Every single day our children’s little bodies are achieving phenomenal things. Their bones and muscles are growing, their brains are developing and their bodies are being constantly bombarded with all sorts of bugs (good and bad).
Their immune systems are protecting them – from both inside and out. On the outside, their skin is their biggest barrier to bugs, but up to 70% of their immune system is found on the inside in the incredible organism we call the gut. The gut is where communities of bacteria live, otherwise known as our “gut microbiome”. We need these communities of bugs need to be in good balance for a healthy robust immune system.
In our busy lives as parents, I believe we sometimes forget about the effect of our children’s gut health on their everyday lives. Research tells us that a child’s gut health can influence their mood, their energy levels and of course their immunity.
The most important thing you can do from a dietary perspective is to feed your child with plenty of plant foods. Plant foods are nutrient rich, immune boosting powerhouses, naturally containing fibre – otherwise known as prebiotics. Prebiotics are the food (or fuel) for our gut bugs and promote the growth of good bacteria whilst at the same time nourishing our gut cells. You really can’t underestimate the importance of this.
Top Tips for Improving Your Child’s Gut Health
1. Offer your children plenty of different coloured vegetables and cook with onion and garlic.
2. Give them fruit and veg with the skin on where possible as there are nutrients inside and just under the skin (such as in an apple).
3. Use legumes (whole, dried or mashed) in sauces, mashed into dishes or dried as a snack – e.g. dried chick peas or fav-va beans.
4. Use wholegrain options for breads and cereals – check for the % wholegrains in the ingredients list and aim as high as possible!
5. Increase nuts and seeds – use nut butters, almond meal/LSA in baking or chopped nuts in muffins, sprinkled on salads or added to hot meals such as stir-fries and curries. **no nuts at school.
6. Including foods like yoghurt that contain probiotics – this can help to maintain the correct balance of good and bag bugs in the gut, which in turn improves immunity and reduces sickness. Yoghurts like the Vaalia My First and Kids are great because they contain three unique probiotics, calcium and vitamin B12.
Every little bit helps, so try to include these foods both at snack and meal times to maximise their intake of goodness! Good gut health = healthy children = happy parents!
The Carousel would like to thank Karina Savage, Paediatric Gut Health Dietitian from Smartbite Nutrition (www.smartbite.com.au)