If you’ve decided to lose a few pounds after the New Year’s Eve ball drop, you’re not alone. Weight loss is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions made every year.
Making smart food choices, paying attention to portion size and exercising are the steps you can take to shed pounds, and these changes can benefit more than just your waistline. They can also be good for your teeth. Read on for small swaps that can make a big difference on the scale and in your smile.
When You’re Planning Meals
You may have favored fatty foods, indulged in too much takeout or didn’t spend much time planning what should be on your plate.
You’re learning how much lean protein, vegetables, grains and dairy to have each day
Food is fuel for your body, and the right kinds of food will help you look, feel and function better. ChooseMyPlate.gov is a resource to help jump start new, healthy habits and figure out what and how much you should be eating each day.
An easy way to start is to think about what your plate should look like, using the image above:
- Fruits and vegetables: These should cover half your plate at meals. They are high in water and fiber, which balance the sugars they contain and help to clean your teeth. These foods also help stimulate saliva production, which washes harmful acids and food particles away from teeth and helps neutralize acid, protecting teeth from cavities.
- Grains: At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains or low-sugar breads and cereals, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice.
- Protein: Make lean protein choices, such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish. Vary your protein choices to also include eggs, beans, peas and legumes. These phosphorus-rich foods help to keep your mouth healthy and contain valuable protein, which help keep you feel fuller for longer amounts of time.
- Dairy: When it comes to dairy, choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods. Milk and other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, are low in sugar, which is a good thing for your dental health. Plus, they contain protein and are full of calcium, which are good for healthy teeth and gums.
When You Need Something to Drink
You reached for a soda.
You quench your thirst with water.
Two out of three adults in the United States are overweight or obese, and 1 in 4 Americans get at least 200 calories a day from sugary drinks like soda. Since a 20-ounce regular soda has an average of 227 calories, cutting soda from your diet is an easy way to save on calories.
The calories in regular soda are bad enough but it is even worse than that for your teeth because those calories come from added sugar. A regular can of soda also contains about 12.5 teaspoons of added sugar, which is how much added sugar the FDA says people over the age of 3 should have throughout an entire day!
The swap is simple: Water. (Even better if it’s fluoridated!) Water contains no calories, no sugars and helps keep cavities away by washing away leftover food and keeping dry mouth at bay.
When You’re Craving Dessert
You grabbed a cookie after dinner to feed your sweet tooth.
You reach for a piece of sugarless gum.
It’s a win-win: You can prevent dessert remorse and clean your teeth at the same time. Waiting about 20 minutes after a meal helps your body determine if it’s really still hungry. Studies also show that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after eating can reduce your risk of cavities. (Look for a sugarless gum with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.)
When You’re Working Out
You rehydrated with a sports drink after exercising, which you might not have realized is loaded with sugar.
When you work out this year, fill a sports bottle with water from the tap.
Adults should aim for two and a half hours of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. Staying hydrated is key when you’re exercising, but sports drinks also often add extra calories because they are full of sugar and can be acidic. That’s why, hands down, water is the best beverage for your body and your teeth. And while you’re strengthening your body with a workout, you can strengthen your teeth by drinking tap water. Community water with fluoride can actually help rebuild weak spots on the outer shell of your teeth.
When You Could Really Go for a Snack
When hunger strikes, you reach for the first food at hand.
You’re better prepared and choose healthy foods.
Picking up chips, crackers or whatever is around is an easy way for calories to sneak up on you. Limiting your snacking and making better choices can help control your calorie intake and give cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth less leftover food to snack on as well. If you do snack, make it a nutritious choice—such as cheese, yogurt, fruits, vegetables or nuts—to feel fuller, longer and help your overall and dental health at the same time.
If you tend to snack at night, try moving your evening brushing time up a bit. A clean mouth just might motivate you to say no to that midnight snack.