Today I have been obsessing about food and tooth decay. I found out recently that my three-year-old son has cavities. I was horrified. He loves his sweets and juice and though we minimise his intake of both, he is also a fussy eater and so has many other bad-teeth foods like dried fruit and toast with jam.
Probably as a result of latent anxiety, which seems to be the latest phase of medication side effects (or just my natural state), when I saw the hole in my son’s tooth this morning it tipped me over the edge. Even though I later allowed him to eat a muffin (and don’t get me started on the guilt I felt when I saw the 11 lines of ingredients, most of which were unpronounceable) and some crisps.
So while he slept this afternoon I spent an hour on Google. It didn’t improve my anxiety; quite the opposite. Because it turns out that grain-based foods are bad for teeth too. And my fussy child only eats breakfast cereal, sandwiches, toast and pasta. All wheat. (Also all full of salt – and a news report I heard this morning bemoaned how much salt kids eat – is there no end to my parenting fails?).
My sister has started following a Paleo diet (a diet that seeks to recreate the foods our ancestors would have eaten – meat and veg – while eschewing grains, potatoes, dairy, refined sugar and processed foods). She’s the foodie in the family. I hate cooking, I hate thinking about food and I’m rubbish at anything that requires hardship and excessive thinking. A diet without grains falls into all those camps, especially when pancakes and pasta are key elements of happy parenting for me. I have got lazy recently, feeding particularly my son the things I know he’ll eat, like spaghetti bolognaise and cheese sandwiches. I thought as long as he had a few fruit pouches, plenty of milk and some rice cakes, he was getting an okay diet (he gets great food at nursery and eats better for strangers).
But while I figured he would outgrow his fussiness, I hadn’t factored in his teeth issues. And now all my laissez-faire parenting, my not insisting on fresh fruit and vegetables and fish in the hope that – like his sister – he’d come to all the things in his own time, seems to have backfired. Because apparently nutrition can affect teeth. Obviously I knew that calcium was important, but both my kids drink buckets of milk. I didn’t really think about all the other vitamins, like A and D and the Omega fats. My daughter doesn’t like cow’s milk so she has powder milk – fortified with vitamins – as well as happily eating fish and meat. Is it coincidence that her teeth are fine?
Anyway, I won’t try and unravel all the sources of information I ploughed through today. I came away with one relatively-easy solution: cod liver oil, with one concern – vitamin A overdose. I didn’t come to a happy resolution, but I did decide that cod liver oil might be good for all of us (particularly hubbie’s bad back and my dodgy knees). I also decided that if I can’t banish grains from our diet, I might be able to widen them away from just wheat. A bit more maize and rice. Cornflakes (also nicely lower in sugar than most of our current breakfast cereals), rice cakes, some minestrone soup. Baby steps. And eggs, eggs are meant to be good. I used to cook lots of scrambled egg, until my son refused to eat it. He might just have to learn to eat what he’s given or lump it!
Conscientious parenting: so full of pitfalls it should come with a health warning.