A healthy mouth begins with healthy habits, of which healthy snacking is a big one! Even so, we’ve all had those moments. We’re running late and have to get the kids fed, dressed,and out the door. There’s just no time to make them breakfast and we don’t want them falling back on an empty stomach. So, we give them something to munch on the run, like pretzels and flavored yogurt – no offence to this duo.
While the occasional sweet treat or sugar-laden soda is unavoidable, it’s worth noting that the bacteria in our little ones’ mouths feed off these junks. Pair that with poor oral hygiene and there’s a recipe for tooth decay, cavities, bad breath, and gum disease, to say the least. The good news is that healthy snacks are easy to come by!
For starters, children’s teeth are still in their development phase. From birth through to the age of three, their tooth enamel (the hard mineralized surface of the tooth) is softer when compared to that of an adult and vulnerable to erosion and decay. When acids and sugars from foods and drinks penetrate the enamel, they begin to demineralize or dissolve the tooth structure.
Microscopic pores or cavities then form in the enamel, increasing the risk of decay and damage. Not only do children need adequate amounts of vitamins and nutrients, especially vitamins C and D, calcium, and phosphorus during their formative years to strengthen the tooth enamel and prevent cavities, it’s equally important that they adopt healthy oral care habits, including proper dieting.
One healthy snack per day makes a difference, and knowing what to eat and what to avoid helps. Given that parents are their children’s primary role model, there is no greater responsibility than to set a good example. This doesn’t necessarily imply prepping and forcing a week’s worth of kale salad down one’s throat.
Rather, it’s about adopting healthy habits and instilling the same mindset in these adorable kiddos,particularly during busy weekdays when time is limited but there are mouths to feed. So, here are some healthy snack ideas that nutrition-minded parents swear by.
No list of healthy snacks is complete without fruits and vegetables. These are nature’s perfect combination of complex carbs, essential vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats. They help clean the teeth, aid digestion via regular bowel movements, and provide a sense of satisfaction.
In addition, they taste amazing, reduce sugar-induced acidity in the mouth, and stimulate saliva production.Apples, cucumbers, carrots, grapes, watermelon, and celery are excellent options.
Children need enough calcium on a daily basis. This mineral builds and maintains bone density and teeth. They keep the teeth and bones strong by improving their mineralization and increasing their ability to absorb more mineral.
Dairy products, such as milk and hard cheese, provide calcium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, B1, andB12. When purchasing them, it’s best to stick with plain or low-fat variants.Those who are lactose intolerant can choose non-dairy alternatives like soy or almond milk.
As much as children need calcium-rich dairy products, it’s equally important that they consume lean protein to form and maintain tooth enamel. Lean protein sources are low in fat but high in minerals and amino acids. They limit the amount of acidity that causes enamel loss, thus preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Such foods include meat, fish, poultry, and eggs.
It’s common knowledge that children love to munch on nuts and seeds, which means these snacks are a win-win in the oral care department. They have low sugar content, high fiber,and minerals that strengthen the tooth enamel and limit acidity levels in the mouth. Their healthy fat content helps reduce inflammation. Among the top picks are chia seeds, cashews, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
Some may cringe at the mention of this sweet treat, but dark chocolate, particularly those with at least 70 percent cocoa, is a healthy snack that protects the teeth. It’s full of minerals such as magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, phosphorus, the bromine (an active ingredient), and antioxidants. The latter are natural ingredients that fight free radicals in the mouth and prevent decay-causing bacteria.
The idea that healthy snacks are bland and unsatisfying is as outdated as it is untrue. For the on-the-go parent or family, protein bars are beneficial. Choose ones that are made with natural ingredients; these delicious bars provide an instant boost of energy and nutrients. They pack a punch of flavors, with some being gluten-free and ideal for children with dietary restrictions.
Snacking can’t be all sweet and sour, right? While there are many healthy snack options available,there are also those to stay away from for teeth. This is just a general overview, but here are some worth trashing or consuming moderately:
· Candy, such as chocolate bars, gummy bears, and liquor ice
· Packaged snacks, like cookies, cakes, and pastries
· Potato chips
· High-sugar cereals and granola bars
· Processed meats, such as beef jerky and pepperoni sticks
· Cheese puffs and other cheesy snacks
· Fried foods, such as chicken wings, French fries, and mozzarella sticks
· High-calorie coffee drinks, such as frappuccinos and mochas
· Ice cream and other frozen desserts
· Sugary drinks, including soda, sports drinks,and fruit juices
· Sparkling waters that are high in acid
With all the healthy snacks available, there’s no reason why kids shouldn’t have a strong set of pearly whites. But that’s not all there is to it. Parents have a big role to play in making sure their kids inculcate healthy habits, and here are some pointers:
· Offer a variety of nutritious snacks
· Limit sugary snacks
· Encourage water consumption
· Avoid grazing on snacks throughout the day
· Practice good oral hygiene
· Lead by example
As easy as it is to fall into the sugary trap, parents can keep their children’s dental health in check by simply being mindful of their dietary choices. This entails limiting snacking to avoid mindless consumption, and replacing sweat treats with healthier alternatives, which are easy to make and stock up. Regular dental check-ups are also recommended to detect and treat cavities, gum diseases, or other dental issues at an early stage.