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Oral Health Buzz

Healthy Snacks for Your Little Ones

Stephanie Dubick

Problems with oral health are an unfortunate result of sugar consumption and improper oral care. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the American Dental Association, frequently snacking on foods that contain a large amount of sugar, rather than healthier snacks with less sugar, often leads to tooth decay which is the single-most common disease during childhood.

Tooth decay occurs when the natural bacteria (plaque) in your mouth interact with deposits left by starchy and sugary foods. When these meet, acids are produced, and over time your tooth enamel may weaken and dissolve, allowing cavities to develop. Low-sugar snacks, combined with a healthy toothbrushing regimen, will help eliminate your child's risk of contracting dental diseases and put cavities at bay.

Fight the Effects of Sugar

The tactics of eliminating sugary candy bars and cookies and steering clear of favorites such as white bread still leave a long list of healthy snacks and meal options that are high in fiber and rich in calcium and that will not create a platform for tooth decay. 

Grains

Foods and snacks made with oats, grains and bran, such as multigrain bread, granola, oatmeal, brown rice and air-popped popcorn boast zero artificial colors, zero artificial flavors and zero preservatives and are low in sugar. Many cereals rich in whole grains have 3 to 6 grams of sugar per serving and are packed with vitamins (B and C), minerals and fiber. To find the healthiest, low-sugar bread and granola, look for bread products that say "100% whole grain" or "100% whole wheat." When looking for granola, pick items that are marked "low-fat" and "sugar-free" and that contain protein and fiber. This way, you know you are getting a product that is nutritionally beneficial and gentle on tiny teeth.

Vegetables

Kids and vegetables do not always go together. But when you pair them with rice or pasta or dip them in a tasty dressing, they become more acceptable to little ones. In addition to being a great source of nutrients, raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, bell peppers, grape tomatoes and spinach are naturally low in sugar, unlike canned and packaged vegetables. 

Meats, Beans and Proteins

Always high in protein, the low-carb/no-carb section of the food pyramid — catering to meat, nuts, beans and dairy — is virtually free of all sugars. Food items such as skinless chicken, lean beef, black beans, seafood, low-fat cheese sticks, cheese slices and unsalted nuts and sunflower seeds give your kids the proper amount of protein without all the sugar.

Fruit

From apples to blueberries, the freshness and flavor of fruit is a wonderful part of a balanced diet. That is why fruits that are low in sugar, such as strawberries, dried apples, avocado, cranberries, blackberries and raspberries are perfect treats to help prevent cavities when paired with a proper oral health routine. Sunflower seeds, unsalted nuts and sugar-free chocolate chips are also fun and delectable treats for your kids.

Sticking with a Sugar-Free Plan

Taking the appropriate steps toward preventing tooth decay is an important parental decision. While eliminating sugar altogether is not necessary — we can all use a sweet treat sometimes — cutting back on your child's sugar intake by replacing soda, overly processed snacks and complex carbohydrates with healthy snacks that are low in sugar and high in nutrients is key for instilling smart eating habits in your children.

Learn more about diet and childhood tooth decay in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Flickr

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