With the Holiday season in full swing, it’s time to kickstart the family traditions we all know and love. One of those is the yummy treats that get kids excited and build toward the big day.
However, like most once-a-year traditions, the Holiday-themed treats we’re all used to aren’t exactly healthy. Not just for our health in general, but they can damage our teeth, too.
Now, we don’t want to zap all the fun out of the Holidays, but we do want to point you toward some healthy snacks you can sprinkle into your holiday fun here and there to minimize the impact it has on your children’s long-term health and dental health.
Let’s get into our suggestions for healthy Holiday treats for kids!
Why Limit Sweet Treats on Holidays?
Before we start talking about different snacks you can make for the upcoming holidays, we need to go over why you need to shift from some of those sweet goodies the holidays are known for, anyway.
The general consensus is that it’s just a once-a-year thing, and that can’t possibly cause any harm, right? Well, think about just how much sugar is really being consumed. Candy canes, sugar cookies, pies, chocolates, and more are all traditional Holiday goodies, and pounding that much sugar, even in a short amount of time, can cause problems for your general health and your dental health.
Then, there’s all the leftover sweets that make that one-day affair turn into a week of indulgence, because you don’t want to waste it, and the kids are having a great time.
All of that excess sugar sits on the teeth and creates an acid-rich environment in your child’s mouth. That acid eats away at the enamel of the tooth, and fairly quickly, it causes cavities. Not to mention, you’re probably too caught up in the holidays to stick to your usual dental hygiene routine.
This is why it’s necessary to cut back a little bit. It’s obviously fine to let the kids have a sweet treat or two just like they do on Halloween, Easter, and birthdays, but balancing those sweet treats with healthy, low-sugar, alternatives can go a long way toward preserving your child’s health.
Of course, maintaining your child’s hygiene routine is also crucial.
10 Snacks to Work into Your Holiday Traditions
Now that we got that out of the way, it’s time to look at ten different snacks that are generally healthy and tend to have a lot less sugar than candy canes and similar traditional snacks. Don’t worry. We don’t want to replace all the candies and sweets with kale. These are kid-friendly snacks that are just as enjoyable.
Do keep in mind that just because these are healthier, some of them still aren’t treats you want your child to eat all day. For example, cream cheese is high in fat and contains sugar, and fruits, despite their health benefits, can be acidic. They’re just a lot better than candy and perfectly fine in appropriate amounts.
1: Apples and Cream Cheese
We’re going to start the list with something extremely simple. Apple wedges and cream cheese are crisp, tart, and creamy all at once, and the two ingredients really create a flavor burst that children will love. Plus, you don’t have to put much work into making them.
Just slice a couple of apples, set out some cream cheese to dip the slices in, and it is snack time.
This is a great treat for when the kids are getting hungry, but that big Holiday meal is still a few hours away. In general, both ingredients are extremely healthy.
The apple contains a little acid, but it’s nothing that your normal dental routine won’t protect against, and the nutritional benefits far outweigh that minor drawback. The cream cheese, as we stated earlier, does contain some sugar, and it is a high-fat food, but it’s also packed with vitamins and nutrients just like most dairy products. As long as your kids don’t eat it by the tub full, it’s a great alternative to sugary treats.
2: Dried Fruit Candies
This healthy Holiday treat for kids can be extremely healthy, or you can add a little “holiday goodness” to make it pop at the expense of its healthiness, but either way, it’s the perfect way to let the kids eat “candy” left and right without destroying their teeth or health.
Many of the commonly eaten fruits in the US have plenty of natural sugar and acidity to make them very candy-like. All you have to do is dry them out, and they turn into a yummy treat the kids will love.
You can do this a few ways, but we’re going to stick to something almost everyone has the equipment for. Put your oven on the lowest temperature, slice your favorite fruits thinly, and lay them on a baking sheet about an inch apart. Put them in the oven with the oven door open, and make sure you move them around every 30 minutes to avoid burning.
Overall, this will take about 4 or 5 hours to complete, and thicker fruits might take as long as 8 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when the fruit slices are dried out, and when you try one, it should be slightly chewy.
Make sure you let the fruit slices cool, and you’re good to go. If your kids aren’t on board right away, you can try to put the dried fruits in a large bowl, sprinkle a small amount of sugar over the top, and give the fruit a mix. This does add sugar, but as long as you’re responsible with it, you’ll make the fruit more candy-like without making it too unhealthy. Just make sure the kids brush their teeth later.
The only real downside to this is that it takes so long. So, if you want to have these as snacks throughout the Holiday season, try to make them in bulk a couple of days ahead of time.
3: Popcorn Varieties
This is a classic, and you already know how to make it. Run-of-the-mill popcorn is perfectly fine for your child’s health in most circumstances, and it can even help with their dental health.
Popcorn isn’t the healthiest snack in the world when a lot of additives are used to top it, but in general, it’s a low-calorie, sugar-free, low-fat, snack. The texture of the popcorn also works as a sort of makeshift scrubber for your child’s teeth. It’s not as good as a toothbrush, but it will help brush away some plaque and debris.
Now, we are pediatric dentists, but we won’t lie to you – plain popcorn isn’t going to appeal to the kids. You probably need to dress it up a little. Basic table salt is fine as long as you don’t overdo it, and even real butter isn’t a big problem in appropriate amounts.
What you want to stay away from are the store-bought popcorn toppers that are filled with chemicals, sugar, and all kinds of things that simply aren’t good to ingest.
There are two other things to look out for, too.
First, you have to make sure all the kernels are popped, and when you present the popcorn to the kids, fish out any kernels that wouldn’t pop. Those kernels are extremely hard, and you don’t want to ruin your Holiday by cracking your child’s tooth and creating a dental emergency.
Then, you have to use a little caution around younger children. Popcorn is a choking hazard for toddlers. Either prepare them a different snack or supervise them while they eat to ensure they don’t choke.
4: Meat and Cheese Rolls
Sometimes, you want a snack that’s a little more on the savory side. This one can take care of that for you.
Having a platter of meats and cheeses is usually seen as an adult snack, but you can make a kid-friendly version just as easily.
You know what your kids like. Take a slice of your child’s favorite cheese, put it on top of their favorite deli meat, and roll it up. We like hard salami and provolone for this one, but you can do it with whatever you want.
The only real drawback to this one is that some deli meats, and a lot of the cheaper processed versions, are extremely high-fat, high salt, and high cholesterol. In the quantity your child is likely to eat, that’s not really a problem. Also, keep in mind that this snack is also packed with protein, healthy fats, and a plethora of vitamins and minerals. So, they definitely get something good out of it as well.
Nuts are superfoods, and you don’t have to do much to prepare them. If you buy nuts that are already removed from the shell, you don’t have to worry about your children fussing with them, they get a ton of nutrients, and there are practically no downsides.
There are only two caveats to this.
First, make sure your child isn’t allergic to the nuts you’re serving. As their parent, you likely know if they’re allergic to them, but if it’s their first time eating nuts, keep an eye on them and be ready to seek help in case something bad happens.
Then, you should also buy lightly salted or salt-free varieties. With some nut varieties, this ruins the experience, but most taste amazing on their own, and you’re not adding a ton of salt to your child’s diet. This is a lot better than potato chips even if you don’t worry too much about salt, though. So, we won’t hold it against you if you don’t go all the way down the health rabbit hole.
6: Honey Candies
If the dried fruits didn’t get you excited for a candy alternative, this one will. Honey candies are extremely easy to make, and they’re a lot closer to the store-bought candies you’re used to without all the processed garbage and refined sugars. All you need is raw honey, apple cider vinegar, and a little vanilla extract.
You can find tons of recipes for these with instructions online, but you’re basically just boiling those three ingredients together and pouring them into molds.
The candies are naturally sweet, packed with nutrients, and incredibly healthy. Still, they’re sticky, and even natural sugar creates the acidic environment we talked about earlier.
Preventive pediatric dentistry specialists’ advice: make sure the kids brush their teeth.
7: Dark Chocolate Dipped Fruits
This is a bit indulgent, and it’s not the best for your child’s dental health, but it is a way to enjoy chocolate on the holidays without loads of sugar and zero health benefits.
You also only need your preferred fruit, milk, and dark chocolate chips. Make sure you use unsweetened dark chocolate chips. The way we’re balancing the health benefits is by relying on the natural sugars of the fruit to provide the sweetness we need without adding sugar.
Just melt the chocolate down, dip the fruit, and place them on wax paper in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.
Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants, and it’s known for a few positive health benefits. It’s not great for your teeth, but it is a healthier alternative to processed chocolate products that a lot of kids eat.
8: Cheese, Meat, and Crackers
This is another healthy Holiday treat for kids, just like the meat and cheese roll-ups we mentioned. But, we add crackers to the mix and slice everything to fit on a cracker.
We won’t call them out by name, but you’re essentially recreating those popular ready-to-eat kid’s meals in the cooler aisle at your local grocery store, and you’re using higher-quality ingredients with practically no sugar.
9: Air-fried tortilla Chips and Nacho Cheese
You don’t usually think of nachos as Holiday snacks, but we’re looking for healthy snacks the kids will love, and not everything needs to be basic.
The trick to making this one healthier is to do it from scratch and utilize the air fryer to cut back on oil usage.
Grab some corn tortillas, cut them into quarters, and with a low-fat cooking spray, give each one a very light coating. Pop them in the air fryer until they’re crispy.
The cheese dip is just milk, cheese, some diced jalapenos, bell peppers, and tomatoes all melted down and mixed together. For a touch of Holiday spirit, stripe the top of the cheese bowl with salsa roja and salsa verde for a white, red, and green dip bowl.
10: Yogurt and Fruit
To wrap this up, you can simply serve a plain yogurt that’s low in fat and sugar, dice up your favorite fruits, and mix it all together.
The kids will love it, and it’s overall a healthy option.
Get Your Kids the Best Dental Care with Dino Dental
Now you have our top 10 ideas for healthy Holiday treats for kids! If your kids have to eat something sweet for the Holidays, it’s much better if they eat these than the regular sweets and candy that are often seen around the Holidays time.
But, dental care goes well beyond the holidays, and even if you minimize the sugary sweets this holiday season, you still need a pediatric dentist.
Contact DINO Kids Dental for caring, professional, and fun pediatric dentists your children will look forward to seeing year-round.