Ice-cold bubbly sodas and ice cream are two popular treats to help cool off on hot summer days. But, they are usually full of added sugar that can lead to tooth decay and other health problems. Nipomo dentist, Dr. Perry Patel has a list of ideas for sugar-free and sugar reduced treats that are just as cooling and help reduce the amount of sugar that goes into our mouths and bodies. “Start with the basics,” said Dr. Patel, “A tall glass of ice water, iced-sparkling seltzer water, unsweetened iced tea or iced-coffee are good sugarless options. Just don’t crunch the ice with your teeth.”
Here are some ideas for cool and refreshing beverages to help stay hydrated on a hot day.
- Cucumber water is easy to make. Store it in the refrigerator and serve it chilled. Cucumber water is sugar-free and also provides nutrients.
- Use chilled sparkling water as a base and add sugar-free flavors and squeezes of fresh fruit.
- Find a shady tree and sip iced herbal teas with a twist of lemon, lime or other fresh fruit. Use sugar-free fruit-flavored ice cubes to chill the tea.
- Just about anything can be frozen and served as popsicles, or surprisingly flavored ice-cubes to add to a beverage. Try blending favorite fresh fruits with a little water, milk, or sugar-free yogurt and freezing them.
- Smoothies made from fresh fruit are cooling, tasty and filling. Partially frozen smoothies can create an ice cream substitute.
While fresh fruit is good for us, juice from concentrates has a much higher level of sugar than fresh fruit. Avoid making ice cubes from juice concentrate or adding juice concentrates to beverages. Freshly squeezed juice has less sugar than concentrated juice and processed juice. The local Nipomo dentist suggests that if the concentrated or processed juice is all you have on hand, add it by small amounts to help reduce the sugar. Most fruit juices are available in sugar-free versions.
Refreshing summer meals, of course, include salads and cold cuts, basically anything that doesn’t need to be prepared over a hot stove.
- Fresh chilled fruit, especially watermelon, is a great treat for cooling off on a hot afternoon. Even though sugar occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, whole foods also have fiber and other nutrients that we need.
- Serve sliced fruit or veggies with sugar-free peanut butter or other sugar-free spreads.
- Chilled fresh fruit and sugar-free yogurt.
- Ceviche requires no cooking because the freshly squeezed lime juice “cooks” the fish. Make it from scratch and it is sugar-free.
- Gazpacho is made in a blender and set aside to season on its own. Made from scratch, gazpacho is sugar-free.
Remember to brush after eating or drinking!
We all have harmful bacteria in our mouths that interact with the sugars we consume and produce an acid. This acid is what damages our teeth, causing cavities to form or erosion to occur.
Most of what we eat includes sugar naturally and this kind of sugar is generally okay because of how our bodies process it. It is the added sugar that is most important to avoid, such as the sugar found in soda, ice cream, candy and other processed food. Some people choose to use sugar substitutes such as saccharin and aspartame while others are suspect of these sweeteners and avoid them.
Some people have been able to change their taste preferences to the point they avoid added sugar all together.
The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that the sweetener Xylitol can be life-threatening to dogs. Treats containing this sweetener should be carefully supervised when dogs are present.
With a little planning, sugar-free summertime treats are easy to prepare. Resources for recipe ideas include:
- The Internet
- The cookbook section of your local library or bookstore
- Cooking classes through your local recreation center or community college
- Your imagination
As always, good dental health habits are essential, even on a sugar-free or reduced sugar diet. Brush and floss regularly and see your dentist at least twice a year and at the first sign of a problem. Dr. Patel is always just a phone call away to answer questions or to schedule an appointment.