Snacking is normal routine for toddlers and is something they will probably do daily in between main meals. Treats are different to snacks and should be restricted for special occasions and should not be part of a child’s daily diet (treats should be allowed 1-2 times per week).
From the dental perspective, we advise no more than 4-5 sugar intakes per day, this includes snacking and drinks (but excludes milk feeds and water), with each meal time and snack counting as one sugar intake, so when breakfast time, lunch time and an evening meal times are excluded, this leaves two snacks per day as a maximum. Some families will have four ‘meals’ a day and avoid the snacking, other families stick to traditional three meals a day, and allow snacking in between. Desserts should be served at mealtimes to restrict the sugar intakes.
So how can we ensure that we are getting the most from our children’s snacks? Seemingly ‘Healthy’ snacks marketed at children have been shown to contain sugars, for example when fruit is juiced and some snacks labelled as containing one portion of fruit or veg do not live up to the claim. Sugary snacks hold little or no nutritional value. When you have time, if you prepare your food as freshly as possible, you will know how much sugar (and salt) your child is consuming. For example, home made ice lollies are much healthier (and more fun!) alternative to pre made ones! That’s why I have always felt aligned with Annabel Karmel’s recipes and books and used and continue to use them for my own children, her key principles focus around using fresh produce and being easy to prepare and nutritious.
Here are some of my favourite healthy recipes
The recommended maximum daily allowances are 5 cubes of sugar for 4-6 year olds, 6 cubes for 7-10 year olds and 7 cubes for 11 years and over (one cube of sugar is approximately 4g of sugar). There is presently no official maximum intake for sugar consumption for under 4s but food and drink with natural and added sugars should be restricted as much as possible. On some recipes, I personally opt to leave out adding honey, fruit juices and sugar when possible.
Helen Clint qualified with Honours from University of Liverpool in 2005, with a distinction in Oral Health. She works as a primary care dentist in general practice in Liverpool. She enjoys all aspects of dentistry, but since becoming a mum herself is passionate about improving children’s oral health. She has completed her MJDF (RCS England) and is an Educational Supervisor.
She has two children under 5, so can empathise with parents and knows from a personal perspective how tough parenting can be!
Helen is an NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur on this year’s cohort of the Programme. Her aim is to make the Oral Health message more relatable and accessible to families and she has launched her own social media account as a platform for this.
Follow Helen on Instagram @dentalmummy