Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. What’s more, a good diet is essential for a child’s growth and development. Almost all foods, including milk or vegetables, have some type of sugar, which can contribute to tooth decay. To help control the amount of sugar your child consumes, always try to read food labels and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Also, select beverages, such as water, that hydrate and contribute to good nutrition.
What to Eat:
According to MyPlate, a website from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, an agency of U.S. Department of Agriculture, a balanced diet should include:
- Fruits and vegetables. Combined these should be half of what your child eats every day.
- Grains. Make sure at least half of their grains are whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice.
- Dairy. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods.
- Lean proteins. Make lean protein choices, such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish. Try to vary protein choices to include eggs, beans, peas and legumes, too. Eat at least 8 oz. of seafood a week.
In addition to a nutritious diet, snacking habits, bottles and pacifiers also impact your child's oral health. Here are some tips to keep your child's mouth healthy:
- Place only formula, milk or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
- Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottles before going to bed.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean—don’t dip it in sugar or honey, or put it in your mouth before giving it to the child.
- Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday and discourage frequent or prolonged use of sippy cups.
- Serve nutritious snacks and limit sweets to mealtimes.
For tips on how to get your children to eat more fruits and vegetables, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.