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Your questions answered

Q. How do I discourage a relative from giving sweets to my child?

A. Suggest a present of a small book, pencil or other non-edible gift instead. You could keep sweets to a special ‘treat’ day, once a week. Remember that the number of times that teeth come into contact with sugars is as important as the amount of sugar that is eaten.

Sweets are best eaten in one go rather than over the course of an hour or two. Keep them for mealtimes, when they do least damage to teeth. In England ask your health visitor for copies of the HEA leaflets, Keeping baby teeth healthy and Caring for your children’s teeth.

Other leaflets may be available in Wales or Northern Ireland.

Q. What snacks can I give instead of biscuits or crisps?

A. Try some of these:

  • a drink of milk;
  • a plain yoghurt with a banana sliced into it;
  • a slice of toast with yeast extract, cheese or a slice of ham;
  • some crackers, breadsticks or rice cakes with cheese;
  • a bowl of cereal with milk;
  • a piece of fruit.


Q. I’ve heard that a high-fibre diet is unsuitable for young children. Why is this?

A. Foods that contain a lot of fibre (wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice, bran-based breakfast cereals, etc.) fill up small tummies, leaving little room for other foods. Bran also prevents important minerals from being absorbed. It’s good for your child to try different varieties of starchy foods, but don’t use only wholegrain foods until your child is five.

Q. What should I pack in a lunchbox for my three-year-old when she goes to nursery?

A. Try to choose two savoury options, some fruit, a sweet option (yoghurt, fromage frais, scone, or currant bun) and a drink. Fill sandwiches with canned tuna or salmon, mashed banana, hard or cream cheese, ham, or peanut butter. Add a few vegetable sticks of carrots, peppers or cucumber to munch on and a container of ready washed and bite-size fruits – satsuma or seedless grapes.

A box of raisins is fine if eaten at lunchtime. If you include a fromage frais or yoghurt, don’t forget a spoon. A piece of kitchen towel is always useful. If the lunchboxes are not refrigerated at nursery, choose an insulated box with an ice pack to keep food safe and cool. Buy a leak-proof beaker so you can give milk, water or well-diluted fruit juice.

Q. My child refuses to drink anything but sugary drinks.

A. If sugary drinks are drunk frequently, teeth are at high risk of decay. If your child will only drink sugary drinks, it can take some time to break the habit. Start by diluting these really well with water and offer in smaller quantities, in a beaker at mealtimes.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.