“I’m hungry or “Can I have a snack?” These words (or some combination of them) fill every parent with dread almost every time they are heard! The reality is, let’s face it, that with children of just about any age, these words are heard often! Along with the dreaded “what’s for dinner?” these three questions (and coming up with an answer that pleases everyone) compromise about 90% of parenting! Finding snacks that are good for you and good for teeth, that fill up hungry bellies and that make both kids and parents happy is a real challenge and whether the kids go back to school in September or (yikes) continue with online learning from home, chances are you’ll be hearing a lot of requests for snacks. Today, the team at Brinkley Dental hopes to help with this list of dental friendly snacks for school aged children.
- Popular “go to” snacks for many families have long included the granola bar. So many varieties exist, at an affordable price point and in a flavour combination that is bound to appeal to even the pickiest eater (with an added bonus of being pre-packaged) it’s no wonder they have become so reliable as a snack product. But are they the best? Are they good for teeth? Unfortunately the answer is often NO. Commercial granola bars are sticky, chewy, often have more sugar than necessary and can easily get lodged in the cracks, groves and spaces between teeth. This in turn can lead to a build up of plaque and possibly, to tooth decay. Homemade granola bars, made with less refined sugars and more natural ingredients (and in a perfect world if you can brush your teeth after eating one) are the better alternative. As a bonus you can get your children involved by asking them to choose their favourite ingredients and create their own “Dream” combination of tasty granola flavours.
- Popcorn, fish crackers or other “crackers” can be a healthy alternative if not slathered in butter or consumed in large amounts. Popcorn can be risky however, if small pieces get lodged between teeth – with the same results as in the granola example. Fish and other type crackers are ok in moderation but beware again that these are refined carbs that can break down in to sugars as well – building up as acids on teeth. Homemade trail mix is a better alternative. Avoid including dried fruits and instead use pre-shelled nuts and seeds (if home-schooling) and add in just a small amount of fishy crackers or a few pretzels. If you’d like to “up your game” a little bit – add a morsel or two of dark chocolate as on the whole it is better for you. Tossing in some dried cereal also provides variety and a bit of nutrition – if you stick to cereals that aren’t made with a ton of sugar!
- Fruit Cups or Yogurt. At first glance these seem like great options for the lunchbox but again you have to be careful. Store bought fruit cups (and let’s not forget applesauce) often contains lots of sugar. Take the time to find sugar free options or fruit cups packed only in their own syrup. Yogurt marketed to children also often contains large amounts of sugar and you might be better off to purchase “regular” or “adult” yogurt in its place. If the size is too large, invest in smaller containers and divide one “adult” yogurt in to two child-sized servings.
- Crackers and cheese, veggies and dip, hummus, homemade muffins made using natural ingredients – even a hard-boiled (and peeled) egg, many, but not all fruits (hey they come in their own packaging!) and water are all generally ok for teeth. A banana with its natural sugars is not quite as good as an apple which almost acts like a tooth brush (as do both carrots and celery) but it is still a better alternative than a store bought “fruit” roll – up. Ugh, those things just make us shudder.
- Finally, milk or a piece of hard cheese can help to restore PH balance to the teeth after any type of snack.
We have fought the snack battle on our own home front for years. We know how challenging it can be! One of the best “tricks” we parents can employ is getting the kids involved in the decision making process. Involve them in meal planning and snack planning right from the start and chances are you’ll get more buy in than when they feel they have no choices in what they eat each day. With this year already looking so different for children, getting them involved in snacks and meals may be a way of reintroducing an element of control over their environment. In fact, we know of some families who create a snack basket with their children each week – stocking it with agreed upon items the child can grab at anytime without even having to ask their parent or care-giver. You may want to consider giving this method a try. A little bit of planning can go a long way. Your kid’s teeth (and your Dentist) will thank you! We’ll leave you as we always do with this friendly reminder, in the meantime ”don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”