Summer is flying by! Maybe it’s because we’ve been so busy hanging out with our patients, making little smiles sparkle and soaking up the sunshine that August really snuck up us on here at Kids Mile High Pediatric Dentistry. That means, pretty soon, the kiddos will be heading back to school and parents’ schedules will be jam packed again. When you’re busy juggling a zillion things, dreaming up healthy snack ideas for kids that they’ll actually like can seem like an impossible task. Your favorite Englewood and Central Park pediatric dentists, Dr. Paddy and Dr. Roger, are here to take that off your to-do list. We’re sharing some great snacks for kids that include foods that are good for your teeth too. Just remember, it’s best for children to snack in moderation since frequent snacking can increase the risk of cavities. Stick with nutrient-dense choices that will carry them through to their next meal. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Baked Sweet Potato Fries – You can come up with a ton of inspiration for after school snacks by putting a healthy twist on some of kids’ favorite foods. In this case, French fries. Instead of the greasy, fried variety, try baked sweet potato fries. Sweet potatoes promote gum health because they have vitamin C, which may help kill bacteria in the mouth that can cause gingivitis and also ensures a healthy supply of collagen in gum tissue. Since sweet potatoes aren’t as acidic as citrus fruit, they give kids this necessary nutrient without weakening the tooth enamel.
Ingredients (4 Servings):
- Four sweet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Dash of paprika, optional
- Preheat your oven to 425°F.
- Cut your sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and then cut the halves into wedges about one-inch wide.
- Place the sweet potato wedges in a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika if you’re using it. Toss to coat.
- Put the wedges on a roasting pan or a lightly greased baking sheet
- Bake until the potatoes are soft, about 25 minutes, turning once.
- Take potatoes off the pan and, if needed, season with more salt and pepper.
- Let them cool just a bit and serve warm.
2. Pita Bread Pizza – Genius Kitchen is home to an endless array of healthy snack ideas for kids, including this one for pita bread pizza. It’s simple, filling and, most importantly, tasty. These baked, portable pizzas consist of pita bread topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, spices and olive oil. We’d suggest sprinkling veggies, such as roasted broccoli or sautéed peppers, on top and using whole grain pita bread for more nutritional value. The mozzarella cheese has calcium, which helps replace the minerals teeth lose on a daily basis and strengthens the enamel, as well as the bones that support the teeth. If you opt for whole grain pita bread, it will benefit your child’s gums too. Whole grains are thought to lower the risk of gum disease.
3. Crunchy Cinnamon Chickpeas – Roasted chickpeas are one of our favorite healthy snacks for kids on the go. The unassuming little legumes are actually nutritional powerhouses. Chickpeas have protein, folic acid, calcium, iron and magnesium. Folic acid stimulates cell growth from head to toe, which is essential for the whole body, the mouth included. Calcium makes the enamel and jaw bone strong. Magnesium is another mineral needed to give little teeth enamel of steel! Pack these crunchy chickpeas up for some healthy snack for kids at school or when they’re on the move.
Ingredients (4 Servings):
- 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and thoroughly dried
- 1 tablespoon of a neutral oil (avocado oil is a good choice)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of honey or agave
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- After rinsing your chickpeas, roll them in a clean towel to dry them. If you have time, you can also let them air dry for 30 minutes on the towel. Some people swear by removing the skin for maximum crispiness but the choice is yours!
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the chickpeas with the oil and sea salt. DON’T add the other spices yet.
- Arrange the chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes or so. When they’re done, they’ll be golden brown and crispy on the outside but soft on the inside.
- Remove your chickpeas from the oven and toss them with the honey or agave and cinnamon.
- Let the chickpeas cool for about 10 minutes. They’ll get crispier as they cool.
4. Peanut Butter and Banana Overnight Oats in Mason Jars – Overnight oats aren’t just for breakfast. Stock a few extra jars in your fridge for healthy after school snacks. This version contains whole grains in the form of oats, Greek yogurt, milk, chia seeds, banana and peanut butter. Your kiddo will get protein, calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and other essential vitamins and minerals. Yogurt and milk are foods that strengthen kids’ teeth. They reduce the acid levels in the mouth, lowering the risk of decay. The calcium and vitamin D also strengthen the bones that support the teeth and keep enamel strong. Whole grains, like oatmeal, are thought to lower the risk of gum disease.
If your child doesn’t eat dairy, you can leave out the yogurt in this recipe and replace the milk with an alternative like soy milk or almond milk. Add an extra splash of your non-dairy milk to make up for the moisture the yogurt would have provided.
Ingredients (1 Serving):
- 1/4 cup of old-fashioned, rolled oats (can also use gluten-free oats)
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1/2 cup milk
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter or a nut-free alternative like SunButter
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- ½ of a banana, sliced
- Put all of the ingredients, except for the banana in a mason jar.
- Mix really well or put the lid on and shake it.
- For less mushy banana slices, add the banana before serving. If you don’t mind softer bananas, gently fold the banana slices in before putting it in the fridge.
- Put the lid on and keep the jar in the refrigerator for at least eight hours or overnight.
- Mix and eat up!
5. Cucumber Hummus Cups – We stumbled across this genius recipe from the blog My Kids Lick the Bowl. Stacey, the mom behind the blog, cuts cucumbers into thick slices and scoops out most of the middle with a melon ball scooper to make a little cup. She stuffs the cucumber cups with hummus and pops pretzel sticks in them for good measure. Voila. One of the best healthy snack ideas for kids we’ve seen and you can pull it together in minutes. See the full instructions here. Cucumbers are packed with water and water rinses away food debris and plaque in the mouth. They’re also crunchy and chewing on crunchy, fresh veggies stimulates saliva production. Saliva has minerals in it that neutralize cavity-causing plaque acids. Hummus is made with chickpeas, which, as we discussed, have folic acid, protein, magnesium and calcium, all vitamins that help keep kids’ teeth healthy.
6. Fruit and Veggie Spring Rolls – For a fun take on spring rolls, try stuffing them with smile-friendly foods like raw apples, baby spinach, strawberries, shredded carrots and mango. Since they’re finger food, these fruity spring rolls are amazing healthy snacks for kids on the go. Apples and carrots are nature’s toothbrushes, scraping away plaque as little ones munch on them. Leafy greens like spinach have essential vitamins and minerals to strengthen the teeth and gums, while fruits, such as strawberries and mango, contain the vitamin C gums love. This recipe is adapted from one created by Gemma Stafford of Bigger Bolder Baking.
Ingredients (8 Servings):
- 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
- 8 strawberries, sliced
- 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped into matchsticks
- 1 mango, peeled and chopped into matchsticks
- 1 cup baby spinach
- Lemon juice
- 8 rice paper wraps
- Prepare fruits and veggies. Be sure to squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the chopped apples to prevent them from turning brown.
- Add warm water to a large pot or bowl. Soak the rice paper wraps one at a time in the water for about 20 seconds. The wrap should be pliable and a little sticky but still a bit firm. Put the rice paper down on a flat surface with the smooth side facing down. Place a little bit of the filling towards the center of the bottom third of the rice paper. Bring the bottom edge up and over the fruits and veggies. Fold in both sides. While using your fingers to keep the filling tight and towards the center of the roll, firmly roll the entire paper up like you’re rolling a burrito.
- Serve alone or with the dipping sauce of your choice.
These healthy snack ideas for kids are simple to make, delicious and contain foods that strengthen teeth. While a well-balanced diet is part of any plan for awesome oral health, brushing and flossing like a champ and going for regular visits to a pediatric dentist are also keys to keeping children’s smiles healthy and bright. Looking for a fun, high-tech pediatric dentist in Englewood or Central Park? Schedule an appointment at Kids Mile High Pediatric Dentistry today!