious. What’s not to love? Most schools offer Cheerios, a plain oat-based cereal that’s great for the heart and the teeth.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich: This is a classic meal any time of the day. Although the school’s version of a PB&J is fine, parents can also go the healthier route and make one at home. Using reduced sugar jelly and whole wheat bread can make a huge difference for your child’s teeth and overall health.
- Turkey, ham, & cheese sandwich: This may seem like more of a lunch item but it is actually perfect for breakfast. Your child will get plenty of protein, calcium, and carbs to start off the day.
- Concha: As much as we love Mexican sweet bread, it’s not the healthiest option for breakfast. Most mass-produced conchas are made with refined flour and sugar. Both of these ingredients will turn into simple sugars that bacteria on the teeth will feed off, resulting in cavities.
- Cereal: Yes, we put cereal as the best and the worst! It really depends on what cereal is being served. Lightly sweetened whole grain cereals are great, but unfortunately, that’s not all that schools serve. While they may taste great, Marshmallow Mateys and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, two popular cereal brands served at school, are extremely high in sugar. They’re much better served as a dessert!
- Bagel: Bagels aren’t loaded with sugar, but they’re not loaded with much else either. Despite being very dense, bagels don’t offer many nutritional benefits and they are ultimately a fermentable carbohydrate, meaning cavity-causing bacteria feed off them. However, there are ways to make bagels a little more healthy! Having a whole grain or whole wheat bagel with some cream cheese once in a while should be fine.
It can be a little hard to find food and snacks that won’t wilt or melt in the summer heat, but luckily, Long Beach Unified School District has tons of yummy lunch options for students served fresh in the cafeteria. Below are items on the school’s main menu and a few alternatives for kids who want to eat from home.
- Grilled cheese sandwich: High quality cheese is great for teeth because it has tons of calcium which is an essential mineral for strong bones and teeth. Cheese is also an excellent low carb source of protein.
- Chicken nuggets: Baked chicken nuggets are another fun, tasty for kids to get protein.
- Hot dog: What’s better during the summer than a hot dog? Not only are hot dogs great for barbecues, baseball games, and beach days, they’re the perfect, portable food at school.
- Chicken sandwich: Chicken sandwiches are simple but popular. With a side salad and low-fat milk, you’ve got a complete meal!
- Pizza: Long Beach schools serve personal pan pizzas as a treat to students every once in a while. We like the cheese and tomato sauce, but they are definitely a food to be enjoyed in moderation because of the refined flour and oil.
- Hamburger: Convince your child to add some additional toppings, like lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese, to their burgers for extra nutrition. It’ll taste a lot better, too!
- Bean & cheese burrito: This is a great vegetarian option that still has lots of protein!
- Corn dog: Corn dogs are like the zany, carnival version of hot dogs. They’re good, bu
If your child’s diet is vegetarian/vegan or gluten-free, you may need to pack a few lunches for them considering most of the school meals contain meat and gluten. Some tooth-friendly, summer lunches that we love are:
- Veggies with hummus: Give your child an assortment of veggies to dip in hummus for a refreshing lunch! Some of our favorite summer vegetables to dip in hummus include carrots, zucchini, and bell peppers.
- Tofu scramble: Tofu is an incredibly versatile protein that we love adding to any dish. It’s also great on it’s own! Scramble some soft tofu with nutritional yeast, soy sauce, salt, and spices of your child’s choice. We love this dish with gluten-free bread, veggies, and fresh salsa.
- Kimchi fried rice: Kimchi is chock full of healthy probiotics and fiber. It’s also super flavorful. Toss kimchi, kimchi juice, salt, spices, chives, onions, and sesame oil with rice and you’ve got a delicious kimchi fried rice that’s also gluten-free and vegetarian. You can customize it to your liking with additional ingredients.
- Veggie spring rolls: Rice paper and vermicelli, two key ingredients for spring rolls, are gluten-free. You can roll yours up with any of your favorite ingredients. Common picks are cucumber, fried onions, carrots, avocado, herbs, mushrooms, tofu, and scrambled eggs.
Staying focused when it’s a perfect beach day can be hard. That’s why the Long Beach Unified School District makes sure to provide plenty of snack options for its students throughout the day. If your child is snacking throughout class, however, make sure to remind them to drink plenty of water and brush their teeth when they get home. Constant snacking makes it difficult for the mouth to flush away unwanted food debris and sugar that can cause cavities.
- Kernel corn: Corn is a sweet, healthy snack, but it can also get stuck in the teeth very easily. If your child eats kernel corn at school, make sure they’re flossing thoroughly at the end of the day.
- Fruit cup: Although fruit cups have lots of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, they’re also preserved in an extremely sugary syrup that’s terrible for teeth. For this reason, we recommend eating regular fruit rather than fruit cups.
- Applesauce: LIke fruit cups, applesauce contains lots of sugar to keep its shelf life long. If your child has trouble chewing regular fruit because of a wiggly tooth or braces, it’s fine to enjoy applesauce. Just remind your child to rinse their mouth afterward!
- Pickles: Pickles are great and terrible. They contain a lot of fiber and nutrients, but they’re also highly acidic. Too much acid can lead to tooth erosion, so make sure your child is eating their pickles in moderation.
- Broccoli: Cruciferous vegetables have a unique texture that can naturally scrub plaque from teeth. Broccoli also has a good amount of calcium and antioxidants that make it very healthy!
- Apple slices: You know the saying – an apple a day keeps the dentist away! Apples also act as a natural toothbrush that can help remove plaque.
- Carrots: Carrots are high in keratin, a protein that attacks plaque, and vitamin A, an important nutrient for building strong enamel.
- Tortilla chips, cheese, & salsa: This meal would be great if the cheese was real, but most cheese sauces served at school are made with cheese product, not actual cheese. This means it’s made with fillers that have a lot fewer nutrients. Salsa is also generally pretty healthy when it’s made fresh, but the refrigerated salsa at schools are bound to have a lot of preservatives and sugar.
- Peanut butter cup: School peanut butter cups are pretty healthy, but if you plan on getting peanut butter cups from the store to eat at home, make sure to opt for the natural type with less added sugar. Many brands enhance the flavor of their peanut butter by adding unhealthy oil and sugar. Be sure to check the nutrition facts!
- Sunflower seed & cranberry mix: Make sure your child is peeling their sunflower seeds before they eat them. Cracking seeds with teeth can lead to cracked teeth and damaged enamel. Otherwise, this snack is a super healthy way to get some fiber, antioxidants, and protein.
- Yogurt: Like cheese, yogurt has a high amount of calcium. Yogurt can also regulate the pH levels in the mouth, making it a less hospitable environment for harmful bacteria.
We hope this guide helps our patients choose healthy, tooth-friendly options at summer school! When your child isn’t in class, summer is a great time to schedule an appointment with the dentist! It’s important to get a checkup twice a year and summer is always a lot less busy than during the school year. Long Beach Smile Co. is a dental office located in Long Beach, CA. Our Long Beach dentist, Dr. Eveline, loves meeting new families and seeing their bright smiles. If you’re interested in learning more about us, give us a call!