Why Dentists Should Recommend No Snacks–Or Maybe Just One

excited boy with chocolate ice cream bar

09 Dec Why Dentists Should Recommend No Snacks–Or Maybe Just One

Snack Attack

Oh, the beloved snack. In my series of posts based on my interview with author of Getting To Yum and French Kids Eat Everything,Karen Le Billon discusses the problem with too many snacks.

“In France, it’s one snack per day about two hours before dinner,” she explains. By reducing the amount of snacking, children learn to eat differently at mealtime. Personally, I tried this route with my kids, and failed because of one main reason: I did not have enough nutrient dense food at mealtimes. What does nutrient dense mean? It’s the right mix of foods we eat to sustain our bodies. If, for example, we choose to feed our children macaroni and cheese and crackers for lunch, we would be filling their bodies with many carbohydrates and little else. They need a better mix of the right kinds of fats, carbohydrates and protein, or they will get hungry faster. Our bodies break down carbohydrates faster than they can break down proteins or some fats. So, we need to incorporate good fats and proteins (like avocados, fresh cheeses, beans, and nuts) with our carbohydrates like fruits, breads and grains.

Peer Pressure Snacking

Don’t kids need more calories when they are competing in sports? My kids need a snack or they will meltdown. What’s the big deal about giving kids a snack?

Do you have these same concerns? I do, and I feel obligated as a parent to succumb to the peer pressure of parenting. What if my kid does need more calories? What does a few more calories matter? As it turns out, it matters a lot. Our kids are getting (and have been) obese, and it’s mostly our fault. I know that is harsh. And, it certainly puts a lot of pressure on us to find the balance between too much and too little of something. To make matters worse, many of us have had little nutritional training. Even as a dentist, I find my knowledge base completely inadequate. I read a lot. Sound nutritional advice is ever-changing. Sometimes it’s by trial and error, and certainly every parent does things a little differently. But, and I hate to use the word, ‘but’….but, I see very similar, destructive eating patterns in the dental office—enough for me to be concerned and try and offer some solutions. As it turns out, the poor nutritional eating patterns I see not only affect weight gain and vitamin deficiencies, they also lead to cavities. I am not saying there is a direct causation—simply a correlation between cavities and poor health.

Parenting Tips

For example, I had one patient tell me her daughter would only drink chocolate milk—even after explaining to her the relationship between chocolate milk and her daughter’s cavities. Getting parents to understand how to change their child’s eating and drinking habits is difficult. We do not like to cause conflict within our families; some of us do not have time to deal with the problems. It’s just easier to give in to a child’s desires. Seemingly, at first it’s easier, but the long-term health consequences will not be easy for the child. Diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cancers all have research linking them to poor diet. Although saying ‘no’ now stings a little bit, our children will be healthier in the future.

I want to thank Karen Le Billon for writing her two books, and I would encourage anyone to read her books for more information on how to teach children to eat well.

There is so much more Karen shared with me on snacking. I encourage you to listen to the video on YouTube  https://youtu.be/g5OpcAaNW40. It’s a great way to increase your nutritional knowledge!

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