Parents - we know! You're tired and you've got a lot of things to do. You're trying to fold some laundry or pay some bills when your child comes to you in need of a snack.
Many parents are tempted to hand their child an unhealthy snack because it's fast, easy, tastes good, and it makes them happy.
TeethFirst! wants you to know that there are many nutritious snack options that will help keep little tummies fuller for longer and little teeth free of cavities!
Why are sweet treats bad for my child's teeth?
When you give your child a sugary snack like candy, mints, cookies, sodas and juices, you're setting them up to get cavities. The sugar in these foods and drinks sticks to their teeth and stays in their mouth long after snack time is over.
Snack ideas that are good for teeth!
Here’s a list of easy, inexpensive, healthy snacks for your whole family:
Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Apples and pears can be washed, sliced, or eaten whole without peeling or slicing.
- Applesauce: Great for little children and is often sold in single-serving containers. Sprinkle on some cinnamon for an extra treat.
- Blueberries: No cutting required!
- Baby carrots/carrot sticks: Cut in half or quarters for small mouths
- Celery and Carrots: Cut into small pieces.
- Cucumbers: Cut into sticks or thin slices
- Cherry tomatoes: Can be rinsed and eaten whole (just make sure the larger ones are cut into quarters for younger children).
- Grapefruit: Often available in its own juice in single-serving containers. It’s also fun to try to peel a big grapefruit in one big long piece!
- Melon: Cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Oranges: Kids love the easy-to-peel clementines, and regular oranges are great too. Challenge them to get the whole peel off in one big piece!
- Peppers: Slice up red, orange, green, and yellow peppers.
- Hummus (a dip made from chickpeas) is perfect for dipping vegetables or whole grain crackers/chips.
Milk and dairy products
- Low fat milk and yogurt: While these foods are important for your child to have, even unflavored milk still contains sugar. Many kinds of flavored yogurt have a lot of sugar in them too. Be sure to read the labels to make sure you are giving your child the lowest amount of sugar possible. Important Note: Never put your baby to bed with a bottle with milk, even plain milk, as it contains sugar that can cause cavities! Plain water is best in the bottle at night.
- String cheese is a good option, but aged cheeses like Monterey Jack Cheese, Cheddar, or Swiss are even better choices. There is some evidence that these kinds of cheeses can actually help fight cavities!
- Low fat cottage cheese often comes in individual containers
- Baked (not fried) tortilla chips
- Whole grain bread
- Unsweetened cereals
- Unbuttered popcorn
Deli meats, nuts, and seeds
- Chicken, turkey, or other sliced deli meats: Instead of making a sandwich, make roll-ups with lettuce and deli meat. Add a stripe of mustard down the middle, roll it up, and you'll have a fun snack your child will love!
- Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds: These can be mixed into salad and trail mixes, or sprinkled over celery with peanut butter or cream cheese (sometimes called "ants on a log").
- Nuts: Can be sprinkled on salads, put in cereal, or eaten plain for a nutritious option.
Pre-packaged and single-serving foods are convenient, they can be expensive and aren’t the most earth-friendly choice. If you can, take some time at the beginning of the week to slice up fruits and vegetables for your child to snack on and keep them in containers in the fridge.
If you do serve a sugary treat, it’s best just to give one a day as dessert at mealtime instead of many throughout the day. And, of course, always follow up meal times with a good brushing with fluoride toothpaste.
Now you have a great list of easy and healthy snacks for your child. Let’s keep those little tummies from rumbling and keep their teeth healthy all at the same time!