What foods cause tooth decay in children?
Many different types of food can cause
tooth decay, not just candy. Foods that are high in carbohydrates, as well
as some fruits, liquids, peanut butter, crackers and potato chips are
culprits. Factors that cause tooth decay include the frequency in which the
foods are eaten and the time they remain as particles in the mouth.
Can decay affect infants?
Yes. Tooth decay in infants and young children most often occurs in the
upper front teeth, but also may affect other teeth. Sometimes parents do
not realize that a baby's teeth can decay soon after they first appear.
The decay may even enter the underlying bone structure, which can hamper
development of the permanent teeth. This problem is frequently referred
to as baby bottle tooth decay. This kind of decay is caused by long-term
exposure of a child's teeth to liquids containing sugars. When a child
consumes a sugary liquid, acid attacks the teeth and gums and causes decay.
Are children safe from
soda and other beverages?
Dentists believe that kids who consume too much soda and not enough
nutritional beverages are prone to tooth decay in addition to serious
ailments later in life, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Drinking
carbonated soft drinks regularly can contribute to the erosion of tooth
enamel. Soft drinks contain sticky sugars that bacteria in our mouths use as
an energy source. They break down into acids and adhere to tooth surfaces.
How does bacteria hurt teeth?
Decay is caused by bacteria that feed on any food that contains sugars and
carbohydrates. Decay occurs when solid or liquid food particles are left
unswallowed and cling to the teeth or gums for long periods. Bacteria in
the mouth use sugars to produce acid that attacks the enamel of the teeth,
softening and then eroding them. Enamel breakdown leads to cavities. If
erosion spreads beneath the enamel, pain and sensitivity may eventually
result. This can cause nerve infection, which can result in the need for a
My children rarely drink soda.
Are they still at risk for tooth decay?
Yes, any prolonged exposure to soda can cause damage. Sipping a soft drink
all afternoon is more harmful to your teeth than drinking a large soda with
a meal and then not drinking any soda for the rest of the day. While many
dentists advocate drinking nutritional beverages, such as milk, many agree
soda should be consumed from a can rather than a bottle with a replaceable
cap to discourage prolonged exposure to soda.
How can children
prevent damage to their teeth?
Children at school should rinse their mouth with water after meals, leaving
their teeth free of sugar and acid. Children also should seek sources of
fluoridation. If you purchase bottled water, be sure that it is fluoridated.
Encourage children to drink tap or fountain water. Use a straw when drinking
soda to keep sugar away from teeth. Remember, bottled juices are not a good
alternative due to the high sugar content. Regular dental check-ups,
combined with brushing with fluoride toothpaste also will help protect
How can you help your child
prevent tooth decay?
Parents should take their infant to the dentist just after the first tooth
appears. Brushing teeth after meals, regular flossing and fluoride
treatments are the best ways to prevent tooth decay. Children should also be
supervised as they brush. A good rule of thumb is that when children can
dress themselves and tie their own shoes, then they are ready to brush
unsupervised. Children should be supervised in proper flossing techniques
until the age of 10. If you have any concerns about your child's dental
health or want some tips on preventing tooth decay, ask your dentist.
The AGD 11/06
and Childhood Obesity Fact Sheets
The Obesity Fact Sheets contain results
related to the obesity epidemic among youth. The YRBS results describe the
problem by identifying the percent of high school students who are
overweight, engage in unhealthy dietary behaviors, or are physically
inactive. The Profiles results describe characteristics of health education,
physical education, opportunities for physical activity, and the school
environment among middle/junior and senior high schools that may help
address the problem. AGD 11/06
CDC Fact Sheets
Dash by State
Smart. Play Hard. Healthy Lifestyles
Welcome to the
Eat Smart. Play Hard.™ Healthy Lifestyle! This
site is specifically designed for parents and
caregivers to provide information to help you
eat better, be more physically active and be a
role model for your kids. This site contains
information and resources to:
• Help you get
• Help you make smart choices,
• Prepare quick, easy, and healthy meals that
taste good and
• Provide you with tips on how to increase
physical activity in your life.
you'll also find a handy Calorie Burner Chart,
the My Pyramid Tracker and the ESPH Tracking
Card. With all this information, you'll have all
the tools you need to begin eating healthier and
be more active every day....go to:
Ideas for Kids
Healthy School Snacks
Serving healthy snacks to children is important to providing good
nutrition, supporting lifelong healthy eating habits, and helping to prevent
costly and potentially-disabling diseases, such as heart disease, cancer,
diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Snacks play a major and
growing role in children’s diets. Between 1977 and 1996, the number of
calories that children consumed from snacks increased by 120 calories per
Fruits and Vegetables
Most of the snacks served to children should be fruits and vegetables,
since most kids do not eat the recommended five to thirteen servings of
fruits and vegetables each day. Eating fruits and vegetables lowers the
risk of heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. Fruits and
vegetables also contain important nutrients like vitamins A and C and fiber.
Serving fresh fruits and vegetables can seem challenging. However, good
planning and the growing number of shelf-stable fruits and
vegetable products on the market make it easier. Though some think fruits
and vegetables are costly snacks, they are actually less costly than many
other less-healthful snacks on a per-serving basis. According to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, the average cost of a serving of fruit or
vegetable (all types – fresh, frozen, and canned) is 25 cents per serving.
This is a good deal compared with a 69-cent single-serve bag of potato chips
or an 80-cent candy bar. Try lots of different fruits and vegetables and
prepare them in various ways to find out what your kids like best.
Healthy Eating Tip: serve snacks with fun plates, napkins, cups, or straws
or have a tasting party where children can vote for their favorite healthy
Fruit is naturally sweet, so most kids love it. Fruit can be served
whole, sliced, cut in half, cubed, or in wedges. Canned, frozen, and dried
fruits often need little preparation.
Apples (it can be helpful to use an apple corer)
Grapefruit Grapes (red, green, or purple)
Honeydew Melon Kiwis (cut in half and give each child a spoon to eat it)
Applesauce (Unsweetened), Fruit Cups, and Canned Fruit – These have a long
shelf life and are low-cost, easy, and healthy if canned in juice or light
syrup. Examples of unsweetened applesauce include Mott’s Natural Style and
Mott’s Healthy Harvest line. Dole and Del Monte offer a variety of
single-serve fruit bowls.
Dried Fruit - Try raisins, apricots, apples, cranberries, pineapple, papaya,
and others with little or no added sugars.
Frozen Fruit – Try freezing grapes or buy frozen blueberries, strawberries,
peaches, mangoes, and melon.
Fruit Leathers – Some brands of fruit snacks are more like candy than fruit,
and should be avoided due to their high content of added sugars and lack of
fruit. Brands to avoid include Fruit Rollups, Farley’s Fruit Snacks, Sunkist
Fruit Gems, Starburst Fruit Chews, Mamba Fruit Chews, Jolly Rancher Fruit
Chews, Original Fruit Skittles, and Amazin’ Fruit Gummy Bears. Try Natural
Value Fruit Leathers and Stretch Island Fruit Leathers, which come in a
variety of flavors and don’t have added sugars.
Fruit Salad – Get kids to help make a fruit salad. Use a variety of colored
fruits to add to the appeal.
Popsicles – Most so-called “fruit” popsicles have added sugars and should be
reserved for an occasional treat. Look for popsicles made from 100% fruit
juice with no added caloric sweeteners, such as Breyers or Dole “No Sugar
Added” fruit bars.
Smoothies – Blend fruit with juice, yogurt or milk, and ice. Many store-made
smoothies have added sugars and are not healthy choices.
Deliveries – Deliveries of fresh fruit or platters of cut-up fruit are a
convenient option offered by some local grocery stores.
Vegetables can be served raw with dip or salad dressing:
Carrot sticks orBaby Carrots
Peppers(green, red, or yellow)
Tomato slices or grape or cherry tomatoes
Yellow Summer Squash slices
Dips – Try low-fat salad dressings, like fat-free Ranch or Thousand Island,
store-bought light dips, bean dips, guacamole, hummus (which comes in dozens
of flavors), salsa, or peanut butter.
Salad – Make a salad or set out veggies like a salad bar and let the kids
build their own salads.
Soy - Edamame (pronounced “eh-dah-MAH-may”) are fun to eat and easy to
serve. (Heat frozen edamame in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes).
Veggie Pockets – Cut whole wheat pitas in half and let kids add veggies with
dressing or hummus.
Ants on a Log – Let kids spread peanut butter on celery (with a plastic
knife) and add raisins.
Healthy Grains (bread, crackers, cereals, etc.)
Though most kids eat plenty of grain products, too many of those grains are
cookies, snack cakes, sugary cereals, Rice Krispy treats, and other refined
grains that are high in sugars or fat. Try to serve mostly whole grains,
which provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains. In
addition, try to keep the added sugars to less than 35% by weight. If a food
manufacturer fails to provide the added sugars content of a food item, use
the percentage of weight from total sugars (in place of the percentage of
weight from added sugars), and exempt fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods
from this total sugars limit. Note: Cookies, snack cakes, and chips should
be saved for occasional treats, given their poor nutritional quality. trans
fat low (i.e., less than 10% of calories, or about one gram or less per
Whole Wheat English Muffins, Pita, or Tortillas – Stuff them with veggies or
dip them in hummus or bean dip.
Breakfast Cereal – Either dry or with low-fat milk, whole grain cereals like
Cheerios, Grape-Nuts, Raisin Bran, Frosted Mini Wheats, and Wheaties make
good snacks. Look for cereals with no more than 35% added sugars by weight1
(or roughly 8 grams of sugar per serving).
Crackers – Whole-grain crackers like Triscuits, which come in different
flavors or thin crisps (or similar woven wheat crackers), Kalvi Rye
crackers, or whole wheat Matzos can be served alone or with toppings, like
low-fat cheese, peanut butter, or low-fat, reduced-sodium luncheon meat.
Rice Cakes - Look for rice cakes made from brown (whole grain) rice. They
come in many flavors, and can be served with or without toppings.
Popcorn – Look for low-fat popcorn in a bag or microwave popcorn. Or you can
air pop the popcorn and season it, e.g., by spraying it with vegetable oil
spray and adding parmesan cheese, garlic powder, or other non-salt spices.
Baked Tortilla Chips - Baked tortilla chips are usually low in fat, and
taste great with salsa and/or bean dip. Look for brands with less sodium.
Granola and Cereal Bars - Look for whole grain granola bars that are low in
fat and sugars, like Barbara’s Granola Bars (cinnamon raisin, oats and
honey, and carob chip flavors), Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars
(cinnamon, oats ‘n honey, maple brown sugar, and peanut butter flavors),
Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars (fruit and nut flavor), and Quaker Chewy
Granola Bar (peanut
butter and chocolate chunk flavor).
Pretzels, Breadsticks, and Flatbreads - These low-fat items can be offered
as snacks now and then. However, most of these snacks are not whole grain
and most pretzels are high in salt. To calculate % sugars by weight for a
food item, look at the Nutrition Facts label and divide the grams of sugars
by the gram weight of one serving of the product and multiply this numberby
WARNING: A small but growing number of kids have severe peanut and/or
tree nut allergies. Before
bringing in peanuts, peanut butter, or other nuts as a snack, check to make
sure none of the children has
Low-Fat Dairy Foods
Dairy foods are a great source of calcium, which can help to build strong
bones. However, dairy products also are the biggest sources of
artery-clogging saturated fat in kids’ diets. To protect children’s bones
and hearts, make sure all dairy foods served are low-fat or fat-free.
Yogurt – Look for brands that are low-fat or fat-free, moderate in sugars
(no more than about 30 grams of sugars in a 6-oz. cup), and high in calcium
(at least 25% of daily value [DV] for calcium in a 6-oz. cup). Examples
include Danimals Drinkable Low-Fat Yogurt, Go-Gurt by Yoplait, or cups of
non-fat yogurt from Stonyfield Farm, Dannon, Horizon, and similar store
brands. Low-fat or non-fat yogurt also can be served with fresh or frozen
fruit or low-fat granola.
Low-Fat Cheese - Cheese provides calcium, but often its saturated fat price
tag is too high. Cheese is the number two source of heart-damaging saturated
gat in children’s diets. Even with low-fat and reduced-fat cheese, be sure
to serve with other foods like fruit, vegetables, or whole grain crackers.
Choose reduced-fat cheeses like Trader Joe’s Armenian Style Braided; Borden
or Sargento Light Mozzarella string cheese; Frigo Light Cheese Heads; Kraft
Twist- Ums; Polly-O Twisterellas; the Laughing Cow’s Light Original Mini
Babybel; or Cabot 50% Light Vermont Cheddar.
Low-Fat Pudding and Frozen Yogurt - Low-fat or fat-free pudding and frozen
yogurt should be served only as occasional treats, because they are high in
Other Snack Ideas
Nuts - Since nuts are high in calories, it is best to serve them along with
another snack such as fruit. A small handful of nuts is a reasonable serving
size. Examples include peanuts, pistachios, almonds,
walnuts, cashews, or soy nuts. Look for nuts that are unsalted.
Trail Mix - Trail mixes are easy to make and store well in a sealed
container. Items to include: low-fat granola, whole grain cereals, peanuts,
cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dried fruits like
raisins, apricots, apples, pineapple, or cranberries.
Luncheon Meat – Choose lower-fat, reduced-sodium brands of turkey, ham, and
roast beef and serve with whole wheat bread, pita, tortillas (as a wrap
sandwich), or crackers. Cut sandwiches in half to make snack-sized portions.
Water – Water should be the main drink served to kids at snack times. Water
satisfies thirst and does not have sugar or calories. (Plus, it is low-cost
for care-givers!) If kids are used to getting sweetened beverages at snack
times, it may take a little time for them to get used to drinking water.
Seltzer - Carbonated drinks like seltzer, sparkling water, and club soda are
healthy options. They do not contain the sugars, calories, and caffeine of
sodas. Serve them alone or try making “healthy sodas” by
mixing them with equal amounts of 100% fruit juice.
Low-Fat and Fat-Free Milk - Milk provides key nutrients, such as calcium and
vitamin D. Choose fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk to avoid the
heart-damaging saturated fat found in whole and 2% (reduced-fat) milk. It is
best to serve fat-free versions of chocolate, strawberry, or other flavored
milks to help balance the extra calories coming from added sugars.
Single-serve containers of chocolate or
other flavored whole or 2% milk drinks can be too high in calories (400-550
calories) and saturated fat (1/3 of a day’s worth) to be a healthy beverage
Soy and Rice Drinks - For children who prefer not to drink cow’s milk,
calcium fortified soy and rice drinks are good choices.
Fruit Juice - Try to buy 100% fruit juice and avoid the added sugars of
juice drinks, punches, fruit cocktail drinks, or lemonade. Drinks that
contain at least 50% juice and no additional caloric sweeteners are also
healthful options. To find 100% juice, look at beverage nutrition labels for
the percentage of the
beverage that is juice. Orange, grapefruit, and pineapple juices are more
nutrient-dense and are healthier than apple, grape, and pear juices. (See
“Orange You Glad?” chart.) Many beverages like Capri Sun, V8-Splash,
Tropicana Twisters, Sunny Delight, Kool Aid Jammers, Hi-C, or juice drinks
from Very Fine, Welch’s or Snapple are easily mistaken for juice. However,
those beverages are more like soda than juice -- they are merely sugar water
with a few tablespoons of added juice. Fruit juice can be rich in vitamins,
minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds. However, it is high in calories.
The American Academy of Pediatrics 1% Water should be the main drink served
to kids at snack times.,,,recommends that children ages 1-6 years old drink
no more than 6 ounces (one serving) of juice a day and children ages 7-18
years old drink no more than 12ounces (two servings) of juice a day.
For more information, contact Dr. Margo Wootan or
Joy Johanson at
the Center for Science in the Public Interest,
1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300; Washington, DC 20009.
Phone: 202-777-8351, Fax: 202-265-4954, E-mail: <email@example.com>.
A note about sugary soft drinks (soda,sweetened tea, lemonade, and juice
drinks): Children who drink more sweetened drinks consume more calories and
are more likely to be overweight
than kids who drink fewer soft drinks. Soft drinks also displace healthful
foods in kids’ diets like milk, which can help prevent osteoporosis, and
100% juice, which can help prevent heart disease and cancer. In addition,
soda pop can cause dental cavities and tooth decay.
Up Family Meal Time
A generation of
"TV-dinner" kids might be learning their eating habits from
Homer Simpson, according to a recent CNRC survey of children's
Survey data showed that 42
percent of time that Houston-area middle-school children ate dinner
at-home, they were parked in front of the "tube." Nearly 300
fourth- through sixth-graders took part in the one-week survey.
"Eating an occasional
meal while watching television can be a fun treat for families," said
Dr. Karen Cullen, a CNRC behavioral nutritionist and Baylor assistant
professor of pediatrics. "But keep in mind that family mealtime is
extremely important for children from both a nutritional and a
Survey results suggest that
concern over these "TV-dinner" kids might be warranted.
Overweight children reported eating nearly 50 percent more dinners while
watching television than their normal-weight peers.
"We know there's a
link between the number of hours children watch television and weight
problems," Cullen said. "We also know that people who watch
television while eating tend to tune out their natural hunger and satiety
cues, which encourages overeating."
Escalating TV-time can also
increase the influence of television programming on children's food
According to Cullen, food
commercials are designed to sell product. As a result, they tend to tie
the use of a food to positive feelings, such as fun, physical
attractiveness or popularity, rather than hunger or health. They also
rarely show how the food fits into a healthy diet.
"Studies show that
children tend to request those foods most frequently advertised on
television," she said. "Unfortunately, the foods most heavily
advertised tend to be low in nutritional value."
On the other hand,
family-focused meals tend to have a positive influence on children's
families keep the TV off during mealtimes tend to consume more fruits and
vegetable, less saturated fat and more of several key nutrients,"
Families that tune into
each other instead of the TV during meals also gain an opportunity to talk
mealtime conversations build children's self-esteem and foster trusting
relationships, which can help families talk through tough issues when they
arise," she said.
Research agrees. According
to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the more meals that teens
eat with their families, the less likely they are to smoke or use alcohol
"Family meals are key
to helping children learn healthy eating and life skills," Cullen
said. "Parents need to turn off the television during meals and
engage their children."
Source: Carter JB, Cullen KW, Baranowski T.
BMI Related to
Number of Meals Eaten Watching TV as Reported by 4TH to 6TH Grade
Students: Demographic Differences. Abstract for the American
Dietetic Association Meeting, Denver, CO, October 2000.