A recent study conducted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the nutritional quality of kids’ menu options at various chain restaurants found the overall quality and selection of items lacking. According to the study, “More than one in three children and adolescents consumed fast food every day, in 2011 and 2012.”
Most of the options for children are limited to foods high in sugars, sodium (salt), and saturated (bad) fats, which also include meals very high in calories. While the limited choices are definitely not good for a child’s overall health and well-being, they are not equally good for their teeth. The study pointed out that almost eighty percent of beverage choices with kids’ meals are high in sugar and very few offer actual healthy alternatives.
Even though some chains have removed carbonated and sugary sodas as the primary option for kids’ meals, they merely replaced this with some alternative form of beverage, like fruit-flavoured drinks, equally just as high in sugar, or flavoured milk, which also contains high amounts of sugar.
Sugar is one of the key ingredients that helps create plaque, the sticky substance that sticks to the teeth, attacks the outer protective enamel layer, and leads to tooth decay and cavities. The best beverage selection for children is either regular, low-fat “white” milk or water.
When it came to the actual meal options, many of the meal choices exceeded the recommended daily amounts saturated fats and sodium. Worse still, many of the “dessert” items contained within many of the kids’ meals were found to contain two-times the amount of saturated fats and their caloric amounts were equal to or exceed that of the main meal and side.
While it might not be entirely possible to completely eliminate kids’ meals from your child’s meal options, it is better to reduce the actual number they consume on a weekly basis. Parents can also look for alternatives available with some of these meals, like choosing apple slices over French fries and opting for water or low-fat “white” milk for the beverage.
From a dental health perspective, parents need to make sure they encourage the development of good dental habits, like brushing the teeth after eating. Brushing immediately following a meal helps remove plaque-forming deposits and sugar from the teeth and helps reduce the risks for tooth decay.
One way to help your child get better at brushing their teeth is to assist them to make sure they are brushing all of their teeth. Children tend to brush quickly simply to get the task over and often miss large sections including along the gum line and on the backside of the teeth. Parents should also brush their teeth at the same time, as this helps reinforce the importance of brushing after meals.
Another way to help maintain good oral health in your child is with regular visits to their dentist at Oasis Family Dental. Call our office at (807) 623-2662 to schedule an appointment today!