Do you know what stands between me and a giant dose of mommy guilt? A one-inch-tall, fruit-flavored gummy bear, who has been pumped full of my children’s recommended daily dosage of vitamins and minerals. I do my part to expose my little ones to new, nutritious flavors and textures—and when that fails, to sneak zucchini into pasta and spinach leaves into strawberry-banana smoothies…but even with those measures, my kids are tough customers. So this bear is my back-up when they turn up their little noses at salads and such. I know he’s not as good as the real thing, but he beats an all-beige diet…except when it comes to their teeth.
Gummy vitamins contain sugar, and they’re also as sticky as the gummy candies they are modeled after. My kids’ dentist recently gave me quite the scare when he told me he’s seen an increase in kids with cavities since gummies have taken the market by storm—and evidence does suggest that foods that are sticky are associated with dental problems. So does that mean we have to teach our toddlers how to swallow capsules? Hardly. The good news is that as long as you dose your children properly and practice good dental hygiene, gummy vitamins do not have to lead to tooth decay.
Here’s what dental experts say are the do’s and don’ts of giving children gummy vitamins:
- Do give gummy vitamins as part of a meal. It’s better for kids to chew on their vitamins while they’re eating other foods and drinking water—the gummies are less likely to stick to their teeth.
- Don’t offer gummies immediately after your children have brushed their teeth. This is, by the way, exactly how I used to make sure my children got in their vitamins. Oops.
- Do choose gummies that are lower in sugar. The Vitacost brand contains only 1 g of sugar per serving. Other brands contain as many as 5 grams. Check your labels carefully!
- Don’t overdose. It might seem logical that gummies, so chock full of nutrients, are a “healthy” thing for your children to eat, but there are several reasons why O.D.ing on these supplements is too much of a good thing. For one, it’s exposing your children to more vitamins and minerals than their little bodies need. For another, holy sugar content!!
- Do practice good dental hygiene. No matter what your children eat, brushing and flossing should be something they do twice a day, and ideally after each meal. But particularly if you are giving them sticky, sugary gummies every day, you need to make sure they are following the dentist’s orders. Use a toothpaste that prevents cavities and a soft brush, and gently floss if your child will allow—or at least use a wash like Tom’s of Maine Children’s Anticavity Rinse. And make sure you take your children to the dentist for those regular check-ups!
Of course, if your kids will gleefully eat their vegetables, fruits and other healthy foods without sneaking some of them to the dog, you might not need to give them gummy vitamins in the first place. But for the rest of us, it’s good to know that as long as we follow the above guidelines, we can depend upon those guilt-absolving gummy bears to do their thing…without worrying about a mouth full of fillings!
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