Healthy Snacks for Your Kid
Childhood wouldn’t be complete without lollipops, gummy bears, chocolate and other sugary treats on special occasions. While those items don’t necessarily cause harm in limited amounts, it’s easy for kids to go overboard. Your best bet for ensuring that your child develops and maintains strong, healthy teeth lies with the choices you make in the grocery store and in the kitchen every day.
From babyhood to the teen years, here are some healthy snacks for your kid that will not only appeal to your child’s palate but also put him on the path to a lifetime of having healthy teeth.
The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends introducing your child to food at around 6 months. Ideal snacks that are not only good for growing bodies but also emerging teeth include:
- Chilled watermelon or cantaloupe
- Cucumber slices or celery sticks
- Ripe pears
- Grated hard cheese
The high water content of these fruits and veggies inhibit the production of bacteria, by washing away stubborn food particles so that they don’t linger on the teeth and cause decay. Cheese helps trigger the salivary glands, which in turn can flush out excess food left on the teeth, in addition to it being an excellent source of calcium for the development of strong teeth.
While your child is likely vocal in making their food preferences known by now, it’s important that you still consider oral hygiene when selecting which snacks to serve her. Unless she has the opportunity to brush her teeth promptly after eating during the day, it’s best to avoid foods that are sticky, hard to chew or heavy on carbohydrates, sugars or starches. Consider these items instead:
- Often called “nature’s toothbrush”, the act of biting into and chewing an apple can stimulate the salivary glands and dislodge stuck-on food particles. An apple a day may just keep the doctor away — if that doctor is a dentist!
- Grilled or baked chicken. Proteins such as beef, eggs, chicken and turkey can actually help protect the tooth enamel since they contain phosphorous, which, when combined with calcium, can help re-mineralize the teeth. This helps them stay strong and prevent chips, cracks, and breaks.
- Not only is it a great source of calcium, but if you choose a yogurt with added probiotics, you’ll reduce the chances of bacteria forming on the teeth, since the good bacteria will elbow out the bad kind that can cause tooth decay. Opt for a plain or sugar-free yogurt, if possible.
While hopefully the healthy eating habits and dental hygiene practices you’ve instilled in him along the way have helped, it is ultimately up to him to take care of his adult teeth at this stage. Still, there are some tips you can employ to help keep the importance of healthy teeth front and centre:
- Buy sugar-free gum. Bad breath isn’t attractive in anybody, and certainly not when you’re trying to woo the girl in homeroom to the dance. Chewing gum will not only freshen breath, but certain ingredients in some chewing gums can also help reduce cavities or heal cavities that are beginning to form. Just make sure it’s sugar-free so you don’t feed bacteria in the mouth that will cause gum disease and other issues.
- Encourage the use of straws. You may cringe to see your teen downing a soda, but drinking through a straw can help reduce the liquid’s contact with the teeth, lowering the chance of tooth decay.
Foods to Avoid
To round out are list, here are some snacks your children should avoid — or at least keep to a minimum! — to ensure their teeth grow healthy and strong.
- Don’t put babies to bed with a bottle of anything but water. That includes juice, sodas, and even milk.
- Sugary drinks. Soda is the obvious choice to avoid, but many parents don’t realise that fruit juice can have just as much — if not more, in many cases — sugar in them. Even milk can have a fair amount of sugar in it. As we stated above, at least drinking them through a straw is a much better alternative to drinking them straight.
- Sugary foods that linger on the teeth. This includes things like chewing gum, hard candies, lollipops, etc. The best time to give children sugary treats is actually with a meal, rather than a stand-alone snack. During a meal there’s more saliva over the teeth which makes washing away food easier. The less time the sugar food has in contact with the teeth, the less the risk of decay.
- Foods high in starch and carbohydrates. We did mention this above as well; while carbohydrates are essential in nutrition, it also feeds bacteria in the mouth. The same goes for starch. Too much bread, for example, will have the same effect as too much sugary food or drink.
Children’s Dentistry in Calgary
No matter how great of a job you’re doing getting your kids into healthy dental hygiene habits, it’s important having Healthy Snacks for Your Kid at home. To make sure you have the right snacks, and keep track of your child’s oral health development, make sure you have them visit a children’s dentist for regularly scheduled checkups and cleanings. In NW Calgary, call or visit Dentrix Dental Care at 403-288-5500 for our Market Mall location or 403-289-9908 for our North Hill location.