Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Feeding Your Toddler and Preventing Cavities

Eliza was offered a few things for lunch today, though half of it was gleefully thrown on the floor! The menu was sharp cheddar cheese, slices of no-nitrate-added salami, and bananas. It can be simple feeding a young child. Offer real, whole foods and skip the processed stuff.

When my first child was a toddler I bought "organic" crackers shaped like bunnies and the like. I didn't think these refined foods would do my son any harm, in fact I felt good, knowing I was spending the extra money for "organic" snacks. My son did eat real foods in addition to crackers, but the more these convenient foods crept into his diet, the more he preferred the packed stuff over meat, cheese, vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods.

My son required extensive dental repair by the age of three, due to a high amount of early childhood dental carries. I felt horrible that he had to go through this, but didn't know at the time what I know now regarding nutrition, and the effect food has on dental health.

Children, especially babies and toddlers, need healthy fats in thier diet, and foods that contain fat-soluble nutrients, or they may run the risk of suffering from dental cavities, narrow dental palates (requiring braces later in childhood), poor vision requiring eye glasses, and other health problems.

The information on foods which support ideal dental health can be hard to come by. Here are some resources I have found helpful:

Good foods/bad foods, and proper eating habit for dental health on WebMd.

Surprisingly, Hershey's candy company actually has some decent information regarding dental health, and development of cavities here:

...Sugar is not the only fermentable carbohydrate responsible for the negative effects of diet on dental health. Fermentable carbohydrates include simple sugars that can be added to foods, natural sugars like those found in fruit, and cooked starches. All of these can be used by oral bacteria to produce acid but at different rates. Therefore, it is appropriate to consider all fermentable carbohydrates when making food choices to enhance dental health.

Dietary protein is not used by oral bacteria and helps to protect against the development of caries by acting as a buffer and reducing demineralization. A practical application would be to combine dairy foods with sweet or starchy foods, or protein-rich foods with cooked or processed starches...

Dietary fat accelerates the clearance of food from the mouth, thereby reducing the exposure time of the oral bacteria to fermentable carbohydrates. The extent of oral clearance depends on the type of fat

Cure Tooth Decay by Rami Nigel is also supposed to be a good resource, though I have yet to read it.

Easy to make, nutrient-dense toddler foods:

Cheese! My daughter loves all types of cheese, including a local sheep's milk blue, mozzarella string cheese, and delice de bourgogne,a beautiful French triple cream brie.

Stewed meats are perfect for little people with few teeth- pot roast, stewed chicken, duck confit, any nice soft meat you enjoy, so will your baby.

Whole milk unsweetened yogurt mixed with a 1/4 tsp sweetener or fresh fruit is a fun, messy snack.

Roasted almond butter, tahini, macadamia nut butter with carrot sticks or celery for dipping into.

Hard boiled egg yolk dipped in a mite of real sea salt.

These are just some of our favorites, generally Eliza eats a bit of whatever the rest of the family is having. What are your favorite, nourishing go-to snacks for young children?

I'm sharing this post with Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday!


  1. My son has a crispy/crunchy texture thing, so we make crackers with soaked and ground nuts or seeds with ground dehydrated veggies in them. It sounds like alot of work but he loves them. You're so right about the processed stuff, it's like crack for little ones and they get hooked on it so easy.

  2. What a cutie! I don't have kids but I have to say I approach my husband's diet with the same technique...ha!

  3. Our littlest guy, now 13 mo., loves cheese, homemade sauerkraut (a mess for the floor, but prob. 3/4 makes it in his mouth), yogurt and applesauce, muesli, cucumbers, and toasted bread with most any spread.

    Our oldest (10) does a great job eating what we serve, but feels "like a weirdo" when I pack an Izze for school when the rest of the class is getting pop. Our middle (5) is hopeless at this point and we just cross our fingers that the scant food he gets by on these days will get him through - being a bit dramatic, but I'm sure you've had meal battles with preschoolers too!

  4. gina- 10 year old kids get pop... at school? oy vey! even an izze is a rare treat for us, what are these parents thinking?

  5. not the parents - the school - it was for a class party, so not an every day occasion, but still, c'mon MPS...