As we all slowly say goodbye to summer, and gear up for back to school for some, and work for others, it’s a good time to discuss the snacks that we choose to take with us every day. As many of you know, aside from being a full time dentist, I also serve as tennis director at Camp Mesorah. Not only does playing tennis every weekend throughout the summer keep me fit, it allows me to see the snack choices of hundreds of kids throughout the day. There are the salad and fruit eaters, and many others who prefer a variety of snack foods. There are the water drinkers and the sport drink soda guzzlers. Fortunately, many camps have stopped the flow of packages that used to arrive from all over, and this has allowed the kids to focus their eating more at mealtime. However, between coming up to camp stocked, and receiving bags full on visiting day, the snack supply is a plenty.
Snack foods have become very inventive and sophisticated through the years. We are a far cry from cookies and chips. We have sticky, gummy, sour, chewy, sweet and salty. The sugar content as well as the high fructose corn syrup is off the charts.
So how do we enjoy? What can we indulge in?
As we send our kids back to school, let’s make a “snack supply” list to use as a guide when we shop and stuff their lunch boxes for the day. (Mind you, this is not just for our kids, we adults are equally guilty).
Most of my patients expect me to tell them that they can only have carrots and celery sticks. True, these are healthy, but not what we crave. In previous issues we have discussed the damage of sweet and acidic foods, and the great benefit of water.
So are there “good” snacks that we can enjoy? The answer is YES, and you will be surprised at my suggestions.
There are some snack foods that we perceive as “healthy”, but can cause rampant decay. For example, raisins and Craisins. I had a patient come in before the summer who had started a Craisin habit in the winter, and had 6 cavities. Cranberries are healthy, but high in sugar, and STICKY! Rule of thumb, if it’s sticky, even if it’s healthy, stay away. Especially with your kids, as they don’t pick their teeth like adults do after sticky snack, so it sits and eats away at the enamel. Pretzels, potato chips, and sour belts (sweet, sticky and acidic are the “trifecta”) all are foods that stick in the grooves of your molars and contribute towards tooth decay.
But, chocolate, cake and ice cream taste great, and melt away. Wow, there are good snacks. Of course fruits and vegetables get priority. There’s nothing like a sweet apple, a crispy pepper or a juicy bunch of grapes. There are better sweet alternatives you can consider, if you think about what sticks and what doesn’t.
As far as drink choices, this gets tricky. The perception is that if its diet, or a juice, then it’s fine. Incorrect. Juices are sweet and some are acidic, such as orange juice. Great vitamin C, nutritious, however, still sweet and acidic. In excess, it can do a lot of enamel damage. And for our athletes, fyi, most sports drinks have approximately 34 grams of sugar. That’s about 8 teaspoons! When is the last time you put 8 teaspoons of sugar in a glass of water? Yuck! So, if you are looking for electrolytes and sports energy kick, dilute your drink a bit. It will still taste good, and you’ll lower your sugar intake. As for sodas, the regular ones have sugar and acid, and the diet choices still have acid. Don’t fool yourself and drink in moderation.
So, when you are packing your lunch boxes for your busy day, think of the snacks that melt away (I know, sorry for the corny rhyme, but it liked it). And, don’t forget, always chase it with water!
By Dr. Brian Kalb