Children are increasingly developing digestive problems that were once the reserve of adults. Digestive problems such as tummy pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation can result from a multitude of factors, but inappropriate eating habits can contribute With a new school year starting, dietitian Caoimhe McDonald offers some advice and tips for mums and dads on how to get ahead of the daily grind, preparing and packing healthy school lunch boxes and balance appeal and healthy options.
According to Caoimhe McDonald “The foods that children eat or don’t eat can have a profound effect on their health. Good nutrition supports a child’s immune system, brain function, growth and repair and supporting recovery from childhood illnesses, vaccinations and sports injuries. The eating habits that they acquire, if they are good ones, can protect their health through all stages of life including becoming a teenager, pregnancy and old age. Influencing children at an early age to eat well is one of the most important things you can do for their health and well-being.”
- Say high to fibre!
Most research shows children don’t eat enough fibre in their diet. Fibre, especially insoluble fibre helps to maintain bowel regularity and relieve or prevent constipation. Fibre also helps to maintain the ‘friendly’ bowel bacteria that are important to maintain a healthy digestive system. Plan lunchboxes to include fibre-rich foods such as apples and pears — with the peel on, please! Sandwiches made with whole-grain bread or wraps or any kind of berry with seeds.
- Replace juices and cordials with a bottle of water.
Children have a higher risk of getting dehydrated than adults and need more water than adults in relation to their body weight. It is recommended that children between the ages of 4-8 should be drinking at least 1.6 litres of water every day[i]. So while adults can access water, for children this is not always as easy particularly when they are at school. Dehydration affects the digestive system and continuous low water intake leads to constipation and the build-up of toxins in the body, and this in turn increases a child’s risk of developing more complicated digestive issues.
- Add a good probiotic to their diet.
One of the best ways to support gut health in children is to introduce a probiotic supplement. Be careful though, not all supplements are equal and only a handful are supported by sound clinical evidence. One I recommend is Alflorex® Children’s Straws. At just over €1 a day, these pre-filled straws deliver just the right dose of the unique 35624™ culture which has been developed as a PrecisionBiotic® strain. These straws are lunch box friendly as they don’t need to be refrigerated either and can be taken with water or milk. The patented 35624™ culture in Children’s Alflorex® is an elite PrecisionBiotic® strain which has been specifically selected to work where it is needed in the human gut.
- Add raw vegetables and dips to their diet.
Hummus is great for children’s lunch boxes and a good for digestive system. And the great part about hummus is that you can make it from a variety of ingredients, not just chickpeas. Try white beans, lentils, soaked nuts like cashews, chickpeas, black beans and more. You can add the hummus to a pita, wrap, bread or even paired with veggie sticks or crackers. You can add a few raw leafy greens to the hummus, which will add those live enzymes and add a modest amount of veggie goodness.
- Have a (protein) ball!
Protein balls are a quick and easy recipe perfect for when you want a healthy snack that’s packed full of goodness. Great as an energy-booster they can be made with peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits, cocoa powder. Highly nutritious and are simple to make, plus they are low in fat.
For more information on Alflorex®, visit https://www.alflorexbiotics.com/