It is well recognised that a healthy and wholesome diet, whether in adulthood, childhood or infancy, is vital for maintaining and protecting a healthy gut and ensuring optimal longterm health.
It goes without saying that processed foods are not gut friendly, and do not provide the range of essential nutrients that are available from garden fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
The essential dietary proteins and healthy fats that support optimal growth in infancy may also be augmented by some simple measures that are inexpensive and easy to implement.
Here are MY top 6 EASY tips for dietary changes that support optimal growth and development:
1. Introduce Probiotics
The importance of good gut health can’t be stressed enough and quality probiotics play a vital role in this area. Both my girls had to switch to formula quite early and right away I added Probiotics drops (along with Vit D and Omega 3 drops) to their bottles.
As they have grown older, I have introduced them to homemade Kombucha or Kefir which a friend once described as “probiotics on steroids”! Dr Joseph Mercola says, “ The microflora in your gut plays an active role in a wide variety of diseases, and, naturally, it stands to reason they affect your health status throughout your life…the importance of probiotics increase with advancing age, but maintaining a healthy gut is really essential from birth onward.”
2. Limit Sugar (and processed food)
This is a no-brainer and yet I am still amazed at how uninformed many people can be when it comes to their children’s health.
Processed foods are not only devoid of essential nutrients, but invariably contain too much sugar in the form of refined carbohydrates. Since sugar promotes the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, it also serves to restrict the growth of beneficial bacteria, thereby disrupting the normal healthy gut flora balance. This imbalance may lead to inflammation in the gut lining and ultimately to a ‘leaky gut’ in which nutrient absorption may be impaired and toxins absorbed too readily into the bloodstream.
There is sufficient evidence to support the notion that with such a disruption to the gut lining other medical conditions may arise, such as allergies, skin conditions, or digestive difficulties.
3. Add Chia Seeds (or Ground Flax Seeds)
Chia Seeds (and Ground Flax Seeds) are a great addition to any meal or bake for your toddler. They are extremely nutritious foods filled with fibre, protein, omega-3 and macro-nutrients.
They don’t have a strong flavour are gluten-free and a little go a long way!
Add them to oats, smoothies, or yogurt with berries as a breakfast alternative, or any homemade bakes such as muffins, flapjacks, or bread. Soak Chia seeds overnight in water to become gelatinous and add to full cream plain yogurt. Both are a guaranteed natural help for easing constipation or just keeping your child regular.
I started using them from when my children were 7 months old – sparingly at first and then increasing volume as they have grown older.
4. Herbs, Spices and Organic powders
Once your baby has been introduced to all the fruits and vegetables at 5-6 months old, don’t be afraid to add herbs and spices to his or her meals. As early as 7months old, I would add Cinnamon to Oats, Tumeric and Paprika to meat dishes, and mixed herbs to soups.
Organic cacao can be added to oats, smoothies or date balls and is natural source of magnesium for your child. Cinnamon has potent antioxidant activity, helps fight inflammation and has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Tumeric is strongly anti-inflammatory. Basil appears to improve immune function and inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts and molds and Rosemary can suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion. These are just a few examples.
Remember that the key is less is more – rather have your child reap the benefits of a dash of the spice, than overdo it and have them be put off forever!
5. Switch to Full cream Dairy and avoid “Low Fat”.
The problem with “low fat” dairy products is that in order to replace the good fat which has been removed, sugars are invariably added to the product. Don’t believe the marketing propaganda that low- fat is better, and learn to appreciate the importance of healthy fats in your child’s dietary intake.
Learn to read product labels and avoid the high sugar content products, As these may be a hidden cause of bloating, diarrhoea, cramps or other digestive issues. Allergies and skin issues may also benefit from a limited dairy consumption.
6. Water, water, water
Get your child hooked on water from day one by limiting the introduction and use of conventional juices, fizzy drinks and even fresh fruit juice. This is not to say they can never have anything except water, but where possible, do not make sugary and fizzy drinks even an option. Add flavour to water naturally by adding berries, lemon, apples, cucumber, Rooibos etc.
Always have a bottle of water or sippy cup available for them to access throughout the day. Not only will this help to limit their sugar intake but water benefits numerous bodily functions including the digestive system and brain function. Just be mindful of the source of the water you are using – heavily chlorinated or fluoridated water may impair your child’s capacity for absorbing iodine which is essential for healthy thyroid support.
There are many other ways for you to enhance your child’s nutritional well-being without too much effort. I have found that making one small change at a time is far more manageable than trying to tackle everything at once.
Not everyone in your family may initially embrace a change, but over time you will reap the benefits of persevering.
Article approved by Dr Neville S. Wilson http://drnevillewilson.com