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No matter how well your child brushes her teeth, if she’s consuming too much sugar on a daily basis, she will get cavities.

Sugar grabs on to teeth and destroys the enamel before kids have a chance to brush. On the contrary, children with little or no sugar in their diets rarely have cavities.

Everyone knows sugar isn’t healthy. Yet Americans in general are still eating too much sugar, and kids are no exception.

You don’t need to forbid all sweets all the time.  The occasional sugary treat is likely OK.  The trick is to gradually swap out sugary snacks for healthier choices.

10 Simple Changes You Can Make

1.  Be a label looker — and teach your kids to read labels too.  Look for the amount of sugar listed on the “Nutrition Facts” panel of the foods you buy. It will be listed in grams.

2.  Beware of the following ingredients on the label – they’re all forms of sugar:

Corn syrup, corn sweetener, molasses, honey, fruit juice concentrate, fructose, glucose, lactose and maltose.

3.  Limit processed foods as much as possible.  Make a practice of this, and you won’t need to spend so much time staring at food labels and counting sugar grams.

4.  Use fruit to satisfy your child’s sweet tooth — it’s much lower in calories than sugar-laden foods. Substituting fruit for candy bars — even just some of the time — can eliminate an enormous amount of sugar over time.

5.  Cut back on fruit juices. If you substitute water for sugary drinks, that’s a huge step in the right direction.

6.  Cut back on sports drinks like Gatorade. In general, kids don’t need anything but plain water to drink while participating in sports.

7.  Keep the cupboard and refrigerator stocked with low-sugar choices:

Fruits instead of cookies, 100 percent juice bars (with no added sugar) instead of ice cream.  Graham crackers and unfrosted animal crackers can satisfy a cookie craving with less sugar than most cookies. Dried fruit can stand in for candy.

8.  Plan ahead. When you’re always eating on the fly, you end up eating too many processed foods.  The more healthy alternatives you have ready, the less likely you are to grab sweets on the run.

9.  Choose unsweetened foods as much as possible, such as unsweetened applesauce. Mix fresh or dried fruit into plain yogurt. Many fruity yogurts are loaded with added sugar.

10.  Avoid heavily sweetened breakfast cereals.

Remember, even simple changes can make a huge difference on your child’s dental health.

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About the author: Ryan Roberts, DDS, MS is a pediatric dentist with a passion for working with children –– from infants to the teen years –– at On the Cusp Pediatric Dentistry in Bixby.

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