Healthy holiday sweets and eats: Tips to help you keep a healthy diet

by Oriana Biela-Lieu, Registered Dental Hygienist

blue holiday treatsIt is approaching the time of year when sweets and treats are everywhere, beginning with Halloween and continuing with Thanksgiving and Christmas time celebrations. It is also the time of year when people notice their waistlines changing. Constant snacking isn’t “bad” if you do it in moderation and make healthy choices.

Healthy holiday sweets and eats, and good-for-you snacks, can be a part of a healthy diet – which you need to live healthfully.

Snacking is hard on the enamel of your teeth. When we chew food, enzymes in our saliva begin the process of breaking down food. When we chew food, the pH (or the chemical balance) of our saliva becomes more acidic. We all know that acid causes breakdown. High acid levels in our mouth causes breakdown of the enamel of our teeth. More snacking means more chances for the enamel to break down. Weak, broken-down enamel leads to cavities. Large cavities or broken teeth can be fixed with cosmetic dentistry or dental implants, but it is easier and less costly to live a healthy lifestyle and prevent things from breaking down in the first place.

People ask me all the time about healthy foods and the impact on diet and your teeth. I often talk about choosing whole foods and nutrient-rich foods. Does that mean you need to shop at Whole Foods or Oliver’s? Absolutely not, but they do have amazing flavorful foods there. 🙂 What it means is reading labels and choosing more fresh, rather than packaged, foods.

Whole grain bread is more slowly digested than white bread and has more fiber and vitamins, and keeps you full longer, so you eat less. Karen in our office and I are big fans of Alvarado Street Bakery sliced breads. It’s sold at Costco and local stores, it’s made locally in Petaluma and it tastes delicious. Using milk and dairy from Clover, even if it is not organic, still has significantly less hormones than some other brands. Also, fresher food has more nutrients. I love Costco, but when a fruit is three or five weeks old, it is less tasty and has fewer active nutrients than a just-picked fruit. Ever eaten fruit from the farmer’s market or just off a tree? You know what I mean when I speak of taste.

I consider drinks to be liquid snacks. People often do not think about how many calories are in soda or their favorite beverage. Water is still the best and is zero calories. It also neutralizes acid in the mouth so it helps reduce one’s likelihood of developing cavities. Sports drinks, soda and sugary beverages like Kern’s Nectar are acidic. I often see teenagers come into the office with a cavity on every tooth. They may not eat candy, but they do drink Power-Aid or Rockstar Energy Drink daily. The acid erodes their enamel away. Besides the cavities, those drinks also have empty calories that cause weight gain. A simple diet is to stop drinking soda. People can lose five to 10 pounds from doing only that and nothing else.

To snack the sensible way, choose these nutrient-rich snacks:

CrunchyThirst Quenchers
  • Apples and Breadsticks
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • Green pepper sticks
  • Zucchini circles
  • Radishes
  • Broccoli spears
  • Cauliflower
  • Unsalted rice cakes
  •  Fat-free milk
  • Unsweetened juices
  • Low-sodium tomato or mixed vegetable juice
  • Water
MunchySweet
  • Unsalted sunflower seeds
  • Whole-grain breads or toast
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Low-fat or fat-free cheese
  • Plain, low-fat or fat-free yogurt
  • Unsalted almonds, walnuts and other nuts

 

  • Thin slice of angel food cake
  • Baked apple
  • Raisins
  • Frozen bananas
  • Frozen grapes
  • Fresh fruit

With holiday parties happening, choose a healthy holiday sweet or treat over that extra piece of pie or cookie. You will feel better knowing you are making a healthy choice for yourself or a loved one.

Great products such as Oracare and ClinPro are scientifically proven to reduce dental decay. Oracare reduces cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth and also kills viruses and reduces plaque.  ClinPro is a toothpaste that has trisodium phosphate, an ingredient that helps restore the natural condition of enamel and repair white spots on the teeth.

Another thing to consider is gum. Chewing sugarless gum such as Trident or Orbit is scientifically shown to neutralize saliva pH. Chewing sugarless gum for 15 minutes after eating will lessen the acid and reduce likelihood of cavities. It is easy to do and a great alternative to brushing when it just is not possible. There are so many great flavors out there that make it fun as well.

You can always ask your dentist or dental hygienist more about it at your next visit to Blue Apple Dental Group.