The warmer weather is here at last, mornings are brighter and the days are longer. No longer do you need to run from the car to your home and stay in on the long dark nights. Now you have time to walk more, go and play on the park or run an errand together with your kids. You are not alone and will inevitably find a local cafe, corner shop or ice cream van to negotiate along the way. What do you do? Buy you and your kids something to eat and drink along the way? How about staying in control and packing your own?
Hydration for kids is always important on a day to day basis. Due to differences in body composition, children have higher body water content relative to body mass than adults and like adults, if they drink to thirst, they may well not drink enough to replace their water losses. Take extra care to ensure that as the weather warms up your kids get enough to drink. Fresh fruit juices, soft drinks and fizzy drinks are often drinks of choice, but given that National surveys conclude many children exceed the recommended intake of added sugars by some amount, then hydration with a non sugar sweetened drink is a good choice. If it tastes nice then your kids will drink it and it’s much better for their teeth too.
On a day to day basis encourage your kids to eat three regular meals and one snack. This is not only a good nutrition strategy, but is about the right number of times they should eat each day to allow their teeth to recover and repair themselves in between. Limit sweet foods and drinks such as cakes, biscuits, cordial, squashes and fizzy drinks overall and, when they are eaten, eat them at mealtimes.
The good news is that over the last couple of decades the prevalence of dental caries has declined. Before we tap ourselves on the back too much however, tooth decay is currently one of the most widespread health problems in the UK, affecting about 31% of adults. In addition, tooth decay is affecting about 1/3 of children starting school and around 1/3 children aged 12 years old.
The whole process of dental decay is quite complicated although because tooth enamel is still being developed and is relatively soft, children are particularly vulnerable in their first 6 years of life. Things that affect the development of tooth decay include:
Dental erosion is different from dental caries because it is caused by exposure to dietary ‘acid’ rather than acid produced by the bacterial action on foods eaten. These dietary acids are commonly found in soft drinks, fruit juices, citrus fruit (oranges, lemons), berries and vinegar. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s unwise to clean teeth immediately after eating or drinking acidic foods and drinks as the brush may also remove some of the tooth enamel.
Top tips to help keep your kids teeth healthy and free from decay
From fuelling fitness for sports performance to healthy eating and fat loss, Penny Hunking has written, researched and talked to consumers and professionals about virtually every aspect of diet, weight management and exercise. She has also written or contributed to many books on key aspects of food, fat loss, fitness and special diets in a career spanning more than 3 decades.
Penny is a Registered Dietitian, a member of the British Dietetic Association, the Nutrition Society, Nutritionists in Industry, Association of Obesity and Sports Dietitians UK. But life is not all hard work, she is passionate about scuba diving, water skiing, cookery, travel and eating out.
RD – Registered Dietitian www.bda.uk.com
R.SEN – Registered Sport and Exercise Nutritionist www.senr.org.uk
R.Nutr – Registered Nutritionist (with a nutrition specialism in Public Health) www.associationfornutrition.org