As your kids go back to school and start up new sports and activities, chances are, you’ll be thinking about ways to boost their immune system. While you may consider giving them a probiotic supplement to boost the live, microorganisms and “healthy bacteria” in their gut (I recommend talking with their doctor first), there are also a ton of probiotic foods for kids that can give them an extra boost of nutrition and go a long way in keeping them healthy this year.
In this blog post, I’ll cover:
1. The health benefits of probiotic foods for kids.
2. Tips on serving probiotic-rich foods.
3. Probiotic foods for kids including dairy and non-dairy options, and foods that can make them more adventurous eaters.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF PROBIOTIC FOODS FOR KIDS
While probiotics are an ever-evolving area of research, studies suggest probiotics may help with:
- Allergies, asthma, and eczema
- Colds and flu-like respiratory infections
- Digestion, constipation, antibiotic-resistant diarrhea, and reflux
- Infant colic
- Mood and behavior
- Ulcerative colitis
TIPS ON SERVING PROBIOTIC FOODS FOR KIDS
Since some types of probiotic foods for kids are spicy, pungent, or even slimy, here are some tips to consider before serving them up.
Serve a variety of foods with probiotics
While many of these probiotic-rich foods are not those that most Americans typically eat (hello: kimchi), may seem strange, or have strong, unfamiliar flavors and textures, that’s even more of a reason to serve them up. The wider variety of foods you serve, the more adventurous your children have the potential to be.
Dish out tiny portions
Instead of serving an entire portion of the probiotic foods for kids, serve tiny bites alongside your children’s other familiar and favorite foods.
If your child doesn’t try it, don’t sweat it! The more consistent you are, however, the more likely they are to at least taste it.
Try new recipes
If your child is turned off from foods with probiotics, look for new ways to serve them and new recipes.
PROBIOTIC FOODS FOR KIDS
This list of foods with probiotics will give your kids tons of nutrition and a boost to their immune systems.
1. Naturally fermented vegetables
When you look for probiotic foods for kids, the key is to look for the words “naturally fermented” which means the food contains live probiotics.
Naturally fermented vegetables like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), red cabbage, beets, carrots, cucumber, and daikon all have probiotics as well as other vitamins and minerals.
You can find naturally-fermented vegetables at most grocery stores, natural health food stores, or your local farm or farmers’ market.
If you’re so inclined, you can also learn how to ferment vegetables at home.
Kefir is a fermented dairy drink that’s an excellent source of protein, calcium, and vitamin A.
Kefir is commonly made with cow’s milk, but it can be made from any type of milk including goat, sheep, coconut, rice, and soy.
The drink is slightly tart and tangy and has a thicker consistency than milk, but it’s not quite as thick as yogurt.
You can serve kefir alone or use it to make a smoothie.
Related: How To Make Smoothies For Kids
Since most brands of kefir are sweetened and high in sugar, read labels carefully.
Your best bet will likely be plain, unsweetened kefir and then add your own fresh fruit for sweetness.
3. Green olives
If your kids like olives, try to serve them up as an appetizer because certain types of green olives contain strains of probiotics like Lactobacillus pentosus.
Since most olives you’ll find in the grocery store are heavily processed and the pasteurization process kills the live microorganisms, look for those that are naturally fermented and have live active cultures.
Some brands to try include Olive My Pickle and Alive and Well.
4. Sourdough bread
Sourdough bread, which is made with a fermentation process that uses wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that’s naturally present in flour to leaven the bread, is one of the best probiotic foods for kids.
When you’re looking for sourdough bread, however, you should know that not all store-bought loaves use the traditional baking method, so it’s best to purchase it from a specialty grocery store instead.
Sourdough bread baking has seen a resurgence during the pandemic, so you might even consider making your own.
If your kids don’t love the taste of sourdough bread right away, serve a small piece with a pat of grass-fed butter, which is delicious and has immune-boosting probiotics as well.
5. Green peas
Not only do peas contain probiotics, but they’re also an excellent source of fiber, protein, and vitamins A, C, B6, and K, magnesium, and folate.
Pasta and peas, peas and rice, and split-pea soup all make for easy, healthy dinner ideas for kids.
6. Naturally fermented pickles
Pickles are rich in probiotics however, just like other vegetables with probiotics, look for those that are naturally fermented and are found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.
Bubbies, which sells naturally-fermented pickles and sauerkraut, is a brand I like.
Yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B12, and one of the best probiotic foods for kids.
When comparing brands, look for those that have the National Yogurt Association’s live and active cultures seal which means the yogurt has at least 100 million cultures per gram when it’s manufactured.
Related: How to Choose a Healthy Kids’ Yogurt & 7 Best Kids’ Yogurt Brands
A staple in Korean cuisine, Kimchi is a combination of vegetables, garlic, ginger, chili peppers, salt, and fish sauce that’s pickled and fermented.
It’s usually made with cabbage, but you can also find it with carrots, radish, cucumber, and scallions.
Not only is Kimchi one of the best foods with probiotics, but it’s also a good source vitamin A, C, K, B6, folate, and iron.
Kimchi has a combination of sweet, sour, and spicy, so instead of serving it as a side dish—which may be a turnoff for your kids—try a tiny amount next to other familiar foods.
You can serve kimchi alone or use it to make dumplings, fried rice, or even kimchi pizza.
Miso is a traditional Japanese condiment that’s made from fermented rye, beans, rice, or barley.
I keep miso on hand most of the time because it’s a kid-friendly way to get probiotics in my children’s diets.
Try spreading a bit of miso on whole-grain crackers or bread, make miso soup, a miso dressing, or pecan-miso butter and jelly sandwiches.
10. Coconut milk yogurt
If you’re looking for dairy-free probiotic foods, try coconut milk yogurt.
Keep in mind however, that coconut milk yogurt isn’t a good source of protein like Greek yogurt and the amount of calcium can vary.
Like other types of yogurt, coconut milk yogurt can also be high in sugar so aim for plain, unsweetened versions and add fresh berries for fiber (and prebiotics) and a hint of sweetness.
Related: 14 Prebiotic Foods For Kids
If you’re looking for probiotic foods for kids and ways to get more plant-based foods in your kid’s diet, try tempeh.
Made with fermented soybeans, tempeh has a mild, slightly nutty taste, and a firmer texture than tofu.
Tempeh is also a great source of protein (about 20 grams in 1/2 cup) and calcium.
Natto, also made with fermented soybeans, is a traditional Japanese food that contains the bacteria Bacillus subtilis.
Natto also has more than 100 times the amount of vitamin K2 that many types of cheeses. Vitamin K12 plays a role in heart and bone health.
According to The Spruce Eats, Natto has a strong odor and flavor and the beans are slimy—not exactly kid-friendly!
While Natto is an acquired taste, it may be one that your kids may come to enjoy after a few times of introducing it.
Natto is typically served with rice, but you can add it to miso soup, put it on toast, or add it as a topping on tofu. Check out The Pickled Plum’s recipes for ideas.
13. Some types of cheese
Certain types of cheeses contain probiotics but like yogurt, the key is to look for live and active cultures on the label.
Some include cheddar, mozzarella, Gouda, and some brands of cottage cheese like Good Culture.