A balanced and nutritious diet is good for your general health and your dental health. Without the right nutrients, your teeth and gums can become more susceptible to decay and gum disease. Sugar is one of the main causes of dental problems. The average Canadian eats the equivalent of 40 kg of sugar each year. Here are a few ways to cut down:

* Try to choose sugar-free snacks – see the snacks listed below.

* Add less sugar to coffee or tea (or use sugar substitutes).

* Avoid sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

* Look for fruit juices and drinks with no added sugar.

* Read lists of ingredients when you’re grocery shopping. Honey, molasses, liquid invert sugar, glucose, and fructose are all types of sugar.

* When you do eat sweets, avoid sticky sweets. They cling to teeth and are harder to brush away. Eat sweets with a meal, not as a snack. The increased flow of saliva during a meal helps to wash away and dilute sugar.

* Carry a travel-size toothbrush and use it after eating sweets. If you can’t brush, at least rinse your mouth with water or eat a fibrous fruit or raw vegetables. Or chew a piece of sugarless gum.

Some great-tasting snacks that won’t harm your teeth:

* Plain milk and buttermilk
* Fruit and raw vegetables
* Plain yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese
* Hard boiled or devilled eggs
* Nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds
* Melba toast
* Salads