Parents sometimes ask us – what are the best healthy snacks for kids teeth? They usually are well aware that candies and sodas are associated with cavities, but they are not always sure what to offer their kids as alternatives.
The good news is that there are plenty of delicious snack and lunch options that are healthy for your children’s teeth as well as their growing bodies.
This post is intended for general health education to empower you to make healthy choices for your family. It isn’t intended as a substitute for dental or medical care.
First, let’s start with a list of some of the top tooth-friendly, healthy snacks for kids teeth. Not only will this give you ideas about which snack foods to purchase, but it may also help you recognize other options.
Nine Healthy Snacks for Kids Teeth
Sometimes healthy foods can be bad for your child’s teeth if eaten between meals or too frequently. Since snacks are eaten between meals, we primarily recommend foods that are low in sugars, starches, and acids.
These nine healthy snacks for kids teeth include:
- Almonds: Nuts that are not coated with toffee or sugar are a great snack item assuming your kids are not allergic. Almonds happen to be a great source of both calcium and protein.
- Cheese: In addition to being a source of protein and calcium, cheese raises the PH in the mouth, which helps decrease the risk of tooth decay.
- Yogurt: Like cheese, yogurt also has protective probiotics that encourage a healthy mouth. If possible, opt for yogurts that are lower in sugar like Icelandic and Greek yogurts. Bonus points if you can serve plain yogurt sweetened with nuts and slices of fruit.
- Apples: Since dentists typically suggest avoiding sugary snacks, the inclusion of fruits like apples may seem surprising, especially since fruit juices are on the list of snacks we don’t recommend. Whole apples contain water and fibers. Chewing them stimulates the gum tissues and has a slight cleansing effect. Chewing apples also stimulate saliva production, diluting bacteria, sugars, and acids in the mouth.
- Celery: The fiber in celery helps scrub the teeth, and like apples, it stimulates saliva production. Celery also happens to be low in sugar. Often parents spread cheese, dip, or unsweetened nut butter on celery to make it more attractive. If possible, avoid sweetened spreads. If the spread is sticky, consider also giving your child a glass of water since sticky foods can be problematic for dental health.
- Carrots: Like apples and celery, carrots are rich in vitamins and full of fiber. If you serve carrots with a dip, be careful to make it a lower sugar dip.
- Kiwi: This fruit is related to berries and also rich vitamins and minerals like calcium and fiber. The benefits are a little similar to apples.
- Leafy green vegetables: Okay, not many kids beg for spinach or kale as a between-meal snack! Leafy green vegetables are low in sugar but high in crucial nutrients like vitamins and minerals like calcium. If you can find ways to include them in your child’s diet either during meals or between meals, bonus points!
- Sugar free gum: If your child likes to chew gum, consider a sugar free version. In moderation, this may even help promote oral health by stimulating saliva production. We recommend gums with xylitol as a main ingredient. Xylitol has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities. However, be aware excessive chewing may cause strain on the jaw and even contribute to wearing down the teeth, especially if there are alignment issues.
Consider drinking and rinsing the mouth with water after eating fruits or sticky snack foods. This helps further dilute the acids, starches, and sugars in the mouth.
Time healthy, sticky or acidic foods close to brushing time. Be mindful of between-meal snacks and try to opt for foods that are low in sugar, low in acid, or full of fiber.
When choosing healthy snacks for kids teeth, it helps to think about the foods you want to avoid as between-meal snacks. Some may even be healthy foods within a meal, and they just are not as ideal as between-meal snacks.
Less Tooth-healthy snack options
- Hard candies: Slowly sucking or chewing hard candies results in a steady stream of sugar in the mouth, making it a friendly place for harmful bacteria and acids which erode tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay.
- Soda: Soda is a little like liquid candy from a dental health perspective. It is especially harmful to sip it throughout the day and between meals. Moderate amounts of soda, candies, and desserts may pose less risk of damage when enjoyed with foods during a meal and around 15-20 minutes of brushing the teeth.
- Fruit juice: While real fruit juice contains vitamins and minerals, in juice form, it also contains much less of the healthy fiber and more concentrated sugars and acids similar to sodas.
- Acidic foods: Some acidic foods like oranges can be healthy overall. From a dental health perspective, they erode tooth enamel and, as a result, contribute to tooth decay. Some also may cause small sores in the mouth. Try to include healthy acidic foods within the meals that are close to when your child brushes their teeth.
- Crunchy snacks: Snacks like potato chips that crunch are fun, but they usually contain starches that stick to the teeth and promote tooth decay. Minimize starchy foods as between-meal snacks even though they may seem like a good option because they don’t seem sweet or acidic.
- Seemingly healthy foods with hidden sugars: Sometimes, a food that is generally considered healthy contains added sugar. This is especially common with foods packaged as “kid’s foods.” Be sure to check the nutrition label.
Moderation can help balance health needs with the fun and pleasure of foods. Some of the less ideal foods are fine in limited quantities within a meal shortly before brushing. Some may be fine as a sometimes treat, especially if your child rinses their mouth with plain water afterward.
Paying attention to the impact that between-meal snacks may have on your child’s oral health can inspire healthier choices and a healthier smile.
In addition to healthy eating habits, your child’s dental health requires care from a dentist. If you haven’t scheduled your child’s recommended cleaning and examination, please do so.
Charlotte-area residents trust their family’s smiles to the team at Southview Dentistry. If you live in the area and need a dentist, please give us a call.