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Rants & Raves Trick or Treat? How Healthy Foods Are Destroying Your Kids’ Teeth

Chocolate and biscuits are well known cavity-causing foods. Yet there are many so-called ‘healthy’ products that can also cause an array of dental health problems. Products such as yoghurts, dried fruit snacks and smoothies are just some of the culprits.

Food companies are superb at misleading consumers. It has become deceptive to the extent that our kids’ teeth are rotting and causing them problems for life.

I’m sure that most parents have given their child a dried fruit-based snack without reading the label. When items are promoted as healthy foods for kids, frankly we shouldn’t have to.

Can we not get a break and rely on foods promoted as healthy to actually be healthy? Why is everything laced with sugar that is destroying your kids’ teeth?

In case you’re wondering, here are the NHS recommendations for daily sugar intakes:

  • Children aged seven to ten should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (six sugar cubes).
  • Children aged four to six should have no more than 19g of free sugars a day (five sugar cubes).
  • There is no guideline limit for children under the age of four – it’s recommended they avoid food and drinks with added sugar altogether.

In reality, a lot of kids are eating much more than the guidelines suggest.

The Peer Pressure Lunchbox Trauma

I’m heartily sick of packing Max a healthy lunch box, only to have him come home moaning about it. In his opinion, his classmates seem to have much better lunches. They have tube yoghurts, cold chicken nuggets, chocolate biscuits, white bread and apple juice cartons. Yet I can’t blame parents for including many of those choices because they are deemed ‘healthy’.

What can we do to ensure our children grow up with their own teeth? It’s hard when food companies target kids, parents are misled, and peer pressure is crushing us all.

We have to do something, because kids’ teeth are suffering. Even children from well-off backgrounds are having baby teeth removed due to decay. These are the kids who snack on pricey fruit rolls, yoghurt-covered raisins and apple juice.

Kids’ Dental Health in the UK Is Far from Good

I was pretty shocked to read a government report that was positive about UK children’s dental health. It’s improving! Now only a quarter of children start school with tooth decay. Only one in 40 five year olds needs to have their rotten teeth removed in hospital. That doesn’t sound like such positive news to me, but it’s still an improvement on previous years.

Is There Such a Thing as a Healthy Snack?

“Can I have a snack? Pleeeeeease?”

Kids want snacks all the time, often straight after they’ve refused to eat a meal. This may be where part of the problem lies. Another part may be a lax attitude to brushing baby teeth.

Many children’s snack foods are promoted as healthy alternatives. Yes, YoYo rolls do have fruit, and yoghurt-covered raisins are fruit too. But they also contain a fair whack of tooth-dissolving sugar.

Here’s some info on the amount of sugar in some foods targeted at children:

  • Fruit Bowl Blackcurrant Peelers: one 20g peeler contains 12g of sugar.
  • Bear Strawberry and Blackcurrant Pure Fruit Yoyos: one 20g packet contains 4.9 grams of sugar.
  • Tesco Yoghurt Coated Strawberry Fruit Bites: contains 15.5g of sugar per 25g bag.

And don’t think that the drinks aimed at kids are healthy and sugar free either. Take the not-so-innocent Innocent Smoothie Pomegranate, Blueberry & Acai (250ml). Produced with the ‘World’s Finest Superfruits’, it has 33g of sugar. That’s 30% more sugar than a Coca-Cola.

What Can We Do About Kids’ Tooth Decay?

Processed foods are a nightmare for parents. Too often we just don’t know what is in them. Not to mention our busy lifestyles mean we have to rely on adverts or assumptions. This is where we get caught out.

The tide of sugar is never ending. A good way to avoid sugar and resulting tooth decay is to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and whole foods as snacks. A banana, apple, cheese, some natural yoghurt with a few pieces of chopped fruit are decent choices. Yes, the kids will moan, but not as much as the moaning that comes with crippling toothache. Toothache that is then followed by many tooth extractions under general anaesthetic.

When it comes to drinks, plain water is best. Fruit juices are a good source of vitamin C, but they have sugars that cause tooth decay. Five-year-olds can drink one glass of juice each day with a meal, but any younger and you’ll need to water it down to protect teeth.

Brush Twice a Day – No Excuses

Alongside trying to avoid sugar, brushing teeth is vital. That goes for milk teeth too.

Several people voiced their opinion about me ‘traumatising’ my son by brushing his baby teeth. They fall out anyway, so some parents don’t see the point. I’m glad I ignored them. The truth is that milk teeth share the same mouth adult teeth do, and decay can pass on.

Regular tooth brushing from an early age also establishes the habit and sets a good example. Keep at it twice a day and visit the dentist regularly. It’s important to spot any signs of decay before they become a problem.

Claxon! Fun Police Alert

There’s nothing wrong with occasional foods that have high sugar levels. Kids love them, and it’s part of enjoying food. Get stuck in at Easter, Halloween, birthdays and Christmas. The problems are found when high sugar foods became part of their regular diet. Unfortunately obesity and tooth decay are rampant problems for our kids and frequent consumption of sugary foods is the biggest culprit.

The Truth Is out There

Don’t expect to hear about it from food companies though. Rather appropriately, they like to sugar-coat the reality.

We can’t trust them to tell the truth when profits are their number one concern. They promote kids food with the lure of calcium and fruit in their products. What they fail to mention are the sky-high sugar levels.

That’s why we need to start checking packets ourselves, or we’ll end up doing more harm than good. Their ‘healthy snacks’ get our kids hooked on sweet flavours at early age and then it’s almost impossible to wean them off.

It makes me seethe – we shouldn’t have to read the minutiae of every label. Healthy, low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar foods should be widely available in the supermarkets. Instead they’re packed full of rubbish with no real healthy foods except the fruit and veg aisle.

Food production companies take advantage of our ignorance and complacence. They are upping the sugar, fat and salt content because children like the taste of it. The whole food system is stacked against good health. We don’t have hours every day to make home cooked sugar-free meals and snacks. Especially not when there’s a mortgage and bills to pay.

So beware with the alternative healthy snacks. Sugar is everywhere and the tooth fairy still has to pay out for the rotten ones.

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