There’s a new focus on children’s nutrition by both parents and schools; in fact, many school districts have instituted policies that encourage children to eat more nutritional foods and snacks. Regarding snacks in particular, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released new regulations for the Smart Snacks in Schools Initiative that call for more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less fat, sugar and salt in snack foods.
These regulations will help fight obesity and related medical problems like diabetes, but many dentists don’t believe they go far enough in one particular area — the consumption of sugar, a major cause of tooth decay. Dentists also feel the guidelines are too generous in the amount allowed for highly acidic beverages like sodas, ice tea, sports drinks and energy drinks that increase the risk of enamel erosion and tooth decay.
You may also be concerned about how much sugar your child is eating, and for the most part you’re able to manage their intake when they’re at home. But what can you do to influence their snack choices and habits when they’re at school?
For one thing, get involved with your child’s school and with other parents. Let school officials know your concerns about the sugar, fat and salt content of the snacks offered in the school’s vending machines and food service, and work to implement policies that discourage less nutritional snack foods. You should also set limits for your children about what snacks they can buy at school — along with explaining why they should avoid certain kinds of snack foods in favor of others. And, be sure to send healthy snacks along with them when they go to school that are bite-sized and fun.
It’s also important to help your children limit how often they snack and avoid “grazing” — nibbling on snack food for hours on end. Grazing can cause the mouth to be continuously acidic and never allow saliva an opportunity to neutralize the acid. You can also suggest similar policies to school officials, such as shutting down vending machines at certain times of the day.
Nutrition is essential to good health, in the mouth as well as the rest of the body. As a parent, it’s your job to see that your children eat nutritiously — enlisting their schoolâ??s help will make that job a little easier.
If you would like more information on dental-friendly snacking, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snacking at School.”