You don’t need to revolutionise your child’s diet over night to see results.
Instead you can make subtle, fun, food swaps to ease your child into to a more whole foods way of eating.
These small changes will help feed the good gut bacteria living inside your child’s gut.
Once the good gut bacteria are making decisions (instead of the not so good bacteria), your child’s cravings will change too.
Here are 5 fairly straight forward food swaps to make straight away.
1.Weetbix & Milk → Home-made muesli and real yoghurt
Sit down with a group of pre-schoolers or primary school age kids and ask them what they had for breakfast.
About 80% of them will say weetbix with milk.
On the plus side, if they don’t add sugar (or honey or maple syrup), they aren’t having any added sugar.
Realistically, this is not what is happening.
They are more likely adding enough sugar to their breakfast to make it just as bad as any presweetened cereal. Not only that, but the gluten (in the weetbix) and the dairy are highly inflammatory foods, which is bad for kid’s brains.
If they go on to have a sandwich at lunch and pasta at dinner, that is 3 times in the day that they are eating wheat.
Gut bacteria love diversity, not the same food, three times a day. Instead, get into the habit of making muesli with your kids.
Any way you can involve your kids in the kitchen is good. It teaches them life skills about food preparation, it gets them away from their devices, and if you can easily turn it into a maths lesson.
To make a homemade muesli, you don’t need a “recipe”. You can make it up as you go along.
You can use some grains like rolled oats, or grain puffs like puffed amaranth, puffed quinoa, puffed brown rice etc. Food coops or bulk health food stores are great places to pick up these ingredients.
Then add some seeds. You can get really creative here: chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds etc. Seeds are full of essential fatty acids and contain protein, so great for healthy brains and happy kids.
Next add some nuts. Again, you can go crazy with combinations. Just make sure the nuts are raw, not salted or roasted. The problem with these isn’t so much the salt as the type of oils that are used in the process. These are usually highly inflammatory oils like canola or sunflower.
Lastly, add some fruit. This is where you may need to rein in your child’s creativity.
Most kids will gravitate to adding lots of dried fruit, but you want to have the least amount possible.
Sultanas are a good choice as they are cheap, readily available organically and do not contain sulphites.
Sulphites are added to lots of dried fruit to maintain the colour, but there is no need to do this with sultanas as they are already dark. Dates and figs will usually be sulphite free too.
Choose diced fruit, not whole, so you can get a more even distribution of sweetness and not add too much.
If you want to include apricots or apples, make sure they are sulphite free. This may put you off adding them, as they will be quite brown.
Make sure any dried fruit you use is real fruit which has just been dried, rather than mixed with flavours, colours and oils.
Make a big batch, enough to last for a few weeks. Write down what you put in, and next time you can tweak it according to what you have in your cupboard, and what you liked or didn’t like about it.
Watch a video here to see how easy it is!
Serve with coconut yoghurt or real yoghurt. If you need help choosing a ‘real’ yoghurt, this article might help
2.Rice crackers → seed crackers.
Open a packet of rice crackers and see them disappear in seconds.
And is your child full?
Has your child eaten a single nutrient?
Instead, make some rice crackers like these. Sure, there is a bit of work involved in making them, and yes, they are more expensive. But your child’s skin, gut and brain will thank you. Expense is the reason I am suggesting you make them, not buy them, as they do work out expensive to buy them premade.
Rice crackers are extremely easily digested.
This has 2 major knock on effects:
It means that they get a quick burst of energy, which quickly slumps again. This is because rice crackers are very high glycemic index foods.
It also means that by the time food reaches the large intestine, there is no food left for the gut bacteria. The good gut bacteria die off over time, allowing the not so good guys to flourish. This has a direct effect on mood, digestion and immunity.
Again, make the seed cracker making a family activity. By the time they are teenagers, they will have the skills to do all this themselves.
3.Soft drinks → water kefir
There is literally no need for any child to ever have a soft drink.
They rot teeth, send their brains into a head-spin and set them up for habits they will need to work hard to break when they grow up.
There are so many healthy alternatives on the market.
Kombucha is popular, and easy to find, however it is made from tea, so it contains caffeine.
If you want to make it at home, you can use rooibos tea, and make it caffeine free.
I prefer water kefir instead. This is not as easy to buy as kombucha, but it’s getting more popular.
Of course, you can also make it your-self.
You buy water kefir grains (which are entirely different to milk kefir grains, and also not an actual grain). It is a straight forward ferment, which you can experiment with as you go. Not only will you ditch the sugar and chemicals which are in soft drinks, your child will be consuming lots of good gut bacteria (and will not be any the wiser!).
4.Fruit yoghurt → real yoghurt
One of my golden rules is never buy a food with a Disney princess on the front, and this applies especially to yoghurt.
Yoghurt started out as the ultimate health food, which has now been ruined by the food industry. Read any fruit yoghurt ingredient list and see how much sugar, gums and thickeners have been added.
A child will get a big chunk of their daily maximum sugar intake in one yoghurt. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
Real yoghurt is a great source of protein, a low GI snack and full of good gut bacteria.
If your child doesn’t do well with dairy, you need to stick to non-dairy yoghurts, like coconut yoghurt. I have pulled together a guide to how to choose a yoghurt , or make your own..
5.Wheat Pasta → Black bean pasta
This last swap is the easiest swap to make.
You can now buy so many pasta alternatives like black bean pasta, lentil pasta or chickpea pasta.
My favourite is probably the black bean pasta, as this is full of polyphenols (the dark colour of the pasta) which are super for gut health.
This swap requires no home-cooking.
Just choose the black bean pasta off the shelf, instead of the normal wheat pasta.
Make up some story for your kids to explain the colour, like it’s ‘Harry Potter’ pasta and you’re done.
Start making these swaps, and gradually your child’s tastes will change (as will yours!). If you want more help to change your child’s diet, feel free to make an appointment with me and I can help!