Everything your kids eat can impact the health of their smiles, even down to those quick snacks we choose to give them in a pinch. The good news is there are some snacks out there that can actually help their teeth and prevent future decay or cavities. According to the ADA, there is a correlation between the foods we eat and overall mouth health. While some foods are better than others, making good choices to help maintain healthy teeth will be easy with the incorporation of these tasty treats.
Cheese, yogurt, and milk are just a few of the many dairy-based snack options that are actually very good for mouth health. Cheese and milk are rich in calcium, which helps lower the acidity in your mouth, warding away unwanted plaque. This can also help prevent the erosion of tooth enamel. Casein, the main protein in milk and cheese, has also been found to help stabilize and repair tooth enamel. Also, yogurt contains vital probiotics that have been shown to help reduce plaque and promote healthy gums. Be sure to choose dairy products like yogurt and milk that are not packed with sugar, as it can be detrimental to mouth health. A healthy option is to whip up some delicious smoothies that include your kid’s favorite plain yogurt, kefir, or milk with chopped fruits and possibly sneaking in some leafy greens in there too. This is a great option as a replacement for flavored milk that is very high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
Leafy greens like kale and spinach along with other options like broccoli, peppers, carrots, and celery are the main vegetables that promote good oral health. Not only are these veggies full of vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health, they are also high in calcium, which helps build up tooth enamel. Additionally, they contain folic acid, a B vitamin that can help treat gum disease. Veggies and high-fiber foods like beans are great for good digestion and help your teeth because of the abundant chewing necessary to break them down. Chewing through a couple florets of broccoli or handful of beans helps push saliva around your teeth, helping scrub them down. While it may be hard to convince children to enjoy raw vegetables, starting them young on these foods is the key. It also helps to finely chop raw veggies and add them to other foods like mashed sweet potatoes, which are also high in fiber.
Next time you think about grabbing granola as a snack, think about throwing in some nuts! They are full of important calcium and phosphorus which help battle bacteria and tooth decay. They also pack a good amount of protein without any added sugars. The best nuts to incorporate are Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts, and walnuts. They all contain fiber, folic acid, vitamin D, and other vitamins that help promote good mouth health. Provided that your child does not have a nut allergy, there are great ways to incorporate nuts into their diet. Use a food processor to chop nuts to use as toppings for frozen yogurt or to fruit salads. Trail mix is also a great and portable snack for your child if you are out on the road, which is a great snack for the whole family to share.
Although the ADA advises to stay away from sweet foods for optimal mouth health, some fruits are the exception. However, it’s important to distinguish which fruits are preferable when it comes to feeding your children. Apples are sweet but are packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber as well as tons of water. The action of eating these fruits produces saliva in the mouth which helps rinse away bacteria while the texture of apple flesh can also stimulate the gums. Strawberries are also great because they contain malic acid, which is a natural enamel whitener. Fresh cranberries contain polyphenols that can help battle plaque, lowering the risk of cavities. While citrus is generally not good for tooth enamel, oranges contain the least amount and contain to best health benefits to boot. Pears are excellent at neutralizing mouth acidity and kiwis have a ton of vitamin C. All of these fruits together can create a delicious fruit salad with a yogurt drizzle topping that kids will love. After all, fruit is nature’s candy!
Whole grains such as bran, whole-grain pastas and cereals, and brown rice contain a great amount of B vitamins and iron which are vital for healthy gums. They also contain magnesium that helps bone health, impacting the condition of teeth long-term. Whole grains also contain fiber which has many benefits, especially for children with new adult teeth. Whole grain foods also contain a fair amount of calcium, vitamin C and essential minerals such as iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Making sure your child’s iron levels are optimal is important for transporting oxygen through the body to prevent anemia, helping keep bones strong. Don’t forget all of the zinc, copper and manganese these foods also have to offer. Start transitioning your child’s meals from white bread, pasta and rice slowly by incorporating blends at first. There are a large amount of delicious whole grain options on the market today that taste absolutely nothing like cardboard and are nutritious as can be.
While you are making efforts to ensure you’re feeding your children healthy foods that are also good for their teeth, it’s also important to avoid the foods that can harm their teeth as well. We have to look beyond common culprits like candy and chocolate to ensure that we are setting our children up to succeed and have proper tooth and gum health. Along with brushing, flossing, and oral care, these healthy and tasty foods we’ve listed can help promote a positive and healthy lifestyle, as well as a beautiful smile.