With the holidays in full swing, many of us are making the season more festive for our children this year by indulging their sweet tooth in treats like mouth-watering pies, home-baked cookies, and decorated cupcakes!
The problem is what our children eat will affect their oral health. A good rule of thumb is to monitor and limit their intake of sugar throughout the year as their smiles continue to grow and develop.
Your child’s smile is vulnerable to sugary treats as their oral bacteria break down sugar, releasing a by-product of acids that wears down tooth enamel until decay and cavities take over, not to mention gingivitis! Thankfully, you can remove excess sugar from your child’s diet even during the holidays to keep tooth decay and gum disease from taking over their smile.
Pro Dental Tip: instead of giving your child hard candies like a candy cane to snack on, offer them a chocolate bar instead that dissolves quickly without keeping their teeth bathed in sugar as long as a sticky treat. You can also serve chocolate-covered strawberries for vitamin C and lower the sugar content by substituting milk chocolate with dark chocolate.
Fortunately, many popular holiday treats can be made healthier by tweaking the ingredients or making less sugary substitutions. One easy tip is to switch from refined white sugar to fruit and nuts that are nutritional and less acidic than sugar! If your kids love hot chocolate, try using semi-sweet or dark hot chocolate with peppermint extract to lessen the amount of sugar.
Healthier Holiday Cookies and Pies
- Gingerbread cookies: Gingerbread cookies taste delicious with half the amount of sugar that sugar cookies are laden with, and adding pumpkin puree to the mix boosts the fiber content and benefits teeth!
- Oatmeal cookies: Adding oatmeal to sugar cookies while substituting applesauce for refined white sugar is scrumptiously healthy for their smile!
- Almond cookies: Almonds are naturally full of protein as well as healthy fats. Just add almond slivers as a topping to boost nutritional intake.
- Pumpkin pie: Pumpkin pies add healthy fiber to every slice! Just halve the amount of sugar and stick to sugar-free whipped topping.
- Nut-based pies: Adding Macadamia nuts, almonds or pecans is great for your child’s smile!
Fruit to the Rescue
Fruits are a healthy substitution when your child is craving sweets, especially vitamin or antioxidant-rich choices like oranges, strawberries, melons, berries, and pears. And even though dried fruit is high in sugar, dried cranberries and oranges make a tasty alternative to candied treats when eaten in moderation.
You can soften the sugary effects when your child indulges in sweets by pairing them with soft cheeses or milk. It creates a buffer against the acids released by harmful oral bacteria when consuming sugar. Cheese has less sugar, while dairy can neutralize bacterial acid in the mouth that can weaken precious tooth enamel. Cheese also stimulates saliva flow to wash away food particles, and you can serve it with whole-grain crackers or crisp vegetables.
You can even treat your child to non-sugary options when it comes to gifts and stocking stuffers. Fun toothbrushes, puzzles, games, small toys, colorful crayons or pencils, books, and stickers are great ways to take your child’s focus off of sugar!
Start the New Year off Right
Limiting your child’s sugar consumption can mean allowing sweet treats after they’ve eaten a meal, followed by brushing and flossing. If they can’t brush and floss right away, rinsing their mouth or drinking water helps neutralize oral acids. During the indulgent holiday season, you can up your child’s oral hygiene game by having them brush three times a day instead of two. The goal is to enjoy this festive season while keeping their smiles healthy and strong for the year to come!