After the festive season, it’s common to want to kickstart your family’s health and introduce healthier foods back into their daily routine.
Often the foods we choose most while on vacation or celebrating, such as sugar, salt, and processed foods, can play havoc on our gut health – and research continues to show that gut health plays a huge role not only in our own health but also in our children’s overall health and well-being.
In the first 5 years of life, children’s gut microbiome is still being established, so it’s extremely vulnerable to toxins in their environment. Just like a fingerprint, everyone’s microbiome is unique, and diet can be responsible for up to 75% of this variation.
To ensure a healthy start to life, it’s particularly important to support and assist their gut health development during these years.
So, to help reset and improve your family’s gut health for the new year, Chief Nutrition Officer Mandy Sacher is sharing her top 10 tips:
1.Go heavy on the onion and garlic
Both onion and garlic are excellent sources of a prebiotic fibre called inulin that is known to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, so make sure to add these items to your meals. Not an onion fan? Leeks, asparagus, and artichokes are also good sources of inulin.
2. Love your legumes
Legumes are a great source of gut-loving prebiotic fibre and resistant starch. They’re also an easy item to add to salads, mince dishes, soups or stews. Hummus or roasted legumes also make a great snack.
3. Go nuts with nuts and seeds
Not only are nuts and seeds a great snack, but they’re also a great source of fibre and healthy fats. The Nutrition Team’s favourites are cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. This Choc Chia Pudding is a simple-to-make snack, and is also a powerhouse of nutrition, serving up a nourishing dose of protein, iron, calcium, and healthy fats.
4. Focus on healthy fats
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be important to our gut health. Try incorporating oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines into your diet 2-3 a week.
5. Add colour and flavour
Foods rich in colour and flavour are rich in plant compounds called phytonutrients that are important for our gut health. Try to include purple/blue plant foods like blueberries, blackberries, beetroot, and black beans. Dark leafy greens, green tea, and extra virgin olive oil are also great options. Aim for 30 different types of plant foods per week to create more varied gut bacteria and create an overall healthier gut microbiome. Keep a tally over the week and challenge yourself to add variety! This Chicken and Vegetable Noodle Soup recipe is a great way to add extra veggies into your diet.
6. Ferment it
Fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut and kefir can contain healthy bacteria (probiotics) and their beneficial products (post biotics). Try natural yoghurt or kefir in a smoothie or with wholegrain cereal and fruit. Add sauerkraut to sandwiches – we love roast beef, avocado and sauerkraut on sourdough rye bread.
7. Integrate probiotics
Increasingly, research shows that supplementing children’s diets with probiotics can play a major role in maintaining a strong immune system and overall good health. To choose the right probiotic for your child, look for multi-strain brands that contain Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus for kids and speak to a trained health practitioner. There are also many probiotic-rich foods that can contribute to the health of your gut such as yoghurt, bone broth, fermented vegetables and kombucha.
8. Cook and cool
Resistant starch is another wonderful prebiotic fibre for increasing beneficial gut bacteria. Resistant starch forms in starchy food like rice, potatoes or pasta that have been cooked and cooled. Try potato, pasta, rice salad, fried rice, or make some extra dinner for leftovers the next day! Firm bananas, oats and barley can also be good sources of resistant starch.
9. Choose natural dairy products,
Natural dairy products that contain probiotics help to boost your child’s gut. At MindChamps, our favourite choices include kefir or natural or unsweetened Greek yoghurt. To ensure you’re making the right choice when purchasing these types of dairy products always look at the ingredient list and make sure there are no added sweeteners or flavourings, and that there are bacteria strains such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterial. This Tummy Loving Smoothie is a great place to start.
10. Keep sugary foods to a minimum
Sugary foods create the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to flourish as well as for yeast overgrowth – creating an imbalance in children’s guts. When a child’s digestive system is disrupted, it can lead to symptoms such as constipation, bloating, and digestive issues and impact their behaviour and wider health. Added or refined sugar specifically can cause dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) which can lead to leaky gut syndrome where toxins enter the bloodstream and can cause a range of inflammatory conditions.
Try to keep added or refined sugar to a minimum in meals and snacks and always read the ingredient labels. The American Dietary Guidelines recommend no added sugar for children under 2.
MindChamps Global Chief Nutrition Officer Mandy Sacher is Australia’s leading Paediatric Nutritionist, best-selling Author, child nutrition expert, blogger, and mother of two! She is also known for co-developing MEND (Mind Exercise Nutrition Do It!), the world’s largest and most researched childhood obesity prevention and treatment program based in the UK that was developed with over ten years of research.
Mandy and her Nutrition Team believe in the well-being of all our MindChamps children and that their nutritional needs should be fulfilled in our centres. Mandy’s philosophy is simple – teach children’s taste buds to enjoy nourishing, nutritionally beneficial foods as early as possible to ensure optimal development and establishment of lifelong healthy eating behaviours. Bridging the gaps in food and nutrition, this first-of-its-kind partnership is our commitment to creating and elevating a positive and lasting impact on childhood nutrition on a global level.