How to Switch From Sugar to Healthy Snacks
When parents teach their children to brush and floss on a regular basis, those kids are on their way to healthy teeth. Summer is the perfect time to teach them another habit – healthy snacking. With all the fresh fruit and vegetables available, children learn to substitute healthy snacks for candy and other sugary options.
Most people know that sugar causes decay. But what is often not understood is that many other foods – almost all processed foods and many “health foods” – also cause decay. Rice, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and bread all contain sugar or carbs that can start the process. How should parents, wanting to improve their children’s dental care, plan healthy meals and snacks for their kids?
1. Avoid Sticky, Sugary Food
Foods that are hard to remove – that cling to your teeth when you chew – are the most harmful. The most obvious is candy, but raisins, granola bars, or fruit roll-ups also fall into this category. Unfortunately, these are popular snacks for children. The sooner you clean your teeth, the less likely you are to develop cavities. Most kids don’t brush or floss every time they eat, so the best strategy is to find healthy alternatives.
2. Let Children Prepare Healthy Snacks
Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are all healthy alternatives to the popular processed snacks that are available in all food markets. Many parents find that their children are encouraged to prefer processed snacks by highly engaging commercials produced for marketing. It can be a challenge to convince them to go for the healthy options. Here are some ways to take advantage of summer’s bounty and make fruits and vegetable snacks more attractive:
- Give the kids specific options and let them choose. They can plan snack menus for their activities with friends.
- Introduce them to fruits and vegetables during your shopping trips. Make a game of recognizing the different kinds.
- Make the snack plate a display. See how many different colors they can include.
- Cut and peel the individual fruits to make them easier to eat. Older children can learn to use knives safely in preparing fruits and vegetables. Orange smiles win over a whole orange any day!
- Some vegetables are sweeter than others – red peppers, for example – and more desirable for children.
3. Limit – not prohibit – candy and other sugary snacks.
Sugar in and of itself isn’t bad. Everything you eat has sugar in it, and you need sugar for your body to work properly. We use desserts and sugar snacks for celebrations. Your children don’t have to forgo birthday cakes, holiday treats or ice cream cones. Let them have the occasional sweet treat. Just make sure that they brush soon after eating.
Remember, healthy teeth make a healthy smile!
Dr. Nishan Halim
Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in adult and pediatric restorative and cosmetic dentistry, as well as preventive dentistry, which is at the heart of this Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. To learn more tips on how to plan a diet for healthy teeth, contact Dr. Halim to schedule an appointment. Find out how he can help you maintain your healthy smile.