Healthy Tooth-Friendly Back-to-School Snack Ideas
From violin lessons to soccer practice — and schoolwork in between — it’s important for your kids’ snacks to keep them energized and focused.
But sometimes healthy snacks aren’t so healthy for teeth.
Choosing snacks that are good for your child’s teeth can help prevent cavities and protect braces, which means fewer dental issues — and lower dental care bills.
Here’s a round-up of some popular snacks that can harm your child’s teeth, and some healthy snack alternatives.
Tooth-Friendly Snack: Yogurt
Substitute for: gelatin or pudding
Plain yogurt without added sugar is great for your child’s teeth: This wonder-snack is packed with probiotics that can help heal mouth sores, get rid of bad bacteria in your child’s mouth, and promote healthy gums.
Yogurt is also great for kids with braces, as it’s gentle on the teeth, won’t get stuck in hard-to-reach places and hardly requires chewing.
Fun tip: Freeze sugar-free yogurt in a popsicle mold for a healthy alternative to sugary popsicles in the summer months.
Tooth-Friendly Snack: Whole Grain Pita Chips and Hummus
Substitute for: popcorn
Movie night isn’t complete without popcorn, but the buttery treat can wreak havoc on your child’s teeth.
Kernels and popcorn pieces can easily get lodged between teeth and lead to tooth decay. And once you get to the bottom of the bag, accidentally crunching down on an un-popped kernel can chip or crack your child’s tooth.
Popcorn is especially hard on your child’s teeth if they have braces, as the kernels are difficult to remove from between the braces. Here are some tips on how to floss with braces.
If your kids aren’t sold on the idea of crunchy cucumber slices as an alternative to a salty snack like popcorn, try whole grain pita chips with sea salt and hummus, guacamole or a yogurt-based ranch dip.
These healthier options aren’t just better for teeth — they’re typically more healthful alternatives overall.
Tooth-Friendly Snack: Cheese
Substitute for: potato chips
Potato chips are starchy and can easily get stuck between your child’s teeth, which feeds acid-producing bacteria. These acidic bacteria can lead to tooth decay and cavities.
But believe it or not, cheese is great for your child’s teeth. Like yogurt, cheese helps cut down on the growth of plaque. Cheese also contains calcium, which is absorbed by your child’s tooth enamel and creates stronger teeth that can fight bacteria growth.
If that isn’t enough proof of cheese’s benefits, the amount of chewing involved in eating cheese also means the mouth produces more saliva, which helps lower plaque build-up.
Tooth-Friendly Snack: Fresh Apples and Pears
Substitute for: dried fruit and fruit snacks
Although both fresh and dried fruit contain sugar, the chewy, tacky consistency of dried fruit can stick to nooks and crannies. This concentrated sugar can invite bacteria and cavities to take over.
The same goes for sticky, chewy fruit snacks, which are also usually packed with extra sugar — even worse for your child’s teeth than dried fruit.
Avoid citrus fruits like oranges too, as the high acid content can erode tooth enamel.
Fruit like fresh apples and pears, on the other hand, have a high water content which helps dilute the fruit’s sugars.
The crunchy, fibrous meat of the fruit also encourages saliva production, which protects against cavities by washing away food particles and acid build-up from the sugar.
Fruit-Friendly Snack: Flavored Water
Substitute for: fruit juice
Fruit juice may seem like a healthy option for your kids at first blush, but it has more concentrated sugar than eating fresh fruit. In fact, pediatricians advise against giving fruit juice to children under a year old.
Fresh fruit fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar by the body, which means your child will eat less before feeling full — and there will be less sugar eating away at their teeth.
Water is ideal, but when was the last time your kids were excited about a glass of water?
Naturally flavored, sugar-free water (carbonated if your kids like that!) is a more kid-friendly alternative to fruit juice than plain water. But some flavored waters still contain quite a bit of sugar and calories, so look for one that only has water and natural ingredients on the label.
If you have a young athlete, they’ve probably turned to sports drinks for hydration and electrolytes. While they may give an energy boost, sports drinks aren’t always great for your kids’ teeth.
Fun tip: Make your own spritzers by adding fresh raspberries, blueberries or apples to carbonated water. It can be a fun way to experiment together! Beware of too many raspberries or blueberries, though, as these colorful fruits can stain teeth!