Here at toothfairyblog we love to hear from you and we’re always interested to get requests for topics you’d like to see covered. Angela asked us to write about dentally healthy snacks for kids, so here we go, my lovely. This one’s for you.
Toddlers like to eat (all the time in my experience!) so as parents we do have a challenge on our hands. Food labelling is still a minefield and I must encourage you to get in the habit of looking at the back of packets and in particular at the sugar content as a percentage of a child’s recommended daily allowance. It can be eye opening…..
But is there any such thing as a dentally healthy snack? Well, there are certainly snacks which are lower risk for teeth.
Dentally healthy snacks for kids
- Cubes of fresh fruit such as melon, strawberries, grapes and apples (don’t forget that fruit in season will be cheaper too)
- Raw vegetables – cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery, carrot sticks
- Baked crisps
- Pitta fingers and hummus
- Rice cakes with cream cheese and cucumber or peanut butter
- Homemade popcorn (without sugar or salt)
- Unsalted ricecakes or oatcakes
- Toast, bread or a sandwich
- Low salt breadsticks
- Cubes of cheese
- Nuts (for over 1’s without nut allergies)
However, it’s a bit more complicated than that…….
Every time we eat or drink sugary things (something we dentists call an “intake”) the process of “demineralisation” or dental decay begins. It then takes anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours for the oral environment to return to normal and the balance to shift to “remineralisation”. So it’s a very fluid process and the length of “recovery time” will vary depending on things such as how sticky a food is as well as the amount and availability of the sugar content. As a general rule you should be aiming for no more than 4-5 intakes per day.
So, what I am getting at here is there is no such thing as dentally healthy snacks for kids, just lower risk snacks. It’s not just what we eat, but how often we eat that is important.
There is also another downside to ‘grazing’ as frequent snacking means that appetite at mealtimes can be affected. Having snacked the child isn’t hungry at a meal time, doesn’t eat a sound meal and then asks for another snack an hour later. The parents (by now fairly exhausted and frustrated) then offer ‘treats’ in a desperate bid to get their child to eat ANYTHING…and so the viscous cycle begins.
I think the other thing which merits discussion is our national obsession with giving sweets and chocolates as rewards. Yes, please do reward good behaviour – positive reinforcement is a brilliant strategy – but rewards don’t have to be food based. Regular followers of this blog will know I’m a big fan of using stickers as rewards. I’m not saying don’t give your child any sweet treats, but make sure they are that, occasional treats with a meal, after all it’s hardly a ‘treat’ if it’s happening every day throughout the day.