Lately the media has discussed children’s eating habits and the outlook does not seem so great. Our children are being fed junk, literally. The processed food contains excessive amounts of sugar in order to make it taste more pleasant and desirable for children. What is the harm? That is what I would like to discuss this week, the subject of excessive sugar intake in children.
One of the biggest mistakes that nearly all parents seem to make is bribe a child to be quiet with sweets and chocolates. If milk teeth aren’t taken care of from the moment they appear then decay will be inevitable. If every time your child is restless or naughty you keep them busy and quiet with sweets then their teeth will decay and even though milk teeth fall out to be replaced by permanent ones the decay in milk teeth will spread to their permanent teeth. Parents determine their children’s eating habits and so if every time your child is upset or restless you give them sweets they are going to get used to it and demand the same treatment each time.
The intake of sugary foods and sweets should be avoided. Children under 5 should have a nutritious diet that includes 4 main nutrition components. Carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, pasta, vegetables and fruits. Calcium and protein such as milk, meat, fish and other alternatives. Apart from these they do not require such junk as chocolates, biscuits, sweets and crisps etc. These ‘junk’ foods may be added to meals or after meals on some occasions so long as it is not too regular. At this point I would like to mark the importance of regular MEAL TIMES. If you feed your child on regular intervals at approximately the same times every day then this will mean that they are well fed and this will cut out the need for snacking during the day. Teeth and gums need to rest also and we must keep the mouth empty for some periods of time to allow the saliva carry out its natural job of cleansing the mouth and maintaining the natural equilibrium of the acid and bacteria in the mouth. If you are not convinced they will learn not to snack then the other resolution is to replace chocolates, sweets etc with other healthier alternatives such as sugar free biscuits, fruits or even popcorn.
In Sweden, Saturdays are declared as desert and sweet days which is the only time children are given treats. In other words, unlike what I have witnessed with most children here in UK, they don’t walk around holding and eating sweets, chocolates and crisps all day long. You could also perhaps determine a sweet and desert day once a week and only give your children sweet treats on this day. Apart from this you should also limit fizzy drinks and natural fruit juices as these cause teeth to dissolve. You should always read the nutrition information on the back of foods and take special care to note that sugar could be written in many formats such as; glucose, honey, dextrose, maltose.
The safest drink in oral health aspect is milk or water. Fruit juices could be an occasional alternative as long as it is at meal times. Sugary tea, coffee and coke should also be only permitted at meal times. Don’t forget healthy teeth mean brighter smile and a brighter smile means confidence to smile. As a parent it is part of your parental responsibility to ensure you teach your child healthy habits.