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Medicine or Malarkey: "Don’t Cut the Crust off Your Sandwiches"

The kids are back in school which means more battles over lunches with your picky eater. This brings us to the perennial question of parents packing sandwiches for school lunch: if you cut the crust off your sandwich, do you lose all of the most valuable nutrients?

Does the Crust Contain More Nutrients?

Scientific studies have investigated whether the crusts of bread contain more nutrients than the moist, springy interior. The short answer is: yes, bread crusts do contain more nutrients. The reason for this is that the baking process causes the exterior of the bread to become firmer and more browned. This chemical baking process also results in changes to the nutrients in the crust of bread.

A 2002 research study from the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that compared to the pale inside of a piece of bread, the crust contained eight times as much pronyl-lysine. Pronyl-lysine is an antioxidant that may reverse cellular damage, possibly lowering risk for cancer. The crust of bread also contains more dietary fiber than the insides.

Tips on Dealing with Picky Eaters

So what is a parent to do with a picky eater who insists on removing the crusts?

It is important to keep in mind that this is not the end of the world. Yes, the crust of bread contains more antioxidants and fiber than the inside. However, there are other strategies to increase your child’s intake of antioxidants and dietary fiber. For instance, it is best to switch to whole-wheat or whole-grain bread. These bread products naturally contain more dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates than white bread.

Additionally, adding healthy ingredients to the sandwich can make up for the antioxidants eliminated through removal of the crust. Stick to low-sodium deli meat and be judicious with condiment use. Adding fruits and vegetables that your child does enjoy to the lunchbox can help him or her get more antioxidants.

Finally, make an effort to help your child overcome pickiness about food. Consider some of the following tips:

  • Involve your child in food selection and preparation. For instance, you may make a game of finding a new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store to add to school lunches.
  • Persistence pays off. Even if your child is picky, continue to serve healthy options. Eventually, many picky eaters will try foods as they become more familiar.
  • Serve healthy foods in fun ways. Can you cut a sandwich into a fun shape that still preserves some crust? Or make it a challenge to eat a food from every color of the rainbow in a single meal? Making new foods fun can help picky eaters overcome their hesitation.
  • Get creative with foods. Puree vegetables to add to a pasta sauce, or make a healthy zucchini cake for dessert. These methods add nutrients without causing battles over “strange” foods.

Just be diligent and the kids will come around! The best way to get them to eat healthy is to eat healthy yourself. They will follow your example.