Our previous blog, Unlock the Secret to a Healthy Mouth, offers an excellent scientific understanding of how we can prevent tooth decay. This article will talk about how diet and nutrition play a role in oral hygiene specifically focusing on the healthy school snacks we provide our children.
Dietary Guidelines Parents Should Know
As a mom of two very active school-age children, I am always thinking through how to pack as much nutrition in my kiddos’ school snack and lunch packs.
The US Department of Agriculture recommends children’s healthy school snacks and meals include the five food groups of vegetables, fruits, dairy, meats, and whole grains. Additionally, children ages two and older should consume no more than 30 mg or 6 teaspoons of refined sugar a day. When you comb through the nutritional facts on the items that make up your child’s daily diet, it’s shocking how quickly that seemingly small amount of sugar adds up!
How to Control Your Children’s Sugar Cravings
Risks for tooth decay are multifactorial. We can reduce the risk of tooth decay by practicing good hygiene, dietary habits and regular dental cleanings and checkups. But the genetic risk is uncontrollable, and children’s cravings for starchy, sugary foods are highest until they reach maturity. Preliminary research indicates that toddlers and school-age children have a biological preference for sugar and their longing for carbohydrates are highest during the time of brain development.
So what does this mean? Put simply, it is essential to monitor and manage our children’s nutritional intake, keeping a close eye on the amount of sugar and simple carbohydrates consumed in a day. But let’s be real, we all know that kids love a treat now and again as much as we do (hello Häagen-Dazs®!) and it’s fun to surprise them with a fancy cookie in their lunch box now and again. Rather than restricting our children to a finite amount of sugar, it might be best to offer quality carbohydrates and sweets reasonably. The American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that “providing nutritional value, variety, portion size, and quality of the food to children is a more effective approach to improving nutrition and health than simply restricting added sugar.” I find much relief with the above recommendation.
“Providing nutritional value, variety, portion size, and quality of the food to children is a more effective approach to improving nutrition and health than simply restricting added sugar.” – American Academy of Pediatrics
What are Some Healthy School Snacks?
My rule of thumb is, “everything in moderation” and I like to change up the food from meal to meal. Here are some of my tips for healthy school snacks:
- Quality carbs that I use often include fruits, whole grains, dairy, and beans.
- My favorite cut-up vegetables to serve or pack in my kid’s lunch boxes are carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans.
- Edamame is another great vegetable that is also high in protein.
- I buy and pack fruits that are in-season such as bananas, apples, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, and blueberries.
- I often include cheese, popcorn, or Cheerios® along with a vegetable and fruit.
- Peanut butter and avocado toasts are also nutritious, high protein snacks.
- When purchasing pre-packaged foods like my son’s favorite granola bars, I try to compare the sugar and salt contents across brands and select the product with best overall nutritional makeup.
- As far as liquids, water and milk are the two choices I offer my children. Juices are typically only provided during sports activities or on special occasions like birthday parties.
I hope this overview of nutritional best practices along with some of my favorite go-to snack ideas is helpful.
As health-care providers that are proud to be members of a strong community of caring parents, we aim to provide a wide range of information to benefit our patient’s health and those pearly whites!
Have your own suggestions for healthy school snacks? Leave a comment!