How to improve your child’s gut health!

If we turn our attention to the health of the digestive system, then could we prevent illness and fight off infections quicker? In recent years, the attention of scientists has been turned to the digestive system with a big focus on the gut microbiome. Through recent studies we are now learning the importance of our gut microbiome and how it could be influential in many health conditions related to the health of the digestive system that we are now seeing today.

As parents, it’s our job to keep our children safe and well to the best that we can, so understanding these new revelations are important, because it means we can educate and guide our children so as they grow up, they also understand how to keep themselves healthy and well. By turning our attention to the health of the digestive system, we could help to develop our children’s resistance to certain infections and conditions.

The best way that we can ensure our children have good gut health is to ensure that they eat a diet that consists of as many natural whole foods as you possibly can. By all means have “treats” every now and then, but leave those for special occasions rather than making up the whole of a child’s diet. I think it’s also important to mention here that some children can have allergies to foods. This could be a dairy allergy or a gluten allergy (they don’t necessarily need to be a coeliac, to have a sensitivity to gluten). I will discuss allergies more on another blog, but for now it’s a good idea to limit any foods from your child’s diet if you know they are sensitive to them.

Including these foods in your child’s diet can help to improve their digestive system:

  • Leafy green vegetables – spinach, kale, beat greens, water cress, rocket, lettuce.

  • As many raw vegetables your child will eat, try peppers, cucumber, broccoli, carrots, spring onions to name a few.

  • As many raw fruits as your child will eat, apples, oranges, bananas, berries, grapes, strawberries, melon to name a few.

  • Try to serve protein with your child’s main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Protein could be eggs, meat, dairy, fish. The portion sizes do not need to be large, just enough to account for their recommended daily suggestion. Ten percent to 30 percent of your calorie intake should come from protein, says the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine,: For younger children, it breaks down by age: Children ages 4 to 9 need 19 grams of protein each day. Those between ages 9 and 13 need 34 grams. For adolescents, ages 14 to 18, it varies by gender: Boys need 52 grams and girls need 46 grams [1].

  • Try to give your child a serving of bone broth as frequently as you can (no more than one serving needed daily). Bone broth contains high levels of protein, so if you are concerned your child isn’t getting enough, then you can add bone broth to your child’s meals. Check out the blog “Innovative Broth Ideas for Children.” Never give bone broth to a newborn baby or babies who have not been weaned. Bone broth should never replace your child’s normal diet.

  • If your child has had antibiotics during the first year of life, then it’s a good idea to take probiotics yourself (if you are breastfeeding) or buy child probiotics to ensure that they the beneficial bacteria’s continue to colonise. If you feed your child raw fruit and vegetables, as well as taking probiotics, then you can help to encourage the good bacteria’s to grow. Be sure to include apples (homegrown or organic are better), they contain 100million beneficial bacteria’s found in one apple.

  • Fermented foods are a natural way to ingest beneficial bacteria’s. If you are interested in including fermented foods into your child’s diet such as water kefir juice, milk kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, then it’s probably a good idea to do this very slowly. Your child’s digestive system is very young and these foods can be strong, so it’s worth giving small amounts such as 5-10g to start off with, and then increase over time. Never give fermented foods to children who have not been weaned.

Eating these foods less will help to improve your child’s digestive system:

  • Refined sugars found in biscuits, cakes, ice cream and other sugary treats.

  • Gluten. Gluten is fine if you limit the amount consumed in a day, such as bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits/crackers, cakes, pastries, pies, pizza.

  • Dairy. Being mindful of how much dairy your child has is a good idea. Dairy can be hard for the gut to digest, particularly if there is an intolerance or an allergy. Whilst it’s good to include some dairy in your child’s diet, limit to how much they have daily. For example; milk on breakfast, then a milkshake, followed by ice cream later would be too much. One serving of milk every 2-3 days is fine.

  • Fizzy drinks and sweetened juices. Again, it’s the sugar content. Many of these drinks are loaded with refined sugars. Sugars reduce the function of the gut and feed harmful bacteria’s and yeasts. This then reducing the efficiency of enzymes and enzymes are very important for breaking down the nutrients in food.

  • Processed foods. Keeping your child’s diet free from processed foods, and full of wholesome natural goodness will ensure that they are getting a range of nutrients and minerals they need to grow to be big, strong and healthy. Try to cook from fresh, always serve leftovers the next day, or freeze to reduce waste and help with time.Check out some of my recipes on my recipe page for ideas.

Breakfast for good gut health

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. My children never have cereals for breakfast, I don’t even have them in the cupboard. This is not because cereals are bad, there are many cereals that are full of fibre and other important nutrients, but you do have to watch the sugars, particularly if you are adding sugar on the top as well. From my own personal experience, I have found too much sugar in the morning causes the sugar crashes too easily later on, not to mention; once you eat sugar in the day, the cravings become more intense. My children frequently eat the following foods for breakfast:

– Potato waffle with baked beans (scrambled egg for my son as well).

– Yeo valley yoghurt with half a banana and 2 strawberries (I tend to avoid the children’s yoghurts because of the added sugar).

– Sausage sandwich – one chicken sausage sliced cut up on brown bread made into a sandwich.

– Chicken and vegetable omelette – beat the eggs, cut up a range of vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, spinach, baby corn (anything), add it on top to the omelette and then slice the chicken adding that also. You can put grated cheese on top and then grill, but that’s optional.

Lunch for good gut health

– Chicken nuggets, chopped up cucumber & peppers, crackers, (cheese optional), grapes

– Rice and quinao with peas and chicken

– Rice crackers with peanut butter (almond butter if you choose), grapes, chopped up apple

– Chicken and salad wrap, served with grapes and popadom crisps.

Dinner for good gut health

The children generally eat what we eat. I might modify slightly, particularly if I know they won’t eat something.

– Thai green curry served with chicken, vegetables and rice.

– Linguine and homemade meatballs served in a homemade tomato sauce.

– Chicken, oven chips and green salad

– Turkey with stir-fry vegetables. Make sure you’ve cooked the turkey first. Then add as many vegetables as you like to a wok. Stir fry for a couple of minutes, then add the turkey. Turn the heat down and add flavours and spices such as; apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, smoked paprika, ginger, garlic, lemon and lime.

Snacks

– Raw fruit and vegetables

– Homemade cakes, check out some of my recipes

– Crackers / rice cakes

– Smoothies / smoothie bowls (be sure to add broth)

– Nuts and raisins

– Dried fruit

– Hard boiled eggs

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