Your child needs a nutritious diet to grow up big and strong, but good nutrition for kids also plays a big role in the health of their mouth. Without the right vitamins and minerals, teeth can't develop properly, increasing one's risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Getting your son or daughter to eat a healthy, nutritious diet might be challenging, but the benefits of doing so are worth the effort in the long run.
Vegetables and fruit are among the best foods your kids can eat. The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) MyPlate program recommends that kids fill half of their plates at each meal with vegetables and fruit. The former is particularly helpful for your child's teeth, as they tend to be low in sugar, high in water and rich in vitamins such as vitamin C, as deficiency in vitamin C may trigger bleeding gums.
Of course, the issue might be getting your child to actually eat their vegetables. But keep in mind that convenience plays a big part in the quality of a diet. To boost your child's veggie intake, make them readily available and easy to eat: instead of giving them starchy chips or pretzels after school, serve crunchy baby carrots and pre-cut celery sticks with dip. Dip will make the vegetables more appealing and offering them pre-cut will make them easier to give out.
Get your child invested in vegetables at family meals, as well. Instead of pushing a side dish they dislike, let them pick one they enjoy. If there's a veggie option on their list of favorite foods, your child is more likely to want to eat it at dinner. This sets a precedent for their willingness to try more vegetables in the future.
Spot the Sugar
What's the predominant cause of tooth decay in adults and kids? If you said sugar, you'd be right, according to a 2014 study published in BMC Public Health. Sugar not only leads to tooth decay; it's also ubiquitous in the food industry. With that in mind, the easiest way to reduce your kids' sugar intake is to limit the obvious offenders. Make sweets, chocolates and baked goods occasional treats instead of everyday desserts or snacks. Keep an eye out for surprise sugars, too. Read the nutrition labels of the products you buy regularly to see how much sugar they contain. When possible, choose the one with the least amount of sugar. Foods that may contain hidden sugars include pasta sauce, some brands of milk and even salad dressings.
Go for Calcium
When you think of good nutrition for kids, calcium most likely comes to mind. Calcium not only contributes to bone strength, explains Nemours, but it also plays a part in making sure your child's nerves and muscles function correctly. Plus, it can remineralise the enamel on their teeth at a significantly higher level, according to the research in the International journal of Advanced Biological and Biomedical Research.
Although low-fat dairy products such as plain milk, cheese and yoghurt are great sources of calcium, they aren't the only way for your child to get a decent amount of the mineral in their diet. Broccoli and leafy green vegetables tend to be great sources of it, too. If your kid avoids dairy for whatever reason, they can get the needed calcium from soy milk, orange juice or other foods that are commonly fortified with this mineral.
Watch the Snacks
Snacks can be an issue when it comes to your kids' oral health for a few reasons. For one thing, the snacks that tend to be a hit with kids (think sweets, potato chips and cheese puffs) also tend to be high in sugar or simple carbohydrates. In addition, a child is less likely to brush after snacking than after a meal.
Although you don't have to say "no" to snacks completely, offer healthier options more often, such as carrots or apple slices. You can also encourage your child to brush after snacking by letting them pick out a fun toothbrush and toothpaste. Putting the focus on the ways healthy eating and good oral care can be fun will help your kid establish good habits for life.
Learn more about smart snacking in the Colgate Oral Care resources.