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Snacking Smart

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September is synonymous with start of a new school year, end of summer, back to daily routines and for parents it also means packing lunches. As a mom and a dentist packing a nutritious lunch and snacks that my kids will eat is a constant challenge.

Healthy snacks are definitely the more challenging food items to find. We are bombarded with advertisements of products that sound healthy but in reality are high in sugar, which is a dentists and a parent’s worst enemy. Any type of sugar, natural or added, is broken down into acid by bacteria in our mouth. The acid produced wreaks havoc on the tooth enamel, making it weaker and prone to cavities.

My goal is to choose foods that are high in nutritious value and low in sugar. Listed below are ideas for snacks for kids and adults alike.

  • Granola, cereal or energy bars are an easy to grab, go to item. Good rules of thumb when choosing a bar is keep the sugar in check (less than 8 g per bar), a high fiber and protein content, and ingredients you can pronounce. A better idea yet is to make your own granola bars so you can control what goes in it.
  • Nut Butter Boats: Celery or apples cored out and filled with nut butters like almond, cashew, peanut or sunflower butter with dark chocolate chips are yummy and satisfying.
  • Cheesey Popcorn: popped corn sprinkled with nutritional yeast and salt provides protein along with carbs.
  • Cheese, Veggie Sticks and Hummus: cheese, cucumber, celery are a great snack idea. These foods are referred to as detergent foods as they help to neutralize the acids produced by bacteria.
  • Trail Mix: store bought mixes are filled with raisins and cranberries with lesser amounts of nuts. Make your own trail mix with almonds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and goji berries or dried blueberries.
  • Yoghurt: is another great source of calcium, protein and probiotics. Some research shows positive benefits of probiotics on inflammation in the mouth. Avoid the fruit flavoured yoghurts and instead go for plain yoghurt and add berries or fresh fruit to add sweetness and flavour.
  • Fruity snacks: dried fruit is an option that should be used in moderation. Stay away from fruit leathers and gummy fruit snacks because not only are they high in sugar but they are sticky and gooey. They get caught in the pits of grooves of teeth, where they remain for hours, and bacteria can feast on these sugars for extended periods of time. Opt for a variety of fresh fruit instead.
  • Crackers: popular brands of crackers tout that they contain whole grains however they usually contain simple starches which are easily broken down by bacteria into acids. Rice cakes are a better option because they have a sugar content and don’t get caught in your teeth.

Reading the food labels can help plan out your snacks to keep them nutritious and delicious.

 Abinaash Kaur, BSc, DDS

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