Posts for tag: snacks
Snacks. Everybody seems to like them – I know I do. Those little treats between meals that give us a burst of energy or help tide us over until the next meal time. The challenge is: What makes up a “good” snack? I suspect that each of us may define that word “good” differently...
Snack desires certainly vary by age as well as by the individual. With younger children, parents are more often involved in determining what their kids will be snacking on whereas older kids are probably selecting the things they want to eat or drink. So in the first instance, it’s probably more important to be certain that the parents or other caregivers understand what will be good for the children, but in the second, we need to help the teens make wise choices. (Perhaps in both instances, some of the issue is heavily impacted by the choices that whoever does the grocery shopping makes when they are at the store!)
Snacks can be subdivided into beverages and items that are eaten. Beverages are comparatively easy – water is good. Everything else is somewhat questionable. I know – that doesn’t really help, but it is true. I suspect almost everyone knows that pop isn’t good for your teeth, whether it is diet or regular. In fact, there is fairly good research that shows that diet pop is worse for your teeth than pop with sugar in it – purely based on the amount of acidity. What is a surprise to many people is that sports drinks are also bad for teeth. They often have lots of sugar and almost always have, again, high acidity. Fruit juices also are usually high in acidity. Even milk, in spite of what we’ve been told, can be damaging to teeth, because it contains sugar and is retained longer in the mouth than some other beverages.
So, how can we make drinks available for children and not create dental problems? The answer is actually rather easy. After the beverage of choice is consumed, have your child rinse their mouth vigorously with water for at least a few seconds. That’s actually far better than brushing since the rinsing either flushes the acidity out of the mouth or at least dilutes it significantly. Brushing actually causes more breakdown by scrubbing the acid into the teeth.
Once that is dealt with, your choice is much easier – which beverages are potentially helpful for your child’s growth and health? Not pop. Ever. Once in a while as a treat, if your kids like it, is probably not a problem. But if you can keep them from ever growing to like it, that’s ideal! Sports drinks are rarely indicated unless your child is actively involved in sports programs that are very vigorous and the level of exercise is high stress and lasts for more than an hour at a time. Even then, after consuming them, rinse! So milk and fruit juices (real juice, NOT juice drinks – read the label!) are probably best. And rinse after drinking them.
For edible snacks, fruits and high protein items are probably best. For fruits, again, rinsing after eating is a good idea. Fruits have the advantage of providing a quick energy boost, but they don’t provide sustained energy. Popcorn is another fun snack that’s fairly dentally healthy – as long as you avoid the un-popped kernels! Cheese and/or chunks of meat of some kind are great sources of protein, as are many nuts. Nuts have an additional advantage of not being chewy or sticky, so they are more easily cleaned or even rinsed away. Some protein bars are also good – again, read the labels! Protein provides a longer lasting or more sustained level of energy and a somewhat smoother increase of it as well.
Things to avoid? Avoid highly processed foods and items high in carbohydrates. Chips and similar types of foods are highly retentive (they stick around teeth and are hard to remove) and may provide quick energy, but no sustained benefit. Cookies and other dessert-like foods are almost always very high in sugar and very low in food value, so it’s best to avoid them. In general, very sticky foods are difficult to clean and usually lead to problems.
I hope this helps provide a new perspective for you. If you have other suggestions for healthy snacks or questions about dental health, please send them to me at [email protected], Thanks!
The song, “Summertime” with lyrics by George Gershwin was written well before I was born, but I can still sing (at least as best as I can sing at all) almost all the words, and I love the melody and the “feel” of the song. For me, it truly does capture what I dream of when I think of summer!
For many adults, summer represents lots of fun and relaxation and perhaps a vacation or two – playing in the water, frequently with their kids, and sometimes simply laying in a hammock.
For kids, it often represents two to three months of NO school! That may involve later bed times, sleeping in, goofing off, less studying and more time for snacking and enjoying cold beverages.... OOOPS!
Sorry, but this is where reality and being a dentist sneaks in!! I’m all in favor of good snacks and beverages – whether they are for big or little kids (and I believe we ALL need to let ourselves be a kid now and then!) However, I want to encourage each of you to take care of your selves while you are being a “kid” as well as taking care of your actual kids.
We dentists see a big jump in cavities whenever there is a jump in between-meal snacks and beverages. So what’s the best way to keep that from happening? Brush more often (especially with a fluoridated toothpaste), clean between your teeth more often, and even vigorous rinsing several times during the day helps prevent problems from happening.
Perhaps even more important than cleaning your mouth is being careful what you put in your mouth in the first place. Let’s look at snacks first, and then beverages. I look at three different factors about snacks:
- How retentive are they?
- How much sugar and / acid is in them?
- How “natural” are they?
Retentiveness has to do with how long the food remains in your mouth after you eat it. Snacks such as strawberries, carrot sticks, and celery aren’t very retentive. On the other hand snack bars, such as “Cliff Bars”, stick to your teeth and hang around in your mouth a long time. Thus LESS retentive is good.
You don’t need to be a dentist to figure out that more sugar and more acidity are problems for teeth, so avoid them. Fresh fruit may be somewhat high in acid and sugar, but that is balanced by the other properties of the fruit. Crackers aren’t acidic at all, may be high in sugar (or not, depending on the brand), but they are extremely retentive. Darn it, this isn’t as easy as you thought it might be, huh?
Then we add “natural”. While lots of people get caught up in “natural” being better than “refined” or “processed”, with what is allowed in advertising today, I don’t trust those words. I am a HUGE fan of label reading. What is or isn’t added to what you are buying? Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables are a great place to start – I believe they are almost always better snacks than refined stuff. But some of the refined materials still make OK snacks – read the labels -- frequently! It’s amazing how the product that you’ve bought for years suddenly changes – and often not for the better. Suddenly sugar (and sugar substitutes) and other ingredients (often chemicals) are added when they weren’t there before. By the way, sugar is often included in labels under a variety of names, often ending in “ose” such as dextrose, etc. That allows the manufacturer to put lots more sugar in their product without it being apparent.
Now that I (hopefully) have created a bit of healthy paranoia, let’s switch to beverages. Simply, water, right out of the faucet, is your best bet. There is no sugar added, and it is a great neutralizer to minimize the effects of sugar and acidity that may have arrived from anything else you have eaten or drank. It even helps rinse those more retentive snacks out of your mouth.
Are you and your kids always going to want water? Probably not, but it would be great if we all did! Almost ALL adult beverages are acidic. Yes, that’s true of wine and beer as well. Most mixed drinks are acidic AND sugary. Consuming them quickly versus sipping over a period of hours is far better dentally. (This is emphatically NOT an excuse to binge drink!!) Again, rinsing your mouth with water and alternating a glass of water with an adult beverage benefits you in MANY ways!) Pop or soda (whether sugar or sugar-free) and sports drinks are almost never good for you or your kids – again, read the labels. If you do consume one, don’t brush right away – RINSE with water. It helps eliminate the acid in your mouth and lets your saliva buffer that acidity so you don’t scrub away weakened tooth structure.
So, have a GREAT summer...and enjoy a treat every now and then. Moderation is almost always a good rule to live by. Use it to guide activities, rest, snacks, beverages, being with good friends, and some simple relaxation napping in a hammock! ENJOY!