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Sebo Marketing October 18th, 2021

How to Help Kids Snack for Great Dental Health


Snacks and Dental Health

The most common nutritional disease of childhood is dental caries (cavities). In the United States, the average five-year-old has three cavities. Decayed and/or lost teeth can result in pain and discomfort, talking with a lisp, damage to the permanent teeth, and inability to chew normally. Not to mention big dental bills.

Almost all foods can contribute to dental caries. However, sweet foods are most often to blame.

Research has shown that the important factor is not how many sweets are eaten but rather how often they are eaten.

Eating sweet foods as snacks is more likely to result in tooth decay than eating them at meals because more saliva is produced at mealtime that helps, to some extent, wash away the sugary foods.

The type of food also affects the production of dental caries. Chewy, sticky foods tend to cause more cavities than comparable amounts of non-sticky sweet foods such as liquids.

In a recent study, on a typical school day, 40% of the children surveyed did not eat any vegetables; 20% did not eat any fruit; and 36% ate four different types of snack food. The snacks most commonly eaten by all the students were cookies (38%), ice cream (33%), soda (31%), chips (26%), and candy (18%). These foods have high amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium. Choosing them repeatedly as snacks or including them frequently in meals can lead to poor nutritional balance.

The young child’s preference for sweets is related to what parents do or do not allow, according to a Cornell University study of the habits of 122 children aged 36 to 64 months. Children whose parents ate sweets frequently were likely to eat sweets more often than those whose parents seldom ate sweets. Sweet eating was also related to the amount of television watched by the child as well as to the parents’ attitude toward giving the child sweets. Clearly it is “do as I do, vs. do as I say”, when it comes to eating.

In our dental practice we find that the majority of adults who have had very few cavities report that they simply did not eat much in the way of junk foods as kids. One of the best ways to deal with this is for the parents who drive the shopping cart to simply not buy junk foods. When family members get hungry between meals, if there are simply no junk foods to eat, that apple, bunch of grapes or hand full of carrots sure looks a lot better.

Snacks & Obesity

Elementary age children gain weight faster than height. Their body proportions begin to change as they get ready for their final growth spurt during adolescence. They need more nutrients than their adult parents. It is not just the calories. Eating between meals can lead to excessive weight gain because so many snack foods are high in fat and sugar. We call these types of foods “empty calories” because they have lots of sugar and fat, but little in the way of protein, vitamins and minerals that are needed for healthy growth and development.

Follow these guidelines to help your child learn weight-conscious snacking habits:

  1.  Plan snacks as part of the daily food plan.
  2.  Serve snacks and meals that satisfy a child’s need for extra nutrients and for different types of foods – crunchy, soft, chewy, smooth, hot, cold, sweet, sour, bland, spicy.
  3.  Never offer food as a reward for good behavior.
  4.  Limit intake of sweet beverages.

If your child shows a tendency for being overweight, encourage more physical activity and less television viewing. Do not cut back drastically on food intake. Growing children need those nutrients for growth and development.

Snack Tips

  • When shopping, let youngsters help pick out fruits, vegetables, and cheese. They’ll be more interested in eating them.
  • Plan and prepare extra servings at mealtimes to be saved for snacks, for example, cold chicken legs, meat for sandwiches, etc.
  • Set aside a “snack spot” in the refrigerator and cupboard; keep it stocked with nutritious ready-to-eat snacks. This will also help “save” leftovers designed for a second meal.
  • Offer snacks at regular times, such as midmorning and mid afternoon. Don’t let children nibble constantly during the day.
  • Avoid high sugar, fatty, and salty snacks, such as candy, white flour crackers that will crowd out nutritious snacks.
  • Caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee, tea, and some soft drinks, are not suitable for children. Check the labels for the differences between fruit juices and fruit-flavored drinks.
  • Special snacks do not have to be sweet and gooey. Let the child help make yeast bread, or purchase fresh fruit.
  • Snacks are a good way to introduce new foods. Include a game or activity to learn about the new food: let the child help prepare it.
  • Plan snacks that fulfill part of the daily recommendations for all of the food groups such as dairy, fruits, vegetables and meats enriched breads and cereals.

Food and Behavior

Current research supports the claims that sugar and caffeine are often linked to hyperactivity, and lack of concentration both in school and at home. We were especially disappointed that the Governor of CT, Jodi Rell vetoed a bill that would have banned junk food vending machines in schools so it is up to the parents to make their voices heard at home as well as at the schools

Some Final Advice

A great tip is to get the kids involved in planning the meals and snacks. Encourage them to learn about eating healthy. Get them to count the number of times they eat sugary foods so that can choose wisely. Remember that since it is the frequency of sugar consumption more than the total quantity that causes cavities, 10 little candies eaten an hour apart are 10 X more decay causing than one scoop of ice cream, even though they might have the same amount of sugar.

For More Information

Check your library for books that are age appropriate and cruise the internet for healthy eating. There are many great web sites that are fun and educational too.

  • 1993 American Heart Association Kids’ Cookbook Berenstain, Stan and Jan. The Bernenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food.
  • Katzen, Mollie. Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up.
  • Leedy, Loreen. Edible Pyramid: Good Eating Every Day
  • Satter, Ellyn. How to Get Your Kids to Eat – But Not Too Much Publishing Co.
  • Williamson, Sarah and Zachary Williamson. Kids Cook! Fabulous Food for the Whole Family<


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