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5 top tips on how to look after your child’s gut health this Christmas

Christmas can be a challenging time for family gut health, especially with all the sweet treats floating around! Sugar kills off the good bugs inside the gut just as pouring bleach into a river kills off the fish – and the results for your child (and yourself!) may be “gut dysbiosis,” which means an out-of-whack ecosystem inside the gut.

You may notice some less-than-pleasant results of this process. Because of the Gut-Brain connection, as well as the importance of the gut microbiome to health, immunity and mood, you and your child may suffer increased colds, sleep disturbance, tummy upset, diarrhea, mood swings and tantrums.

So what’s a busy mum to do, to nurture your little one’s internal ecosystem at this time of year?

Reality is that it’s difficult to limit sugar intake around the festive period. So your best option is a “repair” protocol, which puts the good bugs back inside the gut, as fast as the sugar kills them off.

Goats milk kefir is recommended for this process, as it is the most naturally diverse probiotic available. Children age 1-4 can have 100 ml per day of kefir; age 4 and over can have the adult portion of 170 ml per day.

Ideally, kefir is consumed in a smoothie, first thing in the morning, before other food. This is a quick and easy option for breakfast – on the farm, we make a family smoothie and everyone enjoys their kefir together. If your child is old enough, get them involved in smoothie creation – young ones can wash the berries or peel the banana, older children can help blend.

In a rush? Tuck a handful of gut-friendly almonds into your pocket on your way out the door and you may find this fills you up enough to get you through to lunch!

1. Family Kefir Smoothie

Ingredients

  • Small handful of blueberries or raspberries (per person )
  • ⅓ banana per person
  • ½ avocado (optional)*
  • Recommended amount of kefir (per person)
  • Sweeten with 100% pure stevia to taste

*Adding avocado will thicken the mixture; you can add water to thin to desired consistency.

Method

Blend, pour into glasses, enjoy! 😉

If your child isn’t a fan of smoothies, try hiding kefir in these gut-friendly baked goods:

2. Good Morning Kefir Pancakes

Prep: 15min | Cook: 15min | Ready in: 30min

Ingredients

  • 150g gram flour (this is gluten-free, gut-friendly chickpea flour, with a lovely nutty flavour.)
  • 1 egg
  • 250ml Chuckling Goat kefir
  • 4 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat a frying pan over medium heat. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth.
  2. Pour batter onto the pan, to form 5 pancakes. Flip pancakes when edges appear to harden. Cook until golden brown. Top with fresh fruit or drizzle with yacon syrup, which has a GI rating of 1 and is a gut-friendly prebiotic in its own right.

3. Holiday Fun Muffins

Prep: 15min | Cook: 20min | Ready in: 35min

Ingredients

  • 175g rice flour
  • 50g corn flour
  • 100g coconut sugar
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 250ml Chuckling Goat kefir
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: fresh blueberries, mashed banana or cranberries

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C / Gas 5. Grease 12 muffins cups or line with paper cases.
  2. Sift together flour mixture, sugar, baking powder, bicarb, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, egg, kefir and vanilla.
  3. Pour kefir mixture into dry ingredients and stir until just combined (the mixture will not be smooth). Gently stir in fruit, if desired. Scoop mixture into prepared cases, filling almost to the top.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 18 minutes.

4. Eat A Rainbow

The menu for Christmas dinner may be set in stone – but in the days leading up and following Christmas day itself, try adding in some new fruits and veggies to boost gut health. The key to microbiome excellence is diversity – both in the bacterial species present, and the number of different foods you consume to feed them. Ideal gut donors eat 50 different foods a week! That’s a high-end goal – but you can get your child started in the right direction by playing the “Eat a Rainbow” game That means eating your way through all the colours of the rainbow in a day – red, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple. Take your child to the fruit and veg aisle and ask them to select a “red food,” for example. If your red food is raspberries today, go for beet root tomorrow! The more colourful the food, the more phytonutrients it contains, so a beautiful plate is also a gut-friendly one.

5. Get outside, make a wreath or cut your own Christmas tree

Gathering greenery and picking pine cones to make a wreath, taking a bundled-up nature walk or a family outing to a cut-your-own-tree location is a great way to get outside during the winter season. Any excuse to get out in nature and muddy those wellies is good for your child’s microbiome! Studies show that interacting with animals, plants and dirt help to repopulate the “old friends” or commensal gut bacteria that have co-evolved with human beings over millennia, to keep us happy and healthy.

4 thoughts on “5 top tips on how to look after your child’s gut health this Christmas

    1. Hi Beth,

      Heating the kefir will kill off the live bacteria – but the benefits also come from the metabolites that won’t be affected by heat, so it won’t be without benefit but it won’t be as beneficial as if you were to drink it neat. 😊

      Best wishes,
      Emma.

  1. Love all these recipes and ideas, could you freeze the muffins? So my daughter could have 1 a day then if the smoothie route was not successful
    Look forward to your reply

    1. Hi Sara,

      We’re glad that you liked the post!

      Yes – freezing the muffins would be absolutely fine 🙂

      Best wishes,
      Emma.

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