5 Food Swaps for Healthier Teeth
I wasn’t the healthiest little kid. Let’s just say my mom had a “one candy bar per day” limit for me, which seems ridiculous now. When I hit my teenage years, I started trying to make healthier choices, like eating apples and carrots, which I had formerly labeled “healthy/boring.” Not only did I shed the baby weight, but I also found my dentist quite happy with me. Gone were the visits where I was told I had four or five cavities since the last visit six months ago.
I know it’s so un-fun to be told that you have to make serious healthy changes to your diet. But it’s so much easier to be healthier by eating more produce and less junk, than to eat only junk, just less of it. Trust me. Here are a few simple food swaps that will lead to healthier teeth and (bonus!) a healthier you.
- Sugary Soda for Sparkling Water
This one was incredibly hard for me to give up. Soda is delicious. If you love effervescence in your beverages, try swapping one soda a day for a sparkling water. Once you get used to that, do two. Soon enough you’ll love the stuff just as much as soda. You can make your sparkling water more fun by adding fruits like berries and herbs like basil. If you absolutely can’t kick soda, try some of these lower-sugar alternatives.
- Skittles for Berries
We’ve already talked about my childhood problem with candy. I had a recent realization while downing a pack of raspberries that they taste just as good as candy and the texture is more enjoyable. (The only problem is that a pack of raspberries costs $4 while a pack of candy costs about $1, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog post.) The best difference between berries and candy, though? Berries contain fiber, which helps your body process the sugar. Candy contains no fiber, so it can easily lead to a sugar crash, more hunger right after you’ve eaten, and with enough candy abuse, diabetes. Try swapping berries for candy as often as possible. (P.S. you can still have candy sometimes. Just brush your teeth afterward.)
- Salty Snacks for Carrots
Crackers aren’t as neutral for your teeth as you might think. The carbs can turn into sugar in your mouth and form a paste that sneaks between your teeth. Try carrots instead, or any crunchy produce. They stimulate production of saliva, which helps wash all the gunk off your teeth. Apples, lettuce, jicama—get that crunch however you like. If carrots are boring to you, dip them in hummus for a smart combination of protein and fiber.
- Almost Anything for Salad
After watching the Fed Up documentary, I learned that tons of foods I regularly eat are full of sugar, including many I wouldn’t have suspected, like pasta sauce. Before getting your vegetables through pizza, consider opting for a salad when you’re eating out or at home. The lettuce fulfills the crunchy vegetable magic I talked about in #3, and it’s likely to be lower in carbs and sugars than say, gnocchi. Just make sure the dressing isn’t loaded with sugar, and avoid too many sticky dried fruits or candied nuts (a few are ok!).
- Cake for Cheese
“What’s your favorite dessert?” people ask me at work as we pile around birthday cake and holiday candy. “Cheese,” I always answer. Turns out my preference for cheese may make me an accidental health nut. While Americans do eat too much dairy (thanks, government and food lobbies!), cheese is allowed to stick around. It contains calcium, protein and vitamins and minerals like phosphorous, zinc and vitamin A. It also contains tooth-strengthening casein phosphate and may help protect against acid erosion.
No matter how perfectly you eat though, you still have to floss. I’m sorry. It’s not so bad though. Here’s how to get started.