Back to school shopping typically centers around finding that perfect backpack, graphing calculator or zippered three-ring binder. But let’s face it: your child’s most important tools for success can’t be found anywhere on that school supply list. Regardless of what brand of tennis shoes or colored pencils you buy, it’s wholesome school lunches that will give your child the energy he or she needs to stay alert and focused throughout the day.
A 2009 report by the Institute of Medicine found that school-age children do not eat the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. This means that students are also falling short on their intake of probiotics, the “good bacteria” within the gut that boost immunity, aid in digestion and promote good mental health.
The human digestive tract contains more than 100 trillion microbes that represent more than 500 species. The beneficial bacteria within the gut help to extract vitamins and nutrients from our food, defend the body against pathogens, and produce hundreds of neurochemicals to regulate mental processes like learning, mood and memory.
There are several varieties of probiotic supplements for children that are available over-the-counter at your local grocer or pharmacy, but the easiest and most effective way to make sure your child gets the nutrients and probiotics he or she needs is by packing a wholesome lunch. Here are some kid-friendly foods that are naturally rich in probiotics:
- Aged cheeses (cheddar, parmesan or gouda)
- Sourdough bread
Try to include at least one probiotic-rich food in your child’s school lunch to each day to encourage healthy eating habits, and don’t be afraid to get creative! If your picky eater isn’t a fan of plain yogurt, try experimenting with homemade fruit smoothies or yogurt dip with pretzels. Creative meals will give them something to look forward to, and you can rest easy knowing you’re giving your child the best chance at a successful school year.