(water. always water)
1. Raisins, Craisins, any dried fruit, including that natural 100% real fruit leather. Fruit rollups definitely fall into this sticky category. I'm not saying these things are bad for your health. I am just saying that they will get stuck in your toddler's teeth, and they won't brush their teeth for hours, and when they do, they won't get that tiny piece of raisin out of their back molar. As far as bacteria that make cavities, dried fruit is as good as skittles to eat and make a hole in your tooth. Alternative: Real fruit. Or cheese.
2. Goldfish crackers. Or animal crackers. Or any cute little cracker that toddlers love that gets stuck in the back molars and is hard to brush out. Again, I'm not saying these crackers are bad for kids, just their teeth. These crackers are sneaky because they don't have sugar as one of their top ingredients, but they are carbs, which our saliva is able to break down into sugars while they are stuck in the little nooks and crannies of our teeth. Alternative: Really crunchy crackers that are less likely to get stuck in the teeth, like rice crackers. Or cut-up raw veggies.
3. Yop. Or any other cute little yogurt or yogurt drink that is marketed to kids. These are just full of sugar. I find that a lot of parents are surprised by this one, but this one is just simply down the the sugar content. The bacteria that make cavities just love sugar. Alternative: plain yogurt with a little jam or maple syrup added in.
4. Bearpaws. Or any other cookie or baked good that is marketed to kids that is prepackaged into handy lunchbox-friendly packages. Again, just so full of sugar. It's bad. Alternative: Homemade cookies that you can control the amount of sugar. Or a piece of fruit.
5. Juice. Lots of parents think they are doing a good thing by buying the 100% real juice, or the organic juice. Other parents think that if they water down the apple juice, it is better for the teeth. But really, juice is juice. It's full of sugar and it's also acidic. It's so hard on the teeth. Alternative: Water. Lots of water. I know it's hard to make a toddler drink water, but it's really the best thing. If your kid gets juice, I suggest you give it in a normal cup at the kitchen table during mealtime.
Disclaimer: I am only one dentist. I don't do research on toddler cavities. This is just what I have found in my own practice. If you brush your toddler's teeth with fluoride toothpaste every single night really well, you can relax a little about the amount of sugar that the teeth see. Also, I have a real toddler of my own, so I definitely know that it can be really hard to get them to eat anything at all sometimes. Cohen gets plenty of sugar every day (from homemade cookies and smoothies with honey, etc), and he also gets his teeth brushed by us every night. You've gotta live.