Every parent knows that chocolates, lollies, and fizzy drinks are bad for their child’s teeth! The sugar in these foods and drinks is harmful and causes dental decay, a disease that too many Aussie kids suffer and one that is often preventable. Tooth decay is associated with how frequently we snack and how long our teeth are exposed to sugary food at any one time. Every time we eat our teeth are exposed to the sugars in food. The bacteria in our mouth (plaque) use these sugars to make acid. The acid dissolves minerals in the tooth surface and if this occurs for too long, over many occasions, ‘holes’ develop – this is known as tooth decay. In its early stages, tooth decay can be stopped.
Limiting the sugars in the diet and thorough brushing with fluoridated toothpaste accessing the area of early decay, this can prevent the decay from continuing on to eventually form a ‘hole.’ Daily brushing and flossing will help to clean the bacteria from the teeth and reduce the chance of decay. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever give your child any sugary foods or drinks. Rather, when choosing snacks, be aware of how much sugar is in them, but also reduce the number of times they eat these foods and make sure they are eaten in an appropriate time frame, not snacked on over long periods of time. Sugary foods should be a treat, not a normal part of the diet.
Snacks are meals in between main meals. As recommended by Nutrition Australia; avoid predisposing your child to developing a preference for foods that are unhealthy, it is important that snack foods you provide are healthy and low in sugar.
- Fresh is best. Packaged foods are generally higher in added sugar than their fresh alternatives
- Always read the label – if sugar is listed in the top three ingredients it’s usually not a good sign
- Searching online is a great way to find healthy snack ideas for you and the kids
- Avoid snack foods that are sticky, gummy, chewy or sweet
- Provide up to two servings of fruit per day, as per recommendations by Nutrition Australia
- Give your kids tap water with every meal to help wash away lingering food
- Veggies, cheeses and yoghurts are great and tasty options
Finally, it’s important to teach your child good habits and lead by example. Everything you have just read applies to you too!