By Dr. Kimberly Dyoco:
Prying the junk food from your child’s small hands is hard, but it’ll be a lot easier if you can swap it with something nutritious and delicious. Here are a few great alternatives to your child’s favorite, but damaging, foods.
- Not That: Citrus Fruits
You wouldn’t consider them culprits because they come from nature, but fruits like lemons, grapefruit and limes are all highly acidic and quickly wear down enamel. This is especially true if one of your child’s favorite “healthy” treats is orange slices or lemonade. The safest citrus product out there is orange juice; companies specifically add vitamins and a little fluoride to counteract the acidic effects.
This: Non-acidic fruit
Truly, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. So will bananas, berries, plums and watermelon. No fruit is completely free of acid, but these items rank lower on the charts. Crisp fruits are also great for clearing plaque off teeth and freshening breath. For added flavor and nutrition, try spreading peanut butter on an apple or a banana.
- Not That: Sour Candies
There’s no candy out there that’s great for your kid’s teeth. But sour candy in particular should be avoided more than the others. It’s the trifecta of bad tooth food. It’s the most sticky, acidic and sugary sweet out there. On the other hand, candy like chocolate is a little bit better because, even though it’s packed with sugar, it doesn’t usually stick to teeth and doesn’t have acidic qualities.
This: Dried Fruit
It’s not perfect, but it’ll sate your child’s sugar rush in a healthier way. Raisins or other dried fruit are lower in sugar content and won’t get stuck to their teeth quite as much as gummy candies. If your child thinks it’s too bland, you can try trail mixes that contain nuts and seeds.
- Not That: Potato Chips
Ever notice when you’re sinking your teeth into a bag of chips that they start out crunchy but then become almost gummy, gruel-like in texture? Chips of any sort — especially the potato variety — are high in carbohydrates, and can turn into sugars almost immediately upon consumption and linger in your mouth. That’s the effect of only one chip: surely, your child goes through many more than that during snack time.
They give the crunch your child craves, but with more nutrition packed inside. They’re a well-known source of protein, but did you know they contain a fair amount of calcium as well? Brazil nuts and almonds in particular are great for strengthening your child’s teeth, and don’t leave behind as much residue as peanuts or cashews. Nuts are great as a snack or cooked into meals.
- Not That: Soda
Both diet and regular sodas are huge culprits of tooth decay. Of course the high levels of sugar are a contributing factor, but did you know they contain high levels of phosphoric acid? This is used to add flavor, but it wears down enamel quickly and swipes the calcium protecting teeth. And don’t forget that energy and sports drinks are just as damaging as soda.
This: Carbonated Water
Contrary to popular myth, carbonation has no effect on the teeth. Carbonated water is a great alternative to soda, and you can even add a few fresh berries or crushed herbs to the drink for a new flavor your child will love. There are now many affordable home carbonation machines on the market, so making your own healthy soda replacement is a cinch.
When your kid does eat bad foods, it’s better s/he eats them along with meals. This allows extra saliva in the mouth to pick up anything left behind. For example, crackers alone are high in bad carbs and acid, but when combined with something healthy like cheese, the cracker’s remains will be broken up along with the nutritious supplement.
With some of these great alternatives, making healthy choices will no longer be an uphill battle.
Dr. Kimberly Dyoco practices cosmetic and general dentistry at the Chicago practice she founded, One Mag Smile. Whenever possible, she likes to help inform and educate patients and parents of patients on easy ways to improve their oral health. For more info, check out www.1Magsmile.com.