After a busy day at school, most kids are ready for snack time. Healthy after-school snacks are essential not just for overall growth and development but also for oral health. It is important to help children learn good snacking habits early to keep teeth and gums in good condition.
How Can Food Damage Teeth and Gums?
The main offender is sugar. Bacteria living in our mouths feed on sugar and produce acid that can dissolve tooth enamel. Eventually, this leads to tooth decay. Acids in carbonated beverages like soda are also harmful. Sticky treats like candy and gummies can stay on teeth for a long time and should be avoided. It is difficult to completely cut out sugary goodies, so save them for special occasions. Remember to brush after indulging in these sweet treats!
Foods that Benefit Oral Health
Give your kids foods that provide vitamins and minerals for healthy teeth and gums. Leafy, dark green vegetables like spinach and kale have vitamin B2, vitamin A, and magnesium, which all benefit teeth and gums. Vitamin C is needed to help prevent the loss of collagen in gums. Look for this nutrient in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt have a double impact on oral health. They provide calcium as well as neutralize the acid in the mouth, reducing the effects on tooth enamel from acidic foods.
Some foods provide vitamins and a little muscle power to “scrub” teeth and “massage” gums. Apples, strawberries, carrots, and celery have a texture that is beneficial in cleaning teeth. Also, these crunchy foods can aid in saliva production, which is needed to keep enamel healthy.
Choosing Healthy After-School Snacks
The best way to get kids on board is to involve them. Take them shopping in the produce section for their favorite fruits and veggies. Let them pick fun treats that pack a nutritious punch.
Keep these healthy choices simple and fun. Have a hummus buffet made up of tubs of different flavors of this healthy dip with the kids’ choices of veggies. Pair different textures: cheese cubes with nuts and berries. For a protein boost before sports, try reduced sugar cereal with low-fat milk or lunch meat and cheese pinwheels. Crunchy apple slices with low-sugar peanut butter will satisfy hunger before homework.
Make sure you always keep healthy alternatives on hand to take away the temptation to make sugary choices. Stock the refrigerator with sugar-free yogurt for an on-the-go snack that packs some calcium. Keep cut-up fruit like strawberries, cantaloupe, and orange slices within easy reach, and let nuts and veggie chips be pantry staples.
Remember that making healthy snack choices is just one part of good oral health for your kids. Encourage good brushing and flossing habits, and schedule regular dental check-ups. Mountain View Dental, located in Pleasant View, Utah, has a comfortable and professional office ready to meet your kids’ dental needs. If you have questions about dental health or would like to make an appointment, call 385-324-3557.