How can we best support our family’s nutritional needs when they are out of the house?
With summer coming to a close, we’re going to explore a few nutritional ideas and tasty snack options to help your little ones support their oral health as they head back to school.
But before we dive into specific options, let’s discuss some health-savvy snacking principles.
Taming the sugar demon in school (and work) lunches
If you are going to include something sweet, make it a nutritious and antioxidant-dense sweet.
For example, for a snack I like to have a handful of raw macadamia nuts mixed with some dried berries. Some of my favorites are dried mulberries, goji berries, or golden berries. Each of these dried fruits are sour and sweet, and they’re packed with nutrition. Add to that the fact that goji berries have a special place in my heart because they’ve been used in Chinese herbology for several hundred years.
In this way, you can bring together the healthy fats of a handful of nuts with the bright flavor of these less common, nutrient-dense dried berries. More on fats in a moment…
Special warning for raisin lovers – While raisins seem innocent enough, we’re not big fans of this snack, especially for kids. Here are three easy ‘strikes’ against raisins as a snack.
- Unless they are organic, they have most likely been sprayed with a fluoride-based pesticide.
- And even if they are organic, raisins are loaded with sugar (a handful of raisins is like 5 handfuls of grapes).
- To top it off, raisins are super sticky. When they’re chewed, they get smashed into the crevices of molars and encourage bacterial fermentation where we don’t want it.
Keep sugars to a minimum before lunch (eat a savory breakfast)
Research has demonstrated that if we start the day with a sweet breakfast, our brains burn out earlier in the day–we lose focus faster, become lethargic earlier, and our brains are slower at processing information.
If you’re concerned about the recent, purported health risks of consuming a low carb diet, please read this really excellent rebuttal of the research by Primal Kitchen creator, primal lifestyle hero and author of the best seller Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson of MarksDailyApple.com.
Get quality fats into the diet at every opportunity
While we commonly emphasize the importance of eating quality fats in every meal, no conversation about diet and living a cavity-free life would be complete without at least a quick reminder.
If you are confused about the critically important role that healthy fats play in stopping and even helping reverse tooth decay, please download our free resource guide, How to stop tooth decay and remineralize your teeth.
You can also find helpful insights in these articles:
- What to eat to never have another cavity in your life (part 1)
- Can fruit play a part in a cavity-free diet?
- 4 Steps to Help Your Kids Live a Cavity Free Life
Suffice it to say that indigenous peoples who lived nearly free of tooth decay throughout their entire lives ate an average of 10x (yes, ten times) the amount of healthy fats as ‘modern’ Americans in the 1930s. So, the lesson here is, get healthy fats into every meal possible.
Make sure to include moderate protein to support growing bodies
It’s common for us to prop ourselves up on carbs by eating various forms of sugars (especially low-nutrient, processed foods) throughout the day.
This is problematic for a few reasons.
When we eat foods that are low in nutrients, we tend to eat more of them to feel full.
As we go through the day and the initial ‘happy belly’ feeling wears off and our body realizes it didn’t actually get the nutrients that it needed, our body cries out (in the form of hunger pangs and cravings) for more and more food.
We reach for more forms of sugars, which wind up diminishing our hunger for real food and perpetuating the cycle of sugar and carb cravings. This also causes more insulin to be released, which can trigger your body to start storing the carbohydrates in the form of body fat.
The end result is that many of us experience bouts of fatigue and/or irritability during the day as our blood sugar spikes and crashes (thus the modern term ‘hangry’… hungry + angry). Also, we may wind up overfed but undernourished, consuming too many empty calories while simultaneously developing an overall malnourished state.
Eating protein helps keep insulin levels balanced, helps you to feel full for longer, and gives your body the building blocks it needs to repair and build tissues. It can also help you to maintain or even lose weight. So, a well-rounded snack should included some protein.
Slow down sugar uptake by including some healthy fats when sweets are eaten.
When eating something sweet, combining it with a healthy fat helps minimize the negative impact of sugar on our oral health.
First, because of the fats, the snack will require much less actual sweetener to taste sweet. Our ability to taste sweet foods is heightened by having fat (and salt) at the same time.
Second, eating sweet foods with healthy fats slows down the sugar metabolism and reduces the risk of unbalancing our blood chemistry. Balancing our blood chemistry is important for our oral health because an imbalance is a primary factor in rampant tooth decay.
As we mentioned above, proteins can help you feel full for longer. However, fats can help you to feel full faster.
Unlike a low-fat sweet treat that leaves us wanting more, having a fat along with a sweet snack helps us to feel sated. An easy snack that includes sweet, fat, and protein is the nuts and dried berries that we described earlier. And our go-to healthy sweet snack is any one of the many awesome, coconut-based snacks available these days. See below for some recipes and our favorites.
Head to head nutrition fact comparison…
To shine a light on the importance of consuming fats when we eat sweet foods, let’s compare the nutrient facts of a small box of raisins (1.5 ounces of raisins) with two coconut macaroons.
This seemingly innocent box of raisins contains only 1.3 grams of protein, a meager 0.2 grams of fat and 34 grams of total carbs. Anyone wanting a sugar spike and crash, just grab a box and run (while you can)!
In contrast, a similar quantity of coconut-macaroon-like snack contains a balance of 12 grams of protein, 12 grams of healthy fat, and 10 grams of total carbs.
This is what we are aiming for in a snack for our kids (and us ‘big people’). It’s tasty and will gently appease our sweet tooth, and at the same time, it will also provide some of the nourishment that is necessary for supporting optimal oral health.
With these core principles in place, here are some of our top picks for kids’ snacks.
Whole food options
Whenever possible (it’s almost always possible), we aspire to have whole foods rather than packaged foods. Here are some ideas:
- Celery stalk or sliced (preferably green) apple with nut butter (organic almond butter is our favorite)
- Organic hard boiled egg (this provides a great balance of protein and healthy fats)
- Savory nuts (lots of healthy fats here). Here’s a good recipe for some DIY savory nuts.
- Raw nuts and dried berries (goji, mulberry, or golden berry)
Packaged food options
We get it.
Whether we’re traveling or just plain busy, sometimes packaged foods are the answer.
Here are some of our favorites that still provide lots of support to our oral health…
Our friends at PaleoValley have produced a really excellent beef stick. This product has two important distinctions that make it stand out from many of the other beef stick options on the market.
First, it’s made from 100% grass-fed AND grass-finished beef. That’s important, as the industry has been green washed a bit by all the positive PR on grass-fed beef. Unless the cattle are grass-finished too, they’ve been fed grain in the last weeks of their lives to fatten them up. PaleoValley has sourced only grass-fed and grass-finished beef.
Second, rather than using modern preservatives, PaleoValley uses artisan, old school fermentation preservation techniques. What’s super cool about this is that their beef sticks contain living cultures to help maintain a healthy gut microbiome, too.
We consider these nutrient-dense snacks great for when you could use a savory, nourishing snack on the go.
We like them so much that we’ve asked our friends at PaleoValley to give our OraWellness community a 10% discount for anyone looking to try their products.
Just go to PaleoValley.com and use this coupon code: ORA10
Whenever we’re traveling, we like to bring some of Bubba’s savory snacks. It seems that snack foods all too commonly lean toward sweet flavors, so we like that these snacks really provide a nice savory crunch.
We SO appreciate companies like Bubba’s who have realized the importance of the type of oil they use. Many good products lose our business because they are made with a seed oil (primarily sunflower or safflower oil). Bubba’s is made with… coconut oil. 🙂 Gluten-free, grain-free. Good snack.
Here’s a sweeter snack that’s truly loaded with nutrition. It’s like a coconut macaroon but even better. FYI, the Paleo Angel Power Balls are delicious, but they contain collagen, so they are not vegan-friendly.
If you’re making some macaroons and want to really treat your kids (or the kid in you!) to something special, you can melt a dark chocolate bar, dip half of the macaroon into the melted chocolate, and set it on parchment or wax paper in the fridge to harden. Here’s our favorite dark chocolate indulgence.
Another great savory option, plantain chips are among our top choices for supporting a healthy gut microbiome. Research clearly shows a direct connection between our gut health and our oral health.
The health-giving bacteria in our gut microbiomes love feeding off of resistant starch, which green plantains provide. Plantain chips are yummy and really satisfying when you want something crunchy. And again, the Barnana brand ones in the link above are cooked in coconut oil, which puts them way above so many other snack foods that are cooked in vegetable or seed oils.
So that wraps up our list of snack ideas to help support your family on the path to optimal oral health. We hope you found a few options that your family will love.
As always, we love to hear from you. So, if you have a snack that you really like that you’d like to add to the conversation, please post it in the comments below.
Also, for a deeper dive into specific recipes for back-to-school lunches, we encourage you to check out this great resource, from our friends at WellnessMama.
Helpful, Related Resources:
How to stop tooth decay and remineralize your teeth [FREE resource guidebook]
What to eat to never have another cavity in your life (part 1) [article]
Can fruit play a part in a cavity-free diet? [article]
4 steps to help your kids live a cavity-free life [article]
What causes tooth decay (and how to stop it) [article]
Putting together the pieces to stop tooth decay and reminerlize teeth [article]
DIY spiced nuts recipe [recipe article]
PaleoValley beef sticks [[product solution]]
Wellness Mama coconut macaroons [recipe article]