Many lunchbox favorites seem like they’re good for you but they actually contain lots of sugar. If you’re not sure which snacks are healthy and which are too sweet, we at Oak Tree Pediatric Dentistry want to help. Does sugar cause cavities? Simply put, yes. Sugar plays a role in causing tooth decay. So, the less sugar your kids eat, the more likely they’ll stay cavity-free!
Here’s a list of 5 popular lunchbox favorites that are high in sugar — and our suggestions for yummy low-sugar foods to pack instead.
Granola Bars & Cereal Bars
Packed with nuts and oats, you’d think that your typical granola bar is healthy. But added sugar in granola and cereal bars can outweigh the snack’s health benefits.
Added sugar can put granola bars and cereal bars firmly in the “foods high in sugar” column. Rule-of-thumb, steer clear of bars that list added sugar as one of the first three ingredients; packaged foods always list their ingredients in descending weight order.
Your pediatric dentist has good news, though. You don’t need to cross all granola and cereal bars off your lunchbox list. Nuts and oats are a source of healthy fats and fiber. The key to choosing good-for-you granola and cereal bars is the right balance of sugar, fiber, and protein.
Look for bars with:
- less than 10 grams of sugar
- at least three grams of fiber
- at least five grams of protein
What to Pack Instead: KIND Bars, trail mix, Made Good granola bites, or these RX Snack Bars.
Gummy Fruit Snacks
These snack favorites have the word “fruit” in them but we can safely say they’re not a healthy substitute for the real thing. Although some fruit gummy brands list fruit puree first, added sugars like sugar, corn syrup, and fruit juice from concentrate often come right after. Each pouch typically contains about 5 teaspoons of sugar and no protein, healthy fats or fiber.
What to Pack Instead: It goes without saying that replacing gummy fruit snacks with real fruits is the best snack option for kids. Real fruit is packed with vitamins that are good for teeth like vitamins A, C and D. If your kids seem bored by standard apple slices and orange wedges, try new fruits, or cut up fruit in small pieces and pack toothpicks to make eating more fun.
When looking for low sugar foods, we suggest choosing no sugar added fruit snacks with minimal, whole ingredients. Solely fruit snacks, Bear fruit rolls, and Bare fruit snacks are considered healthy snacks for your kids.
Juice boxes are a popular choice for school lunches. The question is, are juice boxes healthy? Well, yes, and no. According to the USDA’s Choose My Plate program, a certain amount of 100% fruit juice can count towards your child’s recommended daily intake of fruit and Vitamin C.
The smaller size of today’s juice boxes means one juice box is okay for kids 1-4 years old, and two juice boxes is acceptable for kids 5-12. But overall, the team at Oak Tree Pediatric Dentistry considers juice boxes a food high in sugar, so be sure you:
- Don’t exceed the maximum amount of juice for your child’s age
- Choose juice boxes that have 100% fruit juice, with no added sugar
- Look for juice boxes that also have veggie juice, which adds fiber
- Give your kids more real fruit than fruit juice so they get a full range of vitamins and minerals for maintaining healthy teeth
What to Pack Instead: Hands down, Dr. Chay and Dr. Hendrix’s number one suggestion for hydration is water. Homemade smoothies made with fruits, veggies, and plain yogurt come a close second.
Yogurt seems like one of those perfectly healthy snacks. It has calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 — all nutrients needed to strengthen kids’ teeth and help their development. But unless you’re opting for greek or natural yogurt with no added flavors, your kids’ favorite yogurt might have too much sugar.
The added sugars that come with flavored or fruit-bottom yogurts can make them more of a sweet treat than a daily school lunch idea. As with all prepared foods, check the nutritional label for your yogurt’s sugar content.
What to Pack Instead: Cheese has many of the nutritional benefits of yogurt but with less sugar. If your child can’t live without yogurt, try thicker yogurt with more protein and minimal added sugar. Make your own yogurt cups with fresh fruit or a tiny bit of no-sugar-added jam mixed into plain greek yogurt.
Graham crackers might seem like low sugar snacks for kids but, in fact, they’re high in sugar when compared with other cracker options. Teddy Grahams have about 7 grams of sugar for a small, 1 oz packet, and two large graham crackers contain about 8 grams of sugar.
What to Pack Instead: Peanut butter-filled pretzel bites are great low sugar snacks for kids, or pack some plain pretzels to dip in hummus. If your kids like crunchy snacks, these baked green pea chips have no sugar but still taste great.
Cavity Prevention Tips For Kids
Of course, kids are kids. And kids with healthy teeth do eat sugary foods from time to time. The key to cavity prevention in kids is practicing diligent oral care and limiting snacking. Our top tips include:
- Brushing twice a day and flossing daily
- Rinsing your mouth with water after eating foods high in sugar
- Eating foods that are good for your teeth like veggies, fruit, and low sugar dairy
- Drinking a lot of water
- Minimizing snacking
- Keeping up with twice-annual cleanings and exams
Your Greenville pediatric dentists can help your kids maintain the healthy teeth they deserve. Contact us today to work together on giving your child a healthy, happy smile.