While February can be full of love and tasty treats, it can be a hard month for your child’s oral health. Between Valentine’s Day parties at school, the goodies and heart-shaped chocolates they might receive from loved ones, and the Valentine’s Day treats that are always by the door at your favorite local shops, children have almost as much exposure to candy this month as they do in October! This exposure makes February the perfect time to re-evaluate the snacks that you’re giving your children, and really consider which snacks are the most beneficial to your children’s health.
Foods to Avoid
Choosing snacks that are loaded with sugar is not the best option for a number of reasons. Not only is sugar detrimental to your oral health, but foods containing a lot of sugar usually have quite a bit of fat in them as well. Processed sugar is one of the leading causes of tooth decay, especially in children, so it’s best to avoid these foods as much as possible and to brush your teeth immediately after consuming foods with processed sugar. If you don’t brush your teeth frequently or if you consume lots of sugary snacks, the sugar will react with the bacteria in your mouth to create an acid that can eat through the enamel of your teeth, which is how cavities are formed. Additionally, foods that are gooey and sticky can be an additional hazard to your teeth. These foods will stick to the surface of your teeth, intensifying this sugar-bacteria reaction and causing even more damage. This effect can last for nearly 20 minutes before it neutralizes, so brushing your teeth immediately after eating anything with this consistency is always recommended.
Foods to Consider
If you have a sweet tooth, there are still healthy options for your snacks! Consider fresh fruit or low-fat yogurt. You can even combine the two for your own healthy parfait. Be sure to only eat the recommended snack serving size for fruits and dairy, as it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Other healthy, dentist-approved snacks include:
- Raw vegetables
- Whole grain bread or crackers
- Plain bagels
- Unsweetened cereal
- Unbuttered popcorn (be sure to floss afterward to avoid kernels getting stuck!)
- Baked tortilla chips
- Lightly salted pretzels
- Low or nonfat dairy such as cheese, milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese
- Lightly salted or unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds
- Chicken, Turkey, or sliced meats
The key to choosing snacks that are both yummy and healthy for your mouth is variety. Always read food labels when grocery shopping and mix up your snack routine every now and then so that no one snack becomes “boring” for your little ones. Try to include each of the main food groups when planning meals and snacks, and stick to the recommended portion sizes.
Here at Children’s Dentistry of San Diego, we know that snacking on the go can be difficult, especially with kids. We are here to help educate and support you through the process of making healthy choices for your family. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Children’s Dentistry of San Diego today!