Healthy snacks and lunchboxes for our growing kids
There is so much information and promotion about what is considered “healthy” for our kids’ school lunchboxes. How much of this is damaging to your children’s teeth?
We need to ensure our children enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five groups every day as recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines: vegetables, fruits, grains, lean meats, and dairy. Some specific snack options from each of these five groups will be outlined below to provide you with some guidance.
Why it is so important to limit the effects of sugary snacks?
In line with the Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommendation, we too discourage frequent consumption of foods and drinks with high sugar and acid content. It’s very important to be aware of the types of foods and drinks which can be harmful, resulting in tooth decay or dental cavities.
Tooth decay occurs when sugary, starchy foods stick to our teeth. The germs or bacteria that live in dental plaque convert the sugar into acid. These acids then soften and dissolve the tooth. Over a period of time, the damage this causes accumulates leading to tooth cavities or holes to form in the teeth. In severe cases, the bacteria can burrow deeper into the nerve which can cause infection and toothache. This can lead to further dental issues such as early tooth extraction, risk of misaligned teeth and damage to adult teeth compromising their life span.
What are some safe options for our kids’ school lunchboxes?
Dairy products such as cheese cubes, Greek yoghurt, and plain milk are tooth friendly snacks. They help the body to produce more saliva, an essential protective factor for our teeth. Cheese and yoghurt are also high in calcium and protein, which helps strengthen our teeth. Just ensure you are opting for unsweetened or sugar-free yoghurt where you can. A superior option to sweetened yoghurt would be to add a touch of organic honey for taste. If your child is lactose intolerant, alternative options are available including calcium and protein-fortified nut milks such as almond, soy, or oat milk.
Vegetables are a crucial food group for our kids due to the various health benefits providing vitamins and minerals. They help produce saliva to cleanse the mouth and keep the teeth strong and healthy. Chewing raw vegetables and fruits like apples, carrots and celery helps to stimulate saliva flow and can clean teeth by scraping leftover food particles and bacteria away from tooth surfaces.
In terms of the snacks you should avoid, the number one contender would be gummy lollies and the ‘not-so-obvious’ dried fruits such as sultanas. That is, because they have a high sugar content and stick firmly to the teeth getting caught in their grooves. Due to their sticky nature, they can stay on the tooth surfaces for long periods of time and this then exposes the teeth to the sugar and acid we mentioned above. Therefore, it is crucial to keep these treats to a minimum and ensure your child drinks lots of water to help clean out the grooves of the teeth and prevent tooth decay.
When should our kids be snacking?
Preferably we want children to stick to eating no more than three to five times a day. This gives their teeth a rest between meals. It allows saliva and water to flush away and counteract those ‘bad things’ the bacteria produce - acidic attacks that dissolve teeth.
The big take away is to reduce the number of times throughout the day children (& adults) snack on food and drinks. Also, to avoid those sweet, sticky foods that can lead to tooth decay and cavities.
How to easily identify the right snacks for our kids
Great! So now you have an understanding of how tooth decay occurs and the benefits of healthy snack options. There is a lot more information out there, but let’s keep it simple for now.
Here’s our easy to follow “traffic light system” for a quick and easy overview of some tips and ideas.
Green means good, go ahead and enjoy. Some ideas include packing foods like carrot and celery sticks, fresh fruit, cheese (sting cheese is always a fun one for the kids), berries, unsweetened yoghurt, crackers and ham or turkey slices. Washing it down with water is always the best thing.
Amber means have these things in moderation. Dried fruit, muffins, cupcakes, jam and honey. Although relatively healthy, need to be consumed in moderation. Fruit juice without added sugar is also a healthy option to compliment these.
Red means try to avoid or limit as a rare treat for special occasions. Most of us have a sweet tooth and like chocolate, sweet biscuits and cakes. One of the not-so-obvious ‘red-light’ foods to be careful of are sugary breakfast cereals. Limiting the consumption of fizzy drinks and cordials to special occasions is also beneficial to our health.
At Define Dental we work with individuals, parents and families daily to provide advice on creating healthy mouths. We’ve developed this simple to use traffic light system to make choices for safe, healthy eating options for your kids & yourself.
Define Dental is located in Benowa. As the Gold Coast’s premier dental practice providing quality dental care to local residents longer than any other, Define Dental has decades of experience of providing exceptional dental care for the local Benowa community and wider Gold Coast region. Define Dental has a team of dentists, hygienists and oral health therapists, including Do Kim, who are committed to helping you and your family achieve your best oral health. With a focus on education and raising awareness about common dental questions like what foods promote your health we’ll make a full assessment to provide the best advice for your unique situation. Book an appointment today on 5597 2100.