Growing kids love to snack, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as snacking is done in moderation with relatively healthy foods.
Since we are concerned about the health of teeth here at See Me Smile Dental & Orthodontics in Santa Barbara, we want to make sure that your kids are eating the healthiest snacks possible, whether at school or after school.
Gone are the days when a parent would pass out Twinkies or Ho Hos and think nothing of it. While we sympathize with the desire to have a sugary treat once in a while, far too often, parents in the past have indulged their children with excess sugar and calories that aren’t needed.
As wonderful as sugary sweets and snack cakes can taste, they are simply bad for your child on many levels. Forget about the potential for weight gain. We know that sugar can cause cavities and tooth decay. Sugar can also cause gum inflammation, which is a precursor to full blown gum disease.
Worse, today's sugary treats are often filled with quote-unquote “fake” sugar, that is, high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is like the sugar of sugars. It has what is called a high glycemic index, meaning it is quickly assimilated and transforms into blood sugar super fast. This type of sweetener impacts the body much more quickly than sugars with a low glycemic index.
If your body can assimilate a sugar quickly, then chances are, the bacteria in your mouth will be assimilating it quickly as well. And that’s what we want to prevent: the bacteria in the mouth from being fed by sugars and growing. The more bacteria, the more chances for cavities and gum inflammation.
Thus, high fructose corn syrup is definitely a no-no. Unfortunately, many of the after school snacks that we had growing up, which were often made with real sugar, are now made with high fructose corn syrup – perhaps making the food even sweeter than it used to be.
This means you can take the already negative impact of regular sugar and perhaps double it if high fructose corn syrup is used instead. (Note: This is not a statement of mathematical, scientific fact of a literal double impact, but a metaphor.)
High glycemic foods act on the body similarly to how high fructose corn syrup works. They input a lot of sugar energy into the system almost effortlessly and fast. The body has to struggle to assimilate all the sugar.
But the bacteria in your mouth? They love all this sugar, and will grow big and strong on it, while the sugar weakens your child.
Unfortunately, many of the favorite foods of children are high glycemic foods. This includes candy, snack cakes, cookies, white bread, crackers, bagels, donuts, potato chips, pancakes, waffles, and also a lot of breakfast cereals.
When you give these foods to your child for breakfast or an after school snack, you are basically feeding the bacteria in your child’s mouth, not your child. This is because these types of sugary or high carb snacks do not have a lot of nutrition in them. They just deliver sugar. So, your child is simply getting unneeded sugar and not the nutrients that they should be getting – and would be getting in foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Try to aim for snacks with less sugar or sugars and carbs with a lower glycemic index. Instead of getting standard chocolate chip cookies or Oreos, look for healthier cookies mixed with whole grains and super nutrients like chia seeds, goji berries, and flaxseeds. Many of these healthier cookies still taste really good.
Be aware that fruits do contain sugar, and kids should still brush their teeth after eating them. However, fruits are still better than candies, and many kids love more natural treats like date rolls covered in almonds.
Old healthy snack standbys are still a good option for kids, like “ants on a log” – celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins – or just celery with peanut butter. If your kid is allergic to peanuts, try almond butter instead. Opt for unsweetened nut butters without added sugar. Once your kids get used to sugar-free peanut butter or almond butter, they won’t notice the difference.
Many healthy chocolatey treats can also be made with raw cacao and almond butter. For example, one recipe for almond butter cacao cups provides a delicious alternative to Reese’s peanut butter cups without all the sugar.
See Me Smile Dental & Orthodontics is a family dental office in Santa Barbara, California. We love helping kids of all ages have strong, healthy teeth and beautiful smiles. Our dental team loves working with children, and we go out of our way to make them feel comfortable at our Santa Barbara dental office.
One of the best ways to keep your children’s teeth intact and free from cavities is through regular dental hygiene as well as routine dental checkups and cleanings. See Me Smile Dental & Orthodontics can help with our friendly, professional service and qualified dentists and dental hygienists.
See Me Smile Dental & Orthodontics, located in the heart of Santa Barbara, is dedicated to improving the oral health of your entire family. Contact us today at (805) 284-0826 to schedule a routine teeth cleaning for your child.
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