Nutrition and Teeth
Children of all ages love to snack, and snacking can be beneficial to them as long as they eat the right foods. Sugar, especially, is the biggest culprit in turning snack time into a bad time for teeth.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that people age 3 and older should consume no more than 12.5 tsp. each day of added sugar. (The same as one can of soda.)
Labels normally list sugar in grams. Since 1 tsp. of sugar equals 4 grams, limit your child’s sugary foods and drinks to under 50 grams a day, approximately.
Because juice is high in sugar and calories, formula, water and milk should be the only drinks given to children under age one, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Older children can occasionally drink juice, but if they do, please note:
- Children ages 1-6 should have no more than 4-6 oz. of juice each day, according to pediatric guidelines. Children ages 7 to 18 should drink no more than 8-12 oz.
- Many juice boxes are about 6 oz., so younger children should have no more than one per day, and older children no more than two per day.
- Allowing children to sip on juice throughout the day through a bottle or sippy cup puts them at higher risk for tooth decay because it gives cavity-causing bacteria more time to do harm.
Any type of sugary, carbonated beverage is bad for teeth! Mouthhealthy.org found a strong association between sugary drinks and poor dental health. Avoid giving children soda, even the sugar-free kind.
Beware the gummy or sticky snack! Fruit roll-ups, fruit gummies and dried fruits such as raisins are actually more like candy than fruit! Sugar content and the way these gummy and sticky snacks stay on the teeth make them a horrible snack choice. Add gum and caramel/toffee as offenders, too!
The crunch or the shape of an animal cracker makes kids love snacks such as crackers and chips. Unfortunately, the carbohydrates in these foods break down into sugar and also tend to get stuck in the teeth for long periods.
So what’s a parent to do?
We understand how hard it is to limit children’s snack types, especially when their friends, relatives and even school may provide unhealthy snacks. Our best advice is to do YOUR best:
- Start healthy snack time at a young age – fruit, vegetables, cheese, fruit/veg smoothies, almond or peanut butter, whole grain breads, and yogurt are all good choices. Think of fun ways to serve them.
- Set an example: Eat the way you want your child to eat.
- Keep temptation at bay: Don’t buy offending foods to begin with. Stock the fridge and cupboards with easy-to-grab healthy foods and beverages.
- Limit fast foods: It’s tempting to pick up lunch or dinner from a fast food restaurant, but don’t make it a habit!
- Allow an occasional indulgence: No one is perfect and everyone deserves a treat now and then. It’s when sugar and other offenders become a habit that dental concerns crop up.