Whether you are doing errands with a toddler or carting school-age kids to soccer and ballet, having snacks on hand can be a life-saver! Snacks are a significant part of a child’s overall nutrition, so it’s important to provide snacks that are healthy. As a pediatric dentist, I like to remind parents that there are some healthy (or healthy-sounding) snacks that may be good for the body, but are horrible for children’s teeth. For example, raisins are quite healthy, but they have a lot of natural sugar. They stick to the surface of the teeth, giving teeth a prolonged “sugar bath” that is the ideal environment for decay.
Some moms can whip up healthy, homemade snacks like ham and cheese pinwheels, protein balls, or fruit kabobs, and I’ve heard rumors that some kids will happily munch away on broccoli florets as if they were potato chips. However, I was lucky if we made it out the door with shoes on and my kids would never consider broccoli to be a snack. It’s a fact of modern life that many families spend a lot of time in the car, and as parents, we’re always trying to increase the nutrition of their diet. So, I thought I’d share my top five snacks for families on the go. These are all nutritious, good for oral health, portable, easy to fix, not-messy, and kids like them!
Cheese and dairy
Cheese and dairy products are low in sugar and high in calcium and phosphorus, which helps strengthen teeth. Cheese also contains a protein called casein which helps prevent cavities by building up tooth enamel. Individually wrapped string cheese, Baby Bella cheese rounds, or cheese cut into cubes are super easy to stash in the car. Low-fat yogurt is a terrific snack, but it can be a little messy for the car, even in the squeeze tubes. Many brands have a lot of added sugar, so you need to read the labels.
Nuts are a car friendly snack that is rich in protein, which helps to build stronger teeth. Chewing nuts promotes saliva production that naturally protects and cleans teeth. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are also good options, although they are smaller, so you’ll likely find more of them scattered on the floor! Be cautious when purchasing trail mix, as it often includes candy, raisins, and added sugar.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are nutrient powerhouses. Even though fruits have natural sugar, this is balanced out by the many other benefits. The easiest portable fruits are grapes, apples, and Clementine oranges. Apples are especially good as they naturally clean teeth and help reduce plaque build-up. There are a lot of squeezable fruits like applesauce, but make sure that these don’t include added sugar. You may want to steer away from juicy fruits like peaches, those that bruise easily like bananas, and those that can stain like berries. As for vegetables, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, celery sticks, sugar snap peas, cauliflower and broccoli florets are all good options. Most kids tend to eat these veggies with some sort of dip. Hummus, ranch dip, and guacamole all come in individual little containers. But make sure your kids can manage a dip without smearing it all over!
Lean proteins like fish, chicken, and eggs have high amounts of phosphorous, another mineral that helps protect teeth by promoting enamel growth. Protein also helps keep tummies full, so kids may be able to go longer than five minutes between snacks. Our favorite lean protein options are bite-sized cubes of chicken, turkey, or ham. These are easy to cut up yourself, or you can buy them already cut up. Hard boiled eggs and packets of tuna are excellent options, but they may be a bit messy and smelly!
Water is by far the best drink available. It’s easy to be lured into having sports drinks or juice boxes because we tend to think of them as healthy. Most other beverages have a lot of added sugar, so stick with water. We recommend tap water over bottled because the fluoride in tap water is beneficial for teeth. There is also the environmental aspect to consider when you think about all those plastic bottles being dumped into the landfill. Have several thermos-type containers of water ready to go and get kids in the habit of rinsing their mouth with water after snacking.
By utilizing the above tips, you can make those crazy days a little less stressful, while being assured that your children are eating nutritious snacks that are also good for their teeth.
Pediatric Smiles of Bloomington is a specialized dental office for children 0 to 18 and special-needs patients. They are located at 1112 Trinity Ln. in Bloomington and may be reached at 309-663-7339. Ask about their "No-Cavity Club" and the rewards kids may earn. Back to Top
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