Sugary snacks to avoid for childrenMarch 10, 2020 5:44 am
It’s hugely important to watch what kids eat. Less sugar means better health all round – and not just for teeth. Here’s some tips on how to minimise sugar and maximise dental health for your children – easily!
- Why is sugar bad?
Sugar is bad for dental health because it can start the process of tooth decay. When you eat, you’re feeding not just yourself but also the bacteria that lives in your mouth. The ‘bad’ bacteria absolutely love sugar – the more sweet stuff you eat, they more they eat too. When bacteria feed they produce acid. This acid then attacks tooth enamel – the hard, protective outer coating of your teeth. Over time, this repeated action can create holes. These are cavities and need to be filled by a professional dentist. If left untreated, they can cause serious damage to teeth – and pain to you.
- But surely it doesn’t matter for kids?
The same rules apply for baby teeth. Too much sugar causes decay – and that means pain, problems and even tooth loss. If baby teeth are lost too early, it can affect the growth of adult teeth. This can mean that expensive and time-consuming corrective orthodontic work is required later on. All in all, it’s better for everyone if parents can invest a little time into dental and diet work early on!
- So what do I do now?
The best thing you can do is watch what your children are eating. To keep it simple, make sure they are eating as little sugar as possible. That means looking out for ingredients labels on all the products you eat. You’d be surprised how many processed foods contain sugar as an added ingredient – it’s not just the usual candy and chocolate treats. Many breakfast cereals and cereal bars for example contain as much sugar as a bar of chocolate! Nowadays most supermarkets have good alternatives to sugary products – instead of peanut butter spread for example, look for whole nut butters. Skip the jelly or jam and add to a lunchbox with a sliced apple for a natural, sweet tastiness.
Water is also the best drink of choice – or failing that, milk. Avoid cordials as these can contain lots of sugar. And, don’t give children fizzy drinks. Even sugar-free ones cause tooth damage because of the acids they contain – citric, malic and phosphoric to name a few – which attack teeth directly.
- Meals and snacks
For breakfast, porridge oats are a fantastic start to the day, without the high sugar content. For snacks, try vegetable sticks like cucumber, peppers and carrots. Pack lunchboxes with a fun array of colours and your kids won’t even realise they’re healthy. To vary it up, try adding sweet cherry tomatoes or grapes. The rule is – the more natural and colourful, the better!
- Other sugars to avoid
As well as processed sugars in treats like chocolate and biscuits, natural sugars exist in all kinds of unexpected places – fruit being the main culprit. There’s no need to stop your kids eating fruit, but make sure it’s of the whole variety and not juices. Fruit juices act as an instant hit of pure sugar to bacteria in the mouth, which has a detrimental effect on tooth enamel. And, keep fruit to mealtimes, not as a snack.
- Added ingredients
It’s also important to watch out for funny-sounding ingredients on food and drinks labels. Corn syrup and fructose syrup are two common culprits when it comes to disguising sugar, as are corn sweetener, lactose (from milk) and maltose (from grain). Nutrition labels can be confusing, with ‘portion’ sizes varying wildly. If you’re not sure, look at the ingredients and check the first four or five. If one of them is sugar – it’s not a good sign! Stick to unprocessed foods wherever possible.
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