Cooking for kids is never easy. You have to look up recipes, check nutritional content, plan meals, shop for quality ingredients, and the list goes on. We understand the struggle of being parents while working full-time at Kids Healthy Teeth – just ask our pediatric dentist, Dr. Chen! As a business owner, dentist, and mother, she’s always on the go.
To alleviate a little stress for our patients(is that possible??), we’ve compiled a complete tooth-friendly grocery guide for parents in Katy, TX. No more last-minute Yelping for organic food stores or scrambling to find the grocery list from last week! Our guide outlines all the nutrients your child needs, the foods you can find it in, and where to get that food here in Katy. Let’s get started!
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, children should be consuming 3 servings of vegetables per day. As they grow older, they can gradually increase their veggie intake to 4-5 servings of vegetables a day. Doctors recommend this amount because vegetables are low in fat and calories, yet they are packed with dietary fiber and minerals.
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and cabbage are especially good for your child’s dental health because they’re high in calcium and folic acid, which can help build enamel and gum health. Magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta carotene are just a few of the minerals included in these plants. There are also vegetables, like broccoli and carrots, that can naturally break apart plaque buildup because of their crisp texture.
For fresh, locally grown produce in Katy, support small farms and businesses at the Farmer’s Market on Grand Parkway! It’s open every Saturday from 8 AM to 12 PM and there are tons of friendly vendors to choose from. Bring your family and make it a family bonding experience. Kids are more likely to eat vegetables if they choose it themselves, too.
Like vegetables, fruits are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they’re very important to your health. Citric fruits like oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, and kumquats are excellent for oral health because of their large amount of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can stimulate the production of collagen for healthy gums. It can also increase salivation, which can help neutralize acidity in the mouth and flush away food debris.
Apples are another tasty fruit you can pack for your child for lunch. Also known as nature’s toothbrush, apples are incredibly fibrous and they can help scrub plaque away after a meal. The acidity of the fruit can also kill of bad bacteria. Try to avoid apple juice or apple sauce – they don’t have nearly as much fiber as the natural fruit and many brands add unnecessary sugar.
For fresh fruit, Sprouts on Cinco Ranch Blvd has a wide variety of natural and organic produce (it’s in the name!). There are also multiple Kroger stores in Katy, on Spring Green Boulevard, Grand Parkway, and West Grand Parkway South.
Milk products or dairy provide much of the calcium that children need to grow and develop strong and healthy teeth. Not all dairy products are made the same, however, so keep an eye on the ingredients and nutritional value on the packaging when you purchase any items.
Cheese is packed with phosphate and calcium, which can help remineralize the teeth, but not all cheese are made the same. While most cheese-labeled items still have some nutrients, they should be consumed in moderation. Be mindful when purchasing:
- Pre-packaged cheese dips
- American cheese
- Cheese sprays
- Imitation mozzarella
- Canned parmesan
Most of these cheese products are made of a combination of different starches, emulsifiers, food colorings, preservatives, and chemicals that give them a rich, cheese-like flavor and texture. These processed items have a longer shelf-life and lower production costs, but they may not have the same benefits as real cheese. Normally, these cheese products have less calcium and more fats than real cheese. You can still enjoy them, but don’t count on these items as your primary source of calcium.
Real cheese is high in calcium and protein. It contains casein, which can strengthen enamel to prevent cavities! When shopping for cheese, look for the following:
- Monterey Jack
To ensure your cheese is authentic cheese, look for products with unmodified names. For example, real parmesan cheese is usually labeled Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cheese from their country of origin is also more likely to contain fewer additives and be less processed. Last but not least, check the ingredients! Most cheeses are composed of a few simple ingredients – usually milk, salt, and natural enzymes.
For cheese enthusiasts, The Cheese Bar is a gourmet cheese shop located on Cinco Ranch Blvd in Katy, TX. They promote fresh cheese from local artisanal cheese makers and stock their shelves with imported cheeses like French triple-cream brie and Spanish manchego. Stop by to pick up a slice if you’re in the area!
Another dairy product that does wonders for the teeth is yogurt. Like cheese, it is high in calcium, protein, and good bacteria. Probiotic yogurt can also balance the mouth’s pH levels, creating a less hospitable place for bacteria to live.
Although yogurt is essentially good for your body, many brands have too much fat and added sugar to be healthy. Opt for plain Greek yogurt to get the most out of your yogurt and always make sure to check the nutrition facts on the label. Adding a dash of honey or a handful of fruit can sweeten the yogurt for any picky eaters.
Your teeth and bones need calcium to grow strong and healthy. Many people get their calcium from dairy products, but it’s also possible to get all the calcium you need from vegetables and plant-based products. If your child is lactose intolerant, there are tons of calcium-fortified plant glasses of milk, yogurts, and cheeses.
Harvest Natural Market on Westheimer Parkway has tons of authentic dairy products for families to enjoy. Not only do they have a wide assortment of nutritious cheese and yogurt, but there are also plenty of delicious, creamy non-dairy options, too.
Phosphorus is an essential mineral for developing teeth and bones that are found in protein. Our pediatric dentists recommend getting lean meats such as poultry, fish, and eggs to strengthen teeth and build muscle. Seafood, eggs, and mushrooms also provide vitamin D, a substance the body needs to help absorb calcium for healthy teeth.
At the mention of protein, many people tend to think about meat, but there are actually plenty of ways to get protein without animal products, too. Beans, nuts, lentils, tofu, and other soy products have plenty of protein and phosphorus as well! Nuts like almonds, cashews, and walnuts have a tremendous amount of fiber, folic acid, phosphorus, and vitamin D to supplement the development of teeth and bones. However, parents who are grocery shopping should beware of salted or candy-coated nuts. These can get stuck in the teeth and create a breeding ground for plaque because of the sugar content.
Katy is full of healthy grocery stores where you can conveniently pick up all of these products. The Whole Foods on Fry Rd has a deli with both fresh meats and prepared foods. They also have a nut section where you can fill your own sustainable shopping containers with plenty of protein goodness. Nearby, the Trader Joe’s on Commercial Center Blvd also provides seafood, meat, eggs, and soy products, stocked daily.
For the parents who spend all their time going to PTA meetings, attending fundraisers, or working one or even multiple jobs, we know coffee is important necessary to get through the day. The heavily pigmented beverage, however, can easily stain teeth. Many coffee concoctions are also made with syrups and creamer that are loaded with cavity-causing sugar. Remember to use a straw if you plan on drinking iced coffee or rinse your mouth after a piping cup of joe.
If you can, our dentist recommends switching to black tea or green tea for a caffeine boost. Though tea still has teeth-staining tannins, it also has bacteria-suppressing compounds that can prevent unwanted cavities. Drink it unsweetened and through a straw for the best results. Remember, our kids get their eating habits from us, so we highly encourage parents to swap coffee for tea!
You can pick up an array of teas and spices (for flavor) at the independent grocery stores in Katy. Keemat Grocers on Mason Rd offers imported Indian and British teas that are incredibly fragrant. Other international grocery stores include H-Mart in Katy Asian Town, Vishala Grocery in Mason Rd, and Sunrise Grocers on Katy Fortbend Rd.
We hope this helps you the next time you’re grabbing your groceries in Katy! Let us know if you have any other questions about nutrition counseling from our pediatric dentist in Katy. At Kids Healthy Teeth, we place dental education and prevention as a priority for families.