Written by Smita Srivastava
Body’s gut is considered the root of health. The gut comprises several helpful bacteria, some viruses and even fungi, creating the microbiome. Body needs these bacteria to help it absorb nutrients, and even fight germs during sickness. Probiotics and fermented food have good bacteria or live microbes which are beneficial for the gut. Hence, including probiotic rich foods in toddlers diet can help the gut stays healthy.
Gut health also determines weight, obesity, immunity, energy levels, and even brain function. When the gut is unhealthy, it means that there is an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria, and infections begin to crop up in the body. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure good gut health for the toddlers who are in the habit of putting everything in their mouths, and falling sick often as a result. Probiotic food will help maintain good gut health for them.
In This Article
Our gut’s microbiome is established in the first few years of our life, making it an important time to lay the healthiest foundation for the gut development. The microbiome changes with age, medications, diet, and even environment. Replenishing the body’s good bacteria helps strengthen the body’s immune system.
Toddlers, despite all precautions, pick up infections which require antibiotics. Antibiotics are known to wipe out both the bacterial infections, but often the good bacteria as well, leading to a weak gut and a weakened digestive system. One of the best ways to help counter this effect is by having the toddler eat probiotic food.
Toddlers are also prone to diarrhea or constipation because of trying out new food groups, during potty training. A diet rich in probiotic foods helps ease these symptoms and strengthen the gut.
Probiotics are not like calories, vitamins, or even minerals. There is no daily value that is recommended for any age group. It depends on person to person. If we’re talking about probiotic food, then even babies below 1 year of age can have as much of it as they want, if it suits their bodies.
Normally, probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFU), which is the good bacteria amount found in a probiotic supplement. Supplements available at the chemists have anything between 5 billion to 15 billion CFU.
While there is no harm in having too many probiotic foods, some people at times experience abdominal discomfort or gas. With toddlers too, as they explore various foods, the parent learns what suits them and what doesn’t. But even a generous serving of probiotic food is not known to hurt a kid.
To have a healthy gut here are a list of top probiotic-rich foods that parents can include in toddlers diet:
Yogurt or curd is made from milk and is one of the best probiotic foods being a storehouse of live bacteria. Homemade yogurt is made by fermenting milk for 12 to 24 hours, in which time all the lactose or milk sugar is used up, enriching the probiotic culture. A glass of lassi (a kind of yogurt smoothie) made using homemade yogurt is also rich in probiotics.
However, the store-bought yogurt is not known to have enough live bacteria, therefore it is recommended to give the toddler more of homemade yogurt.
Food prepared by fermenting rice, gram flour (besan) or lentils (dal) are rich in live cultures of good bacteria making them a great source of probiotics. Dishes like idli, dosa, dhokla, appam, uttapam, dal cheelas are all good sources of probiotics. These are often even made using some curd, adding more probiotic content into it.
Bread, too, is known to contain active cultures/ bacteria, especially sourdough bread. However, too much bread by itself is not recommended for kids in our Indian diet, thanks to the option of so many other alternatives.
Buttermilk is a good source of probiotic, especially carboxylic acid, and lactic acid bacteria. Traditional buttermilk is obtained when butter is churned. The liquid that is leftover is also called “grandma’s probiotic” as it is rich in different types of probiotic bacteria. Please note, however, that according to professionals, the store-bought buttermilk does not have any probiotics, hence should be avoided.
Cottage cheese or paneer is also one of the good sources of probiotics. When it is freshly made and in its raw form, cottage cheese or paneer is full of good/ probiotic bacteria, however, it loses all of this when it is cooked or in its processed form. Paneer made from raw or unpasteurized milk contains several probiotic bacteria.
Apples too are a good source of both fiber and probiotic and have around 100 million bacteria. Majority of the bacteria is known to reside in the core. Removing the core while cutting the apple is known to bring down the bacteria to 10 million, so it is recommended to eat an entire apple. Toddlers can begin having apples as early as when they start solids.
One of the simplest ways of introducing probiotic food in a toddler’s diet is through paneer or cottage cheese and yogurt. Yogurt can be given to toddlers as a treat with food or even separately with jaggery, honey, or fruits. Apples, known to have a significant number of probiotic bacteria, can be given daily to toddlers.
Fermented food, another probiotic food, is often introduced to toddlers early on as they are soft and non-spicy. These foods can be incorporated in the diet as breakfast foods. Slowly exposing your little one to a variety of food could bring them to like some of them.
We can’t discuss probiotics without also addressing breast milk. Breast milk contains both probiotics and prebiotics. Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to begin strengthening your little one’s gut.
To summarize, it is always better for toddlers to meet their probiotic requirement through foods than supplements unless the pediatrician recommends. Toddlers try new foods often as they grow, and it helps to include plenty of probiotics in their diet to lay the foundation for a healthy nutritional base.
[Read : Prebiotics For Babies]
Apples. They are a good source of probiotics. A single apple has around 100 million good bacteria . So, you can give your kid apples regularly. And remember the adage- ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’? Well, in this case it sure will!
Guava, mango, pineapple, and kinnow are used to make probiotic juice. These juices contain an ideal food and nutrient matrix for carrying the good bacteria.
Almonds have very high fiber content, which enables them to increase the good bacteria in the gut. This makes them a good source of probiotics.
Prebiotics are high-fiber foods that support the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Just like probiotics, these too are important for a strong digestive system and a healthy gut but work in different ways. Prebiotics are often food that our body can’t digest and goes to the lower digestive tract. Here it helps the healthy bacteria grow. Many fruits, whole grains, and even vegetables like barley, banana, berries, garlic, flaxseed, legumes, oats, onions, tomatoes, wheat, soybeans, etc. are prebiotic in nature.
Yakult is marketed as a probiotic drink for adults. It’s not yogurt, but specifically a probiotic drink. It’s not recommended for babies or toddlers as it is high in sugar and has only 1 gm of protein. In the 80 ml bottle there is 9 gm of added sugar which is too much for grownups as well.
Read Also: Top 5 Best Vitamin C Rich Foods For Toddlers
With a background in Mass media and journalism, Smita comes with rich and vast experience in content creation, curation, and editing. As a mom of a baby girl, she is an excellent candidate for writing and editing parenting and pregnancy content. The content she writes and edits is influenced by her own journey through pregnancy and motherhood. When not writing- She can be found curled up with a book. Or, bingeing on Netflix.Read more.
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