Those Tricky Halloween Treats
by Linda Valderrama, R.D.H.
This is the season for wacky witches, ghosts and goodies, mummies and yummies! Everyone can enjoy Halloween with a few tricks to help protect your children’s teeth.
Kids enjoy the idea of collecting a bag of Halloween candy. As parents, make sure to keep the candy in your control. Kids like to sort and trade it. Eating 5 or 6 pieces at once is better than eating candy alll day long. Eat some, then put it away, each day depleting the stash. It is probably a good idea to make it “disappear” after a week (not by eating it!) Some of the candies may also be used in craft projects to make holiday decorations such as wreaths, decorated vases, gingerbread houses etc. Another alternative is to give away some of the candy to a school or hospital that is looking for donations of wrapped candy for the kids who are less fortunate and cannot go out for ”trick or treat”.
Sticky candies ( carmels, taffy, bubblegum) are bad because they stick to teeth for a long period allowing acid to form that can break down tooth enamel. Minimize exposure to sticky types of treats and if they are eaten, try to brush afterwards.
Sour candies are popular now, but they are sour because they are made with acidic additives. Listed in the ingredients you will usually find acids such as: lactic, ascorbic,malic,tartaric,fumaric, phosphoric, or citric acid. Teeth suffer a double whammy being exposed to one or more acids plus sugar! “Concentrated fruit juice extracts” is another code word for ingredients that can be highly acidic. A Ph between 1 and 5 softens teeth. Sour candies have a PH of 1-4. If you or your children do snack on sour or tart candy, rinse your mouth after with water and then brush.
Treats like pretzels, animal crackers, string cheese, nuts, granola bars, trail mix, fruit, applesauce cups, cherry tomatoes, fresh vegetables cut up or cut into different shapes, make good snack alternatives. Kids usually do not like foods because of their texture, so sometimes kids will eat a raw vegetable over one that is cooked or mashed. Be creative and offer fun and appetizing alternatives to your kids. You can make sandwiches using a healthy type of bread like whole wheat or oat bran and use a cookie cutter to cut out small pieces in different shapes. You can try switching out bread and use a whole-wheat tortilla and wrap up just about anything. I have a friend who used avocado instead of mayonnaise in sandwiches.
Be sure to have your children get in the habit of rinsing and /or brushing their teeth after eating any treat. This is one of the most important things you can do to keep their smile healthy. Cultivate this ritual by rewarding and praising this good habit and introducing them to healthy, tasty snack alternatives .The kids will enjoy helping to make and create fun snacks.
Teaching a child to take proper care of their teeth and to make good food choices is no easy task, but tooth decay is mostly preventable and brushing might be one of the most important habits they will acquire. As a parent or grandparent try to limit the most destructive sweets by using a little variety, imagination and have some fun doing it!
THINGS TO DO:
1. Have your child think of vegetables that begin with the same letter or sound as their name. Then have them draw a picture of themselves eating it and then brushing their teeth.
2. You can talk about colors and your child can pick out which character they like the best.
For ex. Barry and the blueberries.
3. Make up a fun toothbrushing song.
It is fun to for you to sing to them and have them happily brushing.Eventually they learn the words and sing it too. You can make up your own using the child’s name, with rhyming words. The idea is to make it fun! For example , one that I used , was to the tune of “Row,Row Row Your Boat”:
Brush , brush , brush your teeth,
After eating meals each day,
Cleaning ,cleaning, cleaning, cleaning
Fighting tooth decay.
Another verse could include
Brush brush brush your teeth,
after eating meals each day,
Front , back, take off the plaque,
Now we smile all day!
5. Discuss healthy food choices.
Look in the book and talk about what the kids are eating. For example Doreen eats dark chocolate. Then she brushes her teeth. Although it would be best to eat something like that for dessert at a meal, in real life it does not always happen like that! So if you do eat a snack just brush after. Of course there are always exceptions at a birthday party etc. If you are away,you can swish some water and swallow and then brush when you get home. The idea is to form the habit of brushing,cleaning your teeth after eating whenever possible.
Eat, then brush,eat,brush,eat brush
Clean each tooth. Don’t be in a rush
O-pen wide, look in-side, smile and say
Health -y teeth, hoo-ray, hoo-ray!
7. Show and tell. Role models are important! Parents should be a model for good homecare habits and start a motivational program early while the kids are young and eager to imitate . If you want your children to have smiles that will last a lifetime, get them into the habit of brushing after they eat.
8. Positive reinforcement. This is achieved through positive feedback by rewarding desirable behavior (brushing).
For ex. utilizing the brushing chart and stickers in the book.