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Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust and the Gut Foundation realise that there are so many things to consider about food and good health for our kids. With school holidays, just a few weeks away we thought it would be a great time to plan some food experiences with your children. The Gut Foundation asked Stephanie Brown, paediatric gastro dietician, to set out her thoughts on how to involve your children in providing healthy food experiences for the whole family.

As a dietician, we not only look at food intake but the variety of other aspects that impact on the food/eating experience. These cover things such as messages around food, exercise and activities. Baking together is a fun activity and you can give kids good tips to make baking healthier like try reducing the amount of sugar or replacing 1/3 of white flour with wholemeal flour. 

Give kids a challenge to find what they think is a healthy recipe they could make for lunch. Remember lockdown? At this time reducing stress levels in children was important as it helps to protect gut bugs. Being mindful of how you talked about food negating the idea of food scarcity, building a routine with meal and snack times so kids can expect when the next meal is coming which prevents constant seeking of snacks. Stay active, participate in free kids exercise programmes on YouTube, curb boredom snacking by doing activities. Play cards, do puzzles and get outside as often as possible. Sunshine is where we get our vitamin D which is important for bone health as it helps our body absorb calcium from our food and also boosts immunity.  Foods that are rich in vitamin D are salmon and eggs. All these ideas are equally relevant during school holidays.

Healthy snacks for kids 

When kids need a snack, look to provide healthy options such as fruit, nuts, cheese, yogurt, smoothies or popcorn. If choosing a pre-packaged snack look for the ones with the lowest sugar and fat content per 100 grams or the best Health Star Rating.

Did you know that our immunity is in our gut?

We can feed our immunity with coloured fruits and vegetables. Pick ones that are high in vitamin C such as oranges kiwi fruits and pineapple, broccoli, and red and green peppers. Embrace canned and frozen foods when fresh is not available. They are a great option to have in the pantry and freezer so add some to your next trip to the grocery store.

Talking about feeding our gut microbes, we also need enough fibre!

Whole grains leafy vegetables and legumes such as peas and beans provide important nutrients called prebiotics and help us keep a regular toilet routine. A good rule of thumb is your child’s age + 5 grams of fibre per day. We can also feed our gut with probiotics which are live bacteria and yeasts. Foods rich in probiotics are some yogurts such as kefir, fermented foods like pickles, miso soup, and even some cheeses like gouda and mozzarella.
Finally drink water, staying hydrated is very important for good gut health.

Find out more information about the Gut Foundations' latest research, gut health and how you can support them at thegut.org.nz.