Food is such a big part of our lives. It pervades our thoughts many times a day, whether it’s wondering what we are next going to eat, or meal planning for the week or preparing a shopping list, food takes up a lot of our time.
One thing that I do notice is that many parents use food as a distraction for their little ones. This might be to keep them occupied in the pram or to soothe after a small accident, we’ve all done it. But this this is not a smart parenting strategy. Not only is is teaching your baby that food is a comforter or something to do when we are bored, it is also promoting all-day grazing. Grazing is bad for a few reasons. Firstly, it means that your child is less likely to be hungry at meal times and won’t eat a proper, varied meal. It is also likely that what they are grazing on is likely to be snack food (crackers, pouches, fruit) and not a good variety of protein and vegetables. Secondly, they risk developing a negative relationship and poor habits with food based on this continual grazing.
For today’s post, however, I want to focus on the oral and dental issues associated with grazing. I was recently at my dentist for a regular check up and overheard a mother making future appointments for her 3 year old – she was horrified that he needed fillings! It’s not the first time that I’ve heard of such young children needing fillings and it begs the question, why? It just should not be happening in this day and age. I queried my dentist on it and he’s kindly provided the following description as to why grazing affects our oral health so badly.
It’s no secret that dentists have cautioned on the consumption of sugary food in that it can lead to an increase in the number of cavities a child will get in their teeth. It’s a bit more complex than that, and one of the crucial factors is how frequent that consumption is. So what’s the science behind that?
When you eat any food that has any sugars in it, the bacteria in your mouth and surrounding the teeth eat it as well and their end product is an acid, lactic acid. Well, acid and tooth structure don’t go well together and the tooth starts to get dissolved until eventually a hole [cavity] occurs. However, teeth can repair the acid damage [as long as it hasn’t caused a hole] via good stuff within the saliva and it can eventually completely repair the acid damage. But, if more sugar is consumed, damage occurs again. So the crucial thing is how frequent the sugar is consumed. Now the worrying part is that it takes only a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar in the food for the bacteria to produce acid and dissolve tooth structure for up to 2 hrs before repair takes place. That amount of sugar is in many foods and ones you don’t normally think of as sugary like pasta sauce or fresh fruit. Hence, the problem for the grazer eating every few hours is there isn’t enough time for repair and they get more cavities than the child that sticks to 3-4 sugar exposures a day.
What was distressing for this mother was that she cleans her son’s teeth morning and night and thought she was doing the right thing by her child. What she didn’t realise is that allowing him to graze throughout the day on seemingly healthy food was causing big issues.
Next time you reach for something to stop the tears or grizzling, I urge you to think twice about it. If your child is having good healthy balanced meals, they should not need regular snacking.
Don’t forget our Fresh Pots are all natural, preservative-free and with no sugar added; they are a great meal for a kid of any age. My 8-year-old’s often take them in their thermos to school. It’s a much more nourishing meal than a sandwich and carries them through a day of learning and play.