Celebrating Children’s Dental Health Month in a month which sells billions of dollars in Valentine candy can be a challenge. At Dentistry for Children, we bring you ideas to offset the sugar shocks of Valentine’s Day.
Celebrating Healthy Food Choices
Sometimes parents have to be creative in their approaches to guiding a child’s choices. We hope that we can influence a child to make healthy food choices, and yet many American children are overweight. Teaching children how to make good choices in their eating habits can sound like mindless nagging to the child after a very short time. However, what if you could change tactics a little and still accomplish the same goal?
Celebrating Arvidsson’s Research
That was the premise behind some of the studies of Louise Arvidsson, registered dietitian and Ph.D. student at the Institute of Medicine.
Even Children Don’t Want to be called obese. She puts it this way: “Weight can be a sensitive subject, but if you talk about eating behaviors alongside dental health, you’re looking at the issue from a different angle.”
The Research: She researched the eating behavior, BMI and overall dental health of 271 Swedish pre-school and primary school children.
The Process: She compared the children’s “height, weight, and food intake” and compared “the prevalence of cariogenic microorganisms in saliva…”
The Results: After all the measuring was completed, the data revealed “children who had higher amounts of caries bacteria also had significantly higher BMI and worse eating habits. They ate more frequently and consumed more foods rich in sugar.”
Education is Key in Diet Choices For Both Oral and Overall Health
However, this did not daunt Louise Arvidsson. “There is absolutely a possibility to catch these children and talk about food habits, specifically in Sweden where the dentists meet with them at an early age, but this needs a good level of collaboration between the general dentistry, the child health care and schools,” says Louise Arvidsson. Our leap of faith is that Arvidsson’s study would garner much the same results from a study of US children.
In another study, Louise Arvidsson tested whether eating good food choices increased self-esteem, better relationships with friends and fewer emotional problems. She confirmed that children reported a better sense of well-being when they followed this program: “whole grain products, 400-500 grams of fruit and vegetables per day, fish two to three times a week and a low intake of sugar and saturated fat.”
What’s more, she did follow-up testing two years later. She still found that the healthiest choices in eating resulted in happiest, best-balanced children.
“A healthy diet and mental well-being might, therefore, be considered to interact, in a positive spiral.” Furthermore, she added that “We know that adults with depression feel better if, in addition to other treatment, they also meet with a dietitian. The question is whether a healthy diet can have an effect also in young children.”
She concluded, “There has been a lot of focus on physical activity and mental health in children, but diet is an increasingly recognized aspect.” And, as we know at Dentistry for Children, a healthy diet is vital for good teeth.
Celebrating Choices and Learning to Make Them
Louise has also turned the spotlight on parental behaviors that are well-intentioned but do not work. Children between the age of 2-10 who were stopped from eating with portion control or diets still became overweight 5-6 years later.
She stated, “It clearly doesn’t work, stopping your child from eating too much, or putting them on a diet, as some people were convinced. You really have to look at other methods to control a child’s eating habits.”
It’s too easy to just give your child carrots as a snack. You’re in control. But what happens when you’re not in control? Have you taught your child how to choose carrots over cookies when presented with them both?
She also adds, “What you eat at home is a very important question, and that you yourself try to make healthy choices. Children do as we do, not as we say.”
So, that realization could make you give up such habits as celebrating Valentines by gobbling up 4 pounds of Valentine Conversation Hearts.
Celebrating With Tooth-Healthy Dental Treats
We know you will probably have some Valentine sweets. However, if you have some that are dentally healthy, you might not earn any extra cavities. Let’s take a look at a few tooth friendly, healthier alternatives.
In an informal survey, Dentistry for Children has discovered the ultimate trouble-free but healthy sweet treat for Valentine’s Day: Strawberries!
1. Fruit Pop: Slice some strawberries in half, in their perfect little heart shape. Put 3-4 of those ruby colored beauties on a skewer and you have a sweet and simple treat that won’t cause the dental damage of a lollipop. Of course, you would make sure none of your little Valentine celebrants were allergic to these fruits.
2. A Savory Treat: Utilizing cookie cutter to shape cheese, you can give simple cheese and whole-wheat crackers a Valentine look. It makes a savory treat. (use a cookie cutter to cut the shapes) Served with whole-wheat crackers. Improving oral health can lessen heart disease risks
Chocolate Delights: Using rich dark chocolate, dip bananas, pineapple and cherries. Arrange them on a cookie tray and chill. Serve them like candies or plop them on top of a dessert dish of chilled, plain yogurt.
Check out more cute, easy Valentine Hacks and some more healthy snacks at this reliable, fun resource.
Another way to circumvent the urge to eat their weight in Valentine candies is to distract children by creating adorable tooth friendly Valentines you can download from the American Dental Association–free. Our favorite might be the one that says, “You’re Flossom.” (As in “awesome.)