Leanne Ward, The Fitness Dietitian, says our gut is at its most crucial stage of development in infancy and childhood, so it’s important to be able to support and nourish our children’s gut health.

Fibre is essential for maintaining good gut health as it aids in digestion and helps feed our gut ‘microbiome’. When the body’s natural system is out of whack, after a course of antibiotics for example, or due to food sensititivies, parents sometimes notice a change in their little one’s behaviour.

In toddlers and older children, an unhappy tummy can show itself in an inability to pay attention, anxiety and a lack of good decision making as well as mood swings. On the topic of children’s gut health and behaviour, Mindd refers to studies that show the children with the greatest variety in gut bacteria are more likely to be “happy, curious, sociable and impulsive”.

 

 

A wholegrain cereal is a solid start to the day and can provide a healthy serve of fibre.

Recognising the signs of poor gut health in young children

When your child’s gut is healthy and functioning, they’re able to better digest food, absorb nutrients, and regulate digestion. Our gut is home to a diverse range of bacteria, but if there is an imbalance of bacteria in your child’s system, it might cause some health concerns, explains Leanne.

If your child is showing any signs of irregular bowel movements, loose stools, skin conditions or tummy discomfort, see a health professional who will be able to assist with any symptoms, including looking at their diet.

It’s important for parents to teach kids the value of good quality nutrition and a diversity of wholesome, nutritious foods for their overall wellbeing.

Scroll down to find out 3 easy ways to improve gut health

How to help nourish our children’s tummies

So, what can you do to help improve your child’s gut health?

Leanne suggests incorporating high-fibre, nutrient dense foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrains, as these will nourish the bacteria in their gut microbiome.

Teaching our children the importance and value of nutrition can be difficult, getting them to eat some of these high-fibre foods can be even more difficult, particularly if your child is a fussy eater. Make sure they are getting plenty of fluids when you expose them to high-fibre foods and increase their fibre intake slowly.

The most important thing for children is a diversity of foods and repeated exposure to these foods. Even if they won’t eat it, put them on the plate to allow repeated exposure to them and over time, they may like to play with them and even try them.

Accredited Practising Dietitian and mum of four, Jessica Beaton from One Handed Cooks suggests always putting a safe food on your child’s plate when offering new foods. When offering salmon, for example, the safe food might be scrambled eggs or another protein that you know your little one enjoys.

Aim to always include as many colours and varieties of foods as possible on your child’s plate. This diversity of foods helps to improve the diversity of their gut microbiome which helps them to maintain a healthy gut.

Fruits are a great way to boost fibre in your little one’s diet.

3 easy ways to boost your child’s gut health

Here are some fun, creative ideas that can help you incorporate diversity into their diet to help keep their gut healthy and functioning well.

1. Add gut-boosting foods to your family meals

Adding nut butters onto veggie sticks, adding LSA (ground linseed, sunflower seeds, almonds) onto yoghurt and chopped fruit, adding lentils into mince dishes, hiding veggies in pasta or Bolognese sauce, adding fruit into Greek yoghurt, adding kefir onto high-fibre cereal, using hummus, tahini or avocado instead of butter on toast and getting them to try some fermented or pickled veggies with their dinner. Roasted chickpea and fava bean snacks are also a great addition for school lunches.

2. Get creative in the kitchen and help your kid’s tummy

If you want to get creative in the kitchen, bake some wheat bran muffins. These hearty and moist muffins are made using All-Bran, raisins and molasses, and can be a nutritious after-school snack for your child.

3. Introduce probiotics and prebiotics for good gut health

In order to support your child’s gut health (and yours too!), focus on foods with probiotics and prebiotics. The probiotics are the good bacteria and the prebiotics are helping to feed the good bacteria.

Probiotics are good live bacteria and can be found in fermented and cultured foods, like yoghurt, kefir, pickles and tempeh. Try adding these into your child’s diet regularly to support their gut health.

Prebiotics are fibres that feed the good bacteria in your child’s tummy and promote their growth, so they’re super important for supporting your child’s gut health. Food such as asparagus, onion, flaxseed, bananas, apples, oats and All-Bran contain prebiotic fibres. These fibres work together with probiotics to help maintain good gut health.

Leanne Ward is The Fitness Dietitian.

Disclaimer:

The claims made above are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice on children’s health nor should they be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding health or a medical condition.