People love to indulge during the holiday season. Between all the parties, school events, family dinners, and break room treats, it is hard to stay healthy yet enjoy the season. Many people are aware of how the holidays may affect their fitness and weight, but often people overlook the damage to dental health that comes from holiday indulgence. This guide is intended to give you healthy holiday treat ideas and help you enjoy the holiday season while maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Preventative dental care, healthy moderation, and wise choices are the key elements to a healthy holiday mouth.
How Holiday Treats Negatively Affect Your Teeth
Everyone knows that good oral hygiene and preventative care is your best defense against tooth decay and gum disease. However, some people don’t realize that good nutrition also helps keep your mouth healthy when paired with good oral hygiene. Before we share our list of treats that promote a healthy mouth, we must first consider how some treats negatively impact dental health.
- Treats containing a high sugar, starch, or carbohydrate content contribute to the production of the plaque that breaks down tooth enamel. Eventually, this break down may cause cavities.
- Foods high in sugar contribute to tooth decay. We don’t expect everyone to avoid all sugar as many healthy foods contain natural sugars. We do suggest that you choose goodies with an awareness of the sugar content, and you should choose low-sugar foods as much as possible.
- Foods high in acids also weaken tooth enamel and lead to demineralization. Examples include coffee, wine, tomato-based foods like salsas, citrus fruit, soda, pickles, etc. Since the acid weakens enamel, Colgate recommends not brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acidic foods. It may help to drink plain water or rinse the mouth out with water right after consuming acidic foods to neutralize the acid.
How you time your treats also matters. The harm to the teeth and gums is greatest if you sip acidic drinks like coffee, wine, fruit juice or soda throughout the day. If you confine that indulgence to a short period of time, then drink or rinse with water and brush your teeth, it is less damaging. Keep in mind that binging on candies and sweets is bad for your body in other ways too, so moderation is important.
Our Recommendations for Holiday Treats That Are Actually Good For Your Teeth
The use of spices to flavor treats, rather than excessive sugar, is one of the key strategies to enjoying holiday treats without harming your teeth. Some holiday herbs and spices like cinnamon and ginger may even be slightly beneficial. They are reputed to decrease sugar cravings and reduce inflammation, which is why they are frequently used in traditional medicines. Even with no additional health benefit, they give the impression of sweetness without relying on high sugar quantities. Also, the scents of these spices evoke a cozy feeling associated with seasonal joy.
Another key strategy is to focus on savory treats as much as possible since they tend to be low in sugars.
Drinking lots of clear water or herbal teas also help you get through holiday festivities without constantly sipping acidic or sugary drinks.
If you are planning a holiday party, consider serving some of the following alternatives. Keep your eye out for these alternatives while celebrating at other’s homes, parties or restaurants.
Healthy Holiday Treat Ideas For The Festive Season
Cookies that are low in sugar are a delightful way to celebrate the season with minimal impact on the teeth. Instead, flavor with holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and others. Consider decreasing the sugar content or substituting sugar with unsweetened applesauce. Some seasonal favorites that work well with less sugar include:
- Oatmeal cookies
- Almond cookies
- Nut-based cookies made with nut flours (such as almond flour) and minimal sugars
- Dark chocolate nut-based brownies offers the joy of rich chocolate with less sugar
Nuts are naturally low in sugar and carbs. When you consume them, they stimulate salivatory responses that help neutralize acids. In addition, nuts contain healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals for a healthy body and healthy teeth. Some ideas to enjoy nuts include:
- Plain dry roasted nuts are healthy and delicious
- Spiced nuts seasoned with cardamom, cinnamon, powdered ginger, or other spices
- As mentioned, nut flours can be used to make cookies or other baked treats
Pumpkin pie can be a relatively tooth-friendly option compared to other holiday pies if you avoid the whipped cream or whipped topping. Homemade pumpkin pie can be even better if you minimize the sugar content and are light on the pastry crust.
Dark chocolate contains less sugar so it is generally better for the teeth when consumed in moderation. Dark chocolate is also a little healthier than milk chocolate, in general, since it contains more antioxidants. Here are a few ways to enjoy small amounts of dark chocolate during the holiday season:
- Chocolate covered strawberries
- Chocolate covered nuts
- Buy candy molds and melt dark chocolate and pour into the molds for homemade chocolate treats. This allows you to control the sweeteners and flavors. Try adding seasonal spices like cinnamon and nutmeg or flavor essences like vanilla or mint. Orange essence or peel are other popular seasonal options, but be aware that citrus contains a lot of acid.
We all love special treats around the holidays. Even if the treats that you enjoy aren’t particularly nutritional, you can still mitigate the potential negative effects on your teeth with just some simple changes. So you don’t need to forgo all of the yummy holiday treats. You can just make so simple changes. Using our helpful suggestions for holiday treats that are actually good for your teeth, you can still enjoy the sweet holiday treats that you love. These tips are also great for helping children keep their teeth healthy during the holiday season!