Holidays can get pretty hectic, with festivities, friends, family and an abundance of food – lots of it sweets and desserts. We all tend to relax routines during the holiday season: kids often stay up later and eat more sweets and snacks than usual. But we have a few tooth-healthy tips for kids that you – and they might not have seen coming.
Seriously. When your kids pop in a piece of sugar-free gum after a meal, they’re actually clearing leftover particles from their teeth, along with bacteria and other sticky foods that can cause decay. Once the flavor disappears, they will probably lose interest in chewing the gum, but that’s OK – they don’t have to chew for long to reap its benefits. About 20 minutes post-meal should be sufficient, according to the American Dental Association. We recommend gum sweetened with xylitol, a USFDA-approved sugar alcohol that has been shown to reduce the amount of Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria known to cause cavities in your mouth. Unlike other natural or synthetic sweeteners, xylitol is actively beneficial for dental health because it can significantly reduce cavities with regular use. It can also help with reducing plaque buildup. You can usually find 100% xylitol-sweetened gum (a popular brand is Spry) at the checkout counters of larger health food stores. We also carry the Spry line here at the office.
Head Straight for the Chocolate
Dark chocolate that is, and the darker the better. Better to offer kids sweets that don’t stick around. Instead of sticky foods that get on and in-between their teeth, go for items that dissolve quickly, limiting sugar contact with enamel. Trade the caramels and candy canes for antioxidant-rich plain or semi-sweet dark chocolate. If kids find the dark flavor too strong, you can whip up a xylitol-sweetened hot beverage or cookies with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Luckily, you don’t have to limit all sugar – just remind them to rinse afterwards.
Eat Dessert First
Yes, all-out first! Well, alongside the entrée anyway. This tip is a favorite of ours worth repeating. Let kids grab a cookie or slice of pie and (as counterintuitive as it may sound) eat it with the main course, rather than at the end. That may seem an invitation to disaster, but mixing in sweets with the turkey, squash and such of a balanced meal provides nutrients that neutralize sugar acids produced by desserts. Chewing vegetables and meats will also help sweep away sugars that otherwise set a welcoming table for resident bacteria
Let Kids Help Make Their Own Sweet Treats
As our contribution to your holiday activities and particularly to family time, we offer an easy, tooth-healthy snack recipe that should keep kids (and grownups) occupied and amused for a whole blissful hour of quiet time.
Sugar-Free Mint Hot Chocolate
What would Christmas be without a traditional cup of hot chocolate? Ditch the sugary versions and opt for this delicious, guilt-free version instead. This recipe makes one serving – expand as needed for your group. Younger kids can help prep the dry ingredients. Older kids might handle the entire enterprise with a little adult help.
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1-2 teaspoons xylitol (based on sweetening preference)
Pinch of kosher or fine-grained salt
1 cup 1% milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
Mix cocoa, sweetener and salt in mugs. Microwave the milk for about a minute and a half or until hot. Slowly add milk to the cocoa mixture, stirring as you go. Add vanilla and peppermint and stir.