Diet is the number one factor that leads to the development of cavities in children. Therefore, knowing a couple important snack time tips can help avoid toothaches and extra trips to the dentist. As parents, we are taught to help our kids brush their teeth twice daily and avoid sugary foods (like juice and candy). But, did you know that crackers can cause cavities too?
That’s right, crackers! The bacteria that cause cavities need foods high in carbohydrates to survive and the longer these foods stay in the mouth, the higher chance that these bacteria will stick around and cause tooth decay. Foods like crackers, dry cereal, and pretzels are very sticky and breakdown from complex carbohydrates to simple sugars that cavity-causing bacteria love. While crackers, dry cereal, and pretzels may be healthier snack choices compared to other options, they are unfortunately not healthy for teeth.
Here’s a simple rule I follow: If I, as a parent, have to dig the food out of my teeth after eating it (with either my tongue or fingernail), I do not give it to my kids for a snack. They will not dig it out of the grooves in their teeth and it will just sit there dissolving into sugar for cavity-causing bacteria to eat.
Unfortunately, this does eliminate a lot of very convenient snacks, but it does help add some other great foods into your child’s diet. Here are some favorite (and still convenient) snack choices*:
· Veggies with hummus
· Cheese slices
· Fresh fruit
· Wholegrain bread or toast
· Bagel with cream cheese
· Cheese quesadilla
· Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.)
· Leftovers – make snack-time a mini meal
Take a sip of water after every meal or snack.
Avoid grazing on any food or beverages besides water between meals and snack-times.
* Remember to choose age-appropriate snacks. Whole grapes and nuts are common choking hazards for children under 3 years old. Be sure to slice grapes lengthwise or in quarters. Veggies should be cooked for younger children and sliced. Follow your pediatrician’s recommendations for the size and consistency of foods that your child can eat as well as number of recommended snacks for your child.