You’ve probably noticed the colorful gummy fruit snacks on the shelves at the supermarket, their packages reading, “Organic,” “Made with real fruit,” “No added sugars,” “Natural flavors” and a whole bunch of other claims. But are fruit snacks healthy? Will they hurt your child’s teeth? Let’s talk about it.
The Truth About Those “Healthy” Gummy Snacks
Yes, some gummy fruit snacks do contain real fruit. But this isn’t the same as eating fresh fruit. The fruit in gummy snacks and even many dried fruit snacks like fruit leathers is processed and often in juice or concentrate form. This removes a lot of the nutrients, including most of the fiber.
But worse than that, they’re loaded in sugar. According to guidelines from the American Heart Association, kids under 2 should have no added sugar, and children and teens between the ages of 2 and 18 should have no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. One pack of fruit snacks can deliver almost an entire day’s allowance!
As for naturally sweetened fruit snacks without added sugar, while preferable to their even sweeter counterparts, they’re still processed and don’t provide the vitamins and minerals of fresh fruit as a counterbalance.
In reality, the vast majority of gummies and other types of fruit snacks count as candy. So, moderation is key!
Why Fruit Snacks are Bad for Kids’ Teeth
Eating too much sugar, especially from processed sources, doesn’t just impact kids’ overall health, it also impacts their smile. What does sugar do to your teeth? Well, the bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars and starches and, when they do, they release acids. These acids leach minerals from the enamel (demineralization). Over time, if demineralization happens more often than remineralization, tooth decay and cavities occur.
To prevent cavities from forming, it’s important to minimize acid attacks by limiting sugar and simple starches and encouraging the remineralization of kids’ teeth through fluoride and a diet that’s rich in tooth-strengthening nutrients like calcium.
Sugar Isn’t the Only Culprit
Sugar alone isn’t the only problem. Time is another driving force behind tooth decay. The more time a food spends on the teeth, the longer the acid attacks go on, and the more significant demineralization will be.
This is why gummy fruit snacks are notorious cavity causers. They stick in the nooks and crannies of your child’s teeth and are hard to get rid of. This prolongs the acid attacks and makes it much more difficult for remineralization to win the battle. Add acidity to the mix, such as with sour gummy snacks, and there is even more erosive potential.
Firm, fresh fruits, on the other hand, while they still have sugar, don’t stick to the teeth to the same degree and they’re packed with water, which helps wash away bacteria and stimulate saliva. In some cases, like with raw apples, because they’re fibrous they even help scrape plaque off the teeth while kids are eating them.
Dr. Kumar and the team at 914 Smiles, would never tell families to avoid any type of food altogether, and gummy fruit snacks are no exception. But it’s important to make them an occasional treat and not an everyday addition to your kiddo’s lunchbox.
When trying to find something healthy for your child to eat, keep in mind that fresh and minimally processed foods are always preferable. Not only are these foods healthier in general, they also tend to have less sugar and be less sticky.
Some easy, smile-friendly snacks for kids include:
- Raw apples
- Raw pears
- Carrot sticks with hummus
- Celery sticks with dip
- Yogurt sweetened with fresh berries
- String cheese
Get Personalized Cavity Prevention Tips From Our Tarrytown Pediatric Dentist
Want to learn more about keeping your child’s smile healthy and cavity-free? 914 Smiles in Tarrytown, NY has you covered. Schedule a visit for your little one with pediatric dentist Dr. Reshma Kumar today!