Summer break is a dream come true for most kids, and why wouldn’t it be? Three months filled with riding bikes, playing outside until it’s dark, swimming with friends, and those sweet summer snacks. But how well do you really know the sugar content in your kid’s go-to treats? Hidden sugars are the fastest way to make what seems like a “healthy” snack no better than a candy bar.
Here’s our list of healthy summer snacks that everyone will love, including your dentist!
Reducing Sugar in Kids’ Treats
All kids love a sugary sweet treat, but the bacteria in their mouths love them even more. Sugar is the “food” the bacteria in our mouths love because it’s the fuel they need to cause tooth decay and cavities. Limiting the amount of sugar your family eats is the best way for your teeth and your overall health to maintain a healthy level.
The US Food and Drug Administration recommends children consume between 12 to 50 grams of sugar a day. Reading labels before eating, or even better, before buying is the best way to catch hidden sugars before they make their way into your little one’s mouths.
The Dangers of Fruit Juices
Juice is both high in sugar and in calories, making it one of the worst beverages you can offer to your kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children between the ages of 1-6 should have no more than 4-6oz of juice each day, and children under the age of 1 shouldn’t have fruit juice at all. While all kids get excited over a popsicle on a hot summer day, most popsicles are no better than fruit juices for your teeth.
Limit the amount of juice your children drink, and always offer water or milk first. If your child does drink juice, serve the recommended, age-appropriate limits at mealtimes only, where the sugars from the juice are easier to break down with the addition of foods.
Sinful Sticky Snacks
If you’ve always been under the impression that things like fruit snacks and fruit leathers are healthy alternatives to snack time, you’re not alone. Many parents are surprised to learn they are really closer to a candy than a fruit, especially when you compare their sugar levels. In some ways, fruit roll-ups and other dried fruit snacks are worse than candy because they stick to our teeth longer than things like milk chocolate, which is easier to wash away with water or natural saliva.
How to Snack Smart
One of the best and easiest ways to snack smart for the entire family is to simply check labels before you consume. If the food you’ve chosen is loaded with sugar, think again. Low-fat choices like raw vegetables, fresh fruits, or whole-grain crackers are smart snack choices and ones that are kid approved.
Some of our favorite smart snacks are:
- Orange slices
- Broccoli with dipping sauce
- Celery and peanut butter
- Carrot sticks
- Sliced cucumbers
- Unsweetened cereals
- Unbuttered popcorn
- Baked tortilla chips
- Whole wheat crackers
- Low or nonfat yogurt
- Low or nonfat cottage cheese
Be Creative and Make Snacking Fun
Your kids’ meals and snack choices should include a variety of foods from the basic food groups, including fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy products, and proteins. Just because a snack idea may sound boring and basic, doesn’t mean it has to be presented that way!
With kids, getting them to eat certain foods is all about the presentation. Try placing a combination of snacks into bowls and letting your kids use their imaginations to create an image out of the foods, or get them involved in the preparation process.
One of the best ways to promote your child’s nutrition and oral health is to lead by example. Children should brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste after snacks and meals – and you should too! For more fun summer snack ideas, ask Hinsdale Dentistry for some new recommendations at your next family wellness visit.