4 Ways to Grow a Healthy Gut

Early childhood is prime time for establishing a healthy microbiome. The more good critters that move in now, the more likely they'll crowd out or compete with bad bacteria your kid will encounter down the road. Start by making some adjustments to the food you serve. Gail Cresci, Ph.D., R.D., of the Cleveland Clinic, shares four ways to keep your little one's gut well fed.

Closeup of Child Holding Stomach
Photo: Sharomka/Shutterstock

1. Read Labels in the Dairy Case

Whether your child gobbles up Greek yogurt or slurps down smoothies doesn’t matter much. Just make sure the yogurt has added strains of “live active cultures,” aka probiotics, the living organisms created during the fermentation process that can take up residence in the GI tract and strengthen your kid’s immune system.

2. Pick Cold Pickles

Fermented foods, like fermented pickles, sauerkraut, and beets, also contain probiotics. However, shelf-stable varieties often aren’t produced through fermentation or are pasteurized, which kills the healthy bacteria. Hit up the refrigerator section of your grocery store instead.

3. Swap Cereal for Oatmeal

The friendly bacteria in your child’s large intestine thrive on fermentable fiber (also known as prebiotic fiber), which can be found in unprocessed oats and barley.

4. Pack Cold Pasta for Lunch

When you boil and chill pasta, it increases the amount of resistant starch, a type of fiber that your body has difficulty digesting, so more of it makes its way to the good bacteria in your gut. Potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and less-ripe bananas offer other ways to serve up this carb.

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