It’s that time of year when kids are heading back to school and parents are busy in the kitchen coming up with creative lunch ideas to keep their children’s tummy’s full, bodies healthy and minds interested in what is in their lunch box. The need for a healthy, balanced meal is as important as ever. With obesity affecting Canadians in near-epidemic proportions, medical and dental professionals are looking for ways to help children and adolescents get healthier. Dentists are primarily concerned with the “snack and sip” trend in which junk foods and sugary drinks make up the majority of kids’ nutritional intake.
The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are emphasizing that “back-to-school” is a good time to start improving youngsters’ diets.
Sweetened beverages and unhealthy snacks cause a myriad of problems:
o Theses substances create excess bacteria in the mouth, which increase tooth decay.
o Tooth decay, affecting 50% of all children, is the leading chronic childhood disease.
o Children habitually suffering from poor nutrition score lower on standardized tests, get sick more often, and tend to fall behind in school.
However, combating these problems is easily assimilated into a child’s routine:
o A diverse supply of fun, tasty, nutritious snacks such as yogurt or peanut butter- filled celery sticks will divert kids from their usual sugary fare.
o Get creative with back-to-school lunches––pack a variety of healthy foods that are fun to look at and eat.
o If they must have a snack, combine it with water. Snacks and sugary drinks took together can be harmful however drinking water with food is less harmful as it helps neutralize acid production.
o Ask your school to reduce the number of poor choices offered in vending machines and at the cafeteria.
o Find ways to get kids active––at least 1–2 hours of exercise a day is recommended.
Dental exams are so important to overall health that both the ADA and AAP recommend including them as part of a child’s regular health regimen. Combined with support at home, children of all ages will undoubtedly benefit from better nutrition and better dental health.
By Dr. Diya Chadha & Dr. Karim Kanani