Back to school season is an exciting time for the entire family. From picking out a new backpack to selecting that perfect first-day outfit, there are many important decisions to be made to start the school year right. Perhaps one of the most overlooked decisions that ensure your child has a healthy year is what type of snacks are ready for them at home once that final bell brings for the day.
Healthy eating does require a bit of preparation and planning, but the time you spend planning out healthy snacks for your kids and teens will pay off in the long run. Here's a list of a few healthy back-to-school snack ideas that your children are sure to love once they're home for the day and what types of snacks should be avoided to keep their teeth healthy.
Helping Kids Snack Smart
One of the best and easiest ways to snack smart for the entire family is to check labels before consuming. 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 kid-approved ones.
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
Reduce Sugar in Kids' Treats When Possible
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 entire family eats is the best way to maintain a healthy level for everyone's teeth and overall health.
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 to your teen's teeth.
The Hidden Dangers of Fruit Juices
Juice is high in sugar and calories, making it one of the worst beverages you can offer your kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children between the ages of 1-6 should have no more than 4-6 oz 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.
Avoid 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 closer to a candy than fruit, especially when comparing 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 milk chocolate, which is easier to wash away with water or natural saliva.
Be Creative and Make Snacking Fun
Your kids' meals and snack choices should include foods from the primary 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! Ask Elite Dental & Denture PC at your child's next cleaning and exam for more healthy back-to-school snack ideas for kids and teens.