Understanding How Probiotics Can Fuel Your Family's Health
One of the most common concerns I hear parents mention is whether or not their children are getting enough protein.
While some kids have aversions to the taste and texture of meat and seafood, most children are able to meet their protein needs through a variety of other food and beverage options. [For more on how much protein your preschooler needs, check out this article.]
Instead what I see, is a deficit in families use of probiotics.
The saying often goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I think this is often the case with why more parents don’t use probiotics as one of their first line defenses in raising healthy kids and families.
As a dietitian and a mom, probiotics are a part of our daily routine and health regimen. In order to help you identify why and how you can include more probiotics in your family’s diet, I have outlined below 6 Essential Pieces of Info for Parents About Probiotics
1. Consider the Microbiome of Infants Versus Adults
There are some important differences between the digestive systems of adults and children to consider. Most namely, as infants, our children are born without any normal native bacteria in their gut (often called “gut flora”). This means that while we adults have had decades to develop colonization of good (or bad) bacteria in our guts, infants have not. The way an infant’s gut gains good bacteria and develops a healthy microbiome in childhood is based on factors like their birth, early and ongoing diet, exposure to antibiotics and probiotics, among other factors.
2. Recognize that Probiotics aren’t just for Isolated Events
If a parent has ever given their child probiotics, it is often triggered by a round of antibiotics or an infection a child can’t seem to kick. In reality, parents should evaluate if probiotics could be a more first-line defense to their family’s habitual health regimen by varying the amounts and types they are exposed to. Research shows that 70% of your body’s immune system is in the gut, so regularly using probiotics that help support immune health can offer an effective health aid to support your child’s natural immunity.
3. Counter Anti-Bacterial Everything with Beneficial Bacteria
We as moms love our anti-bacterial soaps before we take the kids home from school and sterilizing wipes before we put our kid in a grocery cart. However, let’s remember that while some germs we do want to avoid, probiotics are the beneficial bacteria our bodies need to balance out the bad bugs and promote the good bugs in our gut microbiome.
4. Food First
Foods like yogurt, kefir, miso, pickled veggies, and kombucha are common sources for naturally occurring probiotics. However, as with many key nutrients our children need, it can be hard for kids to eat enough of the foods that naturally contain these (due to limited food preferences or food allergies). In families that don’t consume enough naturally probiotic-rich foods, supplemental probiotics may help.
5. Think Supplements Second
As with any health-related product, parents need to evaluate a probiotics safety and efficacy. If you choose to use a probiotic for yourself or your children, it is advisable to research the probiotic strain, evidenced-based efficacy, the quality and quantity of “colony-forming units” (CFUs) it contains per dose, and package information for dosage amount, health claims, and storage and expiration information. Since not all probiotics or strains of probiotics are created equally, some companies participate in third-party testing independently to prove the efficacy of their products. When looking for a supplemental probiotic, you want to choose one that has been highly documented, clinically studied, and proven both safe and effective.
6. Fill in Nutritional Gaps
One of my go-to dietitian mom tips is to use snacks to fill “nutritional gaps.” That means if your child needs more of a certain food group or nutrient not met through meals, snack time is a great time to offer these. If probiotics are something you want to promote more of in your family’s diet (especially over cold season), consider these probiotic-rich options!
- Enjoy healthy fruit gummy snacks like these! Your kids will think they’re candy
- Pile high a yogurt parfait with plain yogurt, fresh berries, granola, and seeds (like chia, hemp, or ground flax)
- Make a fruit smoothie with kefir, Sneakz protein powder, ripe banana, frozen berries, and greens
- Have kids help build a charcuterie board for the whole family! Include pickled veggies like olives and fresh pickles (find them in the refrigerated section at a health foods store), an assortment of cheeses, whole grain crackers, an assortment of nuts, and fruits like apples or grapes!
- Blend a chocolate banana nut “milkshake” using chocolate Sneakz protein powder, milk, a frozen banana, with nut butter