School Snack Ideas for Healthy Smiles
With school having started back up, Fall is quickly approaching. Picking apples, pumpkins, backpacks, new shoes, school supplies, carpel tunnel syndrome from filling out all those school forms and school lunchbox snacks and meals translates to the joys of parenthood!
Packing healthy options for lunchbox snacks and meals can be challenging – especially healthy snacks that do not encourage cavities, follow school dietary restrictions, and on top of that, a snack your child will actually eat. Not too hard, right?
Thankfully, a snack can be healthy and cavity preventing. For a child to develop a cavity, they must first have the cavity causing bacteria present in their mouth and, secondly, feed that bacteria carbohydrates.
Without getting into a mini chemistry lesson, carbohydrates are broken down into sugar. Carbohydrates are found in many foods and used as energy fuel in the body. Heavily refined foods are considered simple carbohydrates. Some examples are crackers, chips, goldfish, bagels, bread, juice boxes, milk and fruit snacks. Simple carbohydrates are less nutritionally beneficial, more processed and generally cause rapid spike in blood glucose levels. Simple carbohydrates in large amounts are associated with weight gain, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and tooth decay. Fruits, vegetables and beans are classified as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates do not rapidly increase blood glucose because the body slowly digests these foods, providing a sustained energy release. These also have added nutritional benefits of vitamins and fiber.
The bacteria that cause tooth decay cannot stock pile sugar. If you limit the simple carbohydrates that your child consumes during the day, you will reduce your child’s risk for decay. Bacteria that cause decay, consume and breakdown simple carbohydrates into lactic acid. Repeated and prolonged exposure of tooth surfaces to acid weakens the enamel of teeth and can eventually cause a cavity. Additionally, the acidic environment encourages more cavity causing strands of bacteria to colonize the mouth. Saliva is protective against cavities by acting as a buffer and neutralizing the acidity of the mouth after eating. It takes 20 – 30 minutes for saliva to bring the mouth back to a neutral pH after eating. If your child has a habit of eating simple carbohydrate snacks frequently, this can lead to literally hours of acid on his/her teeth. Such eating habits can be extremely harmful for his/her teeth.
Minimizing the amount of simple carbohydrates and the frequency that your child eats them will reduce your child’s risk of tooth decay. Encourage your child to drink water throughout the day. Have your child use a fluoridated toothpaste while brushing for two minutes twice a day and make sure he/she flosses everyday. These small things will go a long way in keeping your child's smile healthy.
EXAMPLES OF HEALTHY FOODS FOR YOUR CHILD'S BODY AND TEETH.
(Please follow your school’s policy with any allergen restrictions. These can be life-threatening for children!)
Yogurts with granola topping
These have good cultures for gut and teeth. Choose a yogurt that is low in sugar. I usually purchase Stoneyfield low-fat yogurt or Chobani Flip yogurt. Both are low in sugar and kid-approved.
Veggie slices and dip
Choose a variety of broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes or any of your child’s favorite veggies. All hard vegetables or fruits like an apple or carrot act as a toothbrush during the day and help to mechanically remove plaque or biofilm build up on teeth.
Peanut butter or nut substitute like sun butter with apple slices
The apple will help mechanically remove biofilm from the teeth. The nut spread with fat helps to reduce the amount of insulin released into the blood stream.
String cheeses are fun, or pack your kids’ favorite cheese sliced up for them. Cheese leaves a film on the teeth that is protective and helps to buffer acid attacks on the enamel. So, even if you pack a few crackers, the cheese will help protect the teeth.
My family loves salt and vinegar almonds. Almonds are full of antioxidants, have no simple carbs and help to mechanically clean the teeth.
Hard boiled eggs
When purchasing eggs, check for omega 3’s in them for added nutritional benefits. Most free-range eggs have omega 3’s.
Any raw fruits
Pack an orange, apple, pineapple, watermelon or your child’s favorite fruit salad mix.
Low processed granola bar
Always check the back of the bar – there shouldn’t be a huge list of added ingredients. Make sure a sugar (fructose, corn syrup, etc.) is not one of the leading ingredients.
Hummus and carrots
Hummus is a great source of protein with no simple carbs. Carrots will help mechanically remove biofilm from the teeth.
My kids love seltzer water. It has no sugar or artificial sugars. Anything with carbonation is acidic, so it should not be sipped throughout the day between meals but is fine to have with a snack or lunch.
FOODS TO AVOID FOR TOOTH HEALTH
Simple carbohydrates that are retentive or sticky.
The best way to know if a food is retentive is to check in a mirror after eating. If large portions remain i
n your teeth, the food is probably retentive.
Dried Fruits (like raisins)
Juices, sodas and sugar containing drinks
We hope the school year is off to a great start for you all!