Many wise parents have told their kids they shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and nowhere is this more apparent than with children’s food.
Unfortunately for parents, finding out what is inside that colourful packaging can be like opening Pandora’s Box. Our resident oral health therapist, Alice Kelsey, helps many of our younger patients and parents navigate the pitfalls, and has the following tips.
In order to protect your children’s teeth, it is important to read the packaging of food to avoid high levels of sugar and refined carbohydrates. These refined carbohydrates breakdown and convert to sugar in the mouth, which feeds the destructive bacteria that are responsible for producing the acid which destroys teeth.
Below we take a look at five categories of shopping items that you should treat with precaution.
Children’s cereals are often high in sugar, and these little bits of sugar stick to your child’s teeth like glue.
Look for early morning alternatives that are low in sugar and high in complex carbohydrates – like muesli, or weet-bix. Unlike refined carbs (carbohydrates), the complex ones are those found in grains, nuts and wholemeal grain bread, generally the less processed the better.
Also, cereals with fruits and nuts are a great way of getting that taste and texture without consuming high amounts of processed sugar.
Tomato Sauce & Condiments
With an astronomical 25g of sugar per 100g serving, tomato sauce may well be the hidden sugar cornerstone in the diets of many children.
To put this in context, your average soda sits around the 10 gram mark. That means that every 500ml bottle of tomato sauce has the sugar equivalent to 1 litre of soft-drink!
Sweetened Juice, Soft Drink & Flavoured Milk
Similar to the issues encountered with cereals, many flavoured drink products are loaded with sugar and marketed as being beneficial to children’s health.
Despite some of the commonly used advertising terms including “essential vitamins” and “minerals” the real truth is on the packaging. Sugar, in particular, promotes tooth decay and actually cancels out many of the benefits.
“Ensure that sweetened cordials/fruit juices and flavoured milks are limited to meal times to reduce the impact of sugar to the teeth,” says Alice.
“For babies and toddlers it is important that fruit juices, cordials, flavoured milk, and soft drinks are not put in their bottles.”
Gummy Lollies & Chewable Vitamins
What’s in a chewable vitamin? The truth is that many companies unscrupulously package the good vitamin content with cavity causing sugar. Alice says,
“Many medicines contain sugar to improve the taste. Ensure that you check with your doctor if a sugar free and non-acidic alternative can be prescribed. “
Not only is this sugar bad for your oral health, but the gummy and chewable nature of the vitamins mean that it is also left stuck to your teeth. This ratio of sugar can vary greatly from brand to brand, so we advise comparing the ingredient lists on the brands you choose.
Peanut Butter & High-Sugar Spreads
People often forget to associate peanut butter with high sugar content… maybe that’s part of the infatuation? After all, it’s salty AND sweet.
As a rough guide, a typical tub of Peanut Butter contains around ten percent sugar. Similar to chewable vitamins, and any type of gummy lollies, the real danger here is the sugar in the peanut butter sticking to the teeth for a prolonged period.
So We Need to Give Up Everything?
While everyone makes sacrifices for their health, we do not believe that you should have to give up all the things you enjoy. All of these dangers can be minimized with a healthy dose of moderation, brushing technique and good oral hygiene.
If you are ever worried about the dental health of your family, particularly your children, make a check-up a priority.
“A healthy diet should be accompanied with good oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day as well as daily flossing will reduce the susceptibility of your child to decay. Also, ensure that your family uses fluoride toothpaste, an essential compound for counteracting tooth decay,” says Alice.