Does your child need a probiotic?

, Does your child need a probiotic?

Navigating the gut health of your kids is a tricky task, so I wrote a post for Kidspot to help mums and families set the record straight.

Gut health is all the rage and probiotic supplements are promoted to kids to stay healthy and ward off tummy trouble. But are they safe – and do they really make a difference?

What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live ‘friendly’ bacteria found naturally in the body, as well as in select foods and supplements. Collectively dubbed the microbiome, the human gut is where the majority of these bacteria reside. These colony of microorganisms play an essential role in digestion, extracting nutrients from food, and support the immune system to help fight off any nasty bugs.

Food vs supplements
Kids are likely to get most of their probiotic intake from yoghurt, which also contains other valuable nutrients, including bone-strengthening calcium and hunger-busting protein.

Fermented and aged foods like kefir (milk drink), miso, sauerkraut and kimchi (fermented vegetables), and some cheeses also contain different types of probiotic strains. Whilst these foods may not be child-friendly, repetitive exposure makes children more willing to eat unfamiliar foods over time.

Then there are prebiotics – a non-digestible type of dietary fibre that feeds the beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics are found in specific types of high fibre plant-based foods such as wholegrains (couscous, barley, oats), legumes (baked beans, chickpeas) and vegetables (onions, green peas, sweetcorn, artichoke) and some fruits (watermelon, bananas, custard apples). Ensuring a balanced diet rich in both probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods will encourage healthy and diverse bacteria growth, where the good outnumber the bad.

Probiotic supplements, which are available in capsules, tablets, powders and liquid extracts are intended to mimic these “good” bacteria in order to “rebalance” the gut.

There are a number of studies supporting the use of probiotics in adults, such as boosting the immune system and reducing symptoms of IBS, including bloating and constipation, however the evidence on whether probiotics are actually effective for a range of infant conditions is a mixed bag and more research is needed.

For example, certain strains have been found useful in preventing diarrhea among children who have been prescribed antibiotics, so giving your child probiotics following a course of antibiotics may be helpful. Other studies suggest taking probiotics may help the immune system and prevent certain allergies, eczema or asthma. On the other hand, some researchers would argue that probiotics may simply be passed as normal waste because a child’s microbiome isn’t fully developed.

The takeaway
Generally speaking, in most healthy children, probiotics are harmless. However, it’s important to bear in mind that probiotic supplementation (as the name implies) should supplement, rather than replace, conventional treatments. As scientists are yet to determine the long-term effects of probiotics on children, and whether probiotics are beneficial for kids, research is yet to establish which particular strains might be most effective, for which conditions, in what doses, in order to reap the most benefit. As always, check with your doctor or paediatrician before giving probiotic supplements to your child.

This article was originally published in Kidspot and republished with tenor permission.

Fuel Your Workout. What To Eat Before and After

, Does your child need a probiotic?

What to eat before and after a gym session can make a big difference in performance. So which foods are best?

Before exercise. Timing it right!

Food consumed before exercise is only useful once it has been digested and absorbed. This means you need to allow sufficient time for the food to be broken down so that the fuel becomes available during your workout.

Generally speaking, eating a meal roughly two to three hours before exercise is enough time for the stomach to empty. However, depending on your individual needs, you may wish to have a lighter ‘snack’ one hour before. If you’re trying to build muscle mass, you may even want to do both. A  ‘snack’, roughly one hour before exercising is thought to have a positive effect on training and extend your time to exhaustion – this is particularly the case if training is of higher intensity (i.e 7/10 intensity effort) or for longer than 2 hours. This means if you have eaten your breakfast at around 7am, you may need a light snack at around 10.30am before your lunchtime workout. Or, if you have eaten your lunch at noon or 1pm, you will need to eat a snack between 3-4pm before an evening training session.

What to eat before exercising

It’s a popular misconception that you only need carbs if you’re undergoing long bouts of exercise (> two hours). Carbs are the muscles preferred source of fuel and ensuring that you have some carbs in your tank is necessary for both short and prolonged activity to fuel your workout, boost recovery, and minimise muscle damage. Opt for quality low GI carbohydrates to ensure a slow, gradual release of energy. Start with a fist full of oats, brown rice, wholegrain pasta, corn, sweet potato or quinoa. Eat to appetite and manage portions sensibly.

Often exercisers will opt for ‘protein only’ choices such as tuna, protein shakes or bars in an attempt to keep their carb intake low. While ample amounts of protein is necessary, a combination of macros (carbs plus protein) is ideal for your muscles to train more effectively. Why? Carbs help to replenish muscle glycogen and also stimulate the release of insulin – a hormone that actually helps the muscles take in the protein (amino acids) they need to preserve muscle mass and boosts muscle-building capabilities (i.e. increase muscle size). Foods high in added fats (e.g. pizza, pastries) are generally not recommended before a workout because fat slows digestion, weighs you down and leaves most people feeling sluggish. However, including a moderate amount of heart healthy fats, such as nuts or oily fish (e.g. salmon) is recommended as part of an overall balanced eating plan.

Examples of pre-workout meals/snacks
• Greek yoghurt
• Banana
• Wholegrain toast and boiled eggs
• Fruit smoothie
• Fruit or rice cakes with nut butter
• Wholegrain pasta with tomato based sauce
• Handful of nuts and raisins
• Muesli bar
• Lean meat and wholegrain rice or quinoa and vegetables.

Green smoothie recipe can be found here.

What if I exercise early morning?

If you’re an A.M exerciser it is not always practical to eat before a workout. This is when your evening meal the night before should contain a sufficient amount of slow-releasing carbs to ensure you top up your glycogen (stored form of glucose) to fuel your workout the following day. Exercisers with weight loss goals may find an advantage in exercising on an empty stomach as there is a greater potential to burn more body fat for fuel compared to doing the same workload after a carbohydrate-containing snack a few hours before exercising. While exercising in a fasted state may burn more body fat, it may also break down protein from muscle for conversion into glucose. Muscle breakdown over an extended period of time can lead to ketosis, or keto-acid buildup in the blood, which can cause fatigue and dizziness. On the other hand, if your goals are performance related (e.g. to improve strength or speed), or increase muscle size, exercising on an empty stomach probably isn’t your best bet because a lack of energy might prevent you from putting forth your best effort. So plan your meals around your exercise schedule.

During exercise. Refuel
You don’t need to ingest calories during a workout that’s less than 60-minutes, rather keep your body hydrated with small, frequent sips of water. But, for longer, more vigorous workouts greater than 90-minutes, consuming carbs while exercising, such as in the form of a sports drink has the added benefit of providing a fast supply of glucose to the working muscles. After about 60 – 90 minutes of ‘intense’ activity, carbohydrate stores may become depleted and muscles start to become reliant on burning fat for fuel, which isn’t as efficient as burning carbohydrates. The end result may be poor performance, muscle soreness, fatigue and potentially delayed recovery.

After exercise. Replenish and repair
Once your activity is finished, your body is ready to replace muscle fuel (carbs) used during activity, repair muscles and re-hydrate with fluids. The approach to recover from training is the same as your preparation for a workout: have a mixed meal of real food, ideally a combination of carbs and protein within one- two hours post of workout, less than 1 hour if you’ve exercised in a fasted state.

Examples of post-workout meals and snacks

• Chocolate milk
• Grilled chicken with roasted veggies
• Tuna salad sandwich on wholegrain bread
• Spinach and mushroom omelette
• Hummus and pita bread
• Yoghurt and berries
• Salmon with brown rice and sweet potato
• Protein rich green smoothie

This post was originally published in Many/June edition of Fitness First Magazine (2019), featuring Stephanie Rice on the cover.

Feeling fatigued? 5 Natural Ways To Expel Exhaustion

, Does your child need a probiotic?

A restless night of sleep; a busy work week ahead; overcommitting to your social calendar – they’re all normal reasons to feel tired. But what happens when you find yourself battling fatigue on the regular?

Firstly, there are varying degrees of tiredness. Issues such as iron-deficiency anaemia, depression, glandular fever, thyroid abnormalities or chronic fatigue could be lurking behind the scenes – so you’ll need to seek medical advice who can prescribe alternative methods to get you feeling fresh again. Once you get the medical all-clear, the following lifestyle changes could be the perfect natural pick-me-ups.

Get the right dose of exercise

They say ‘everything in moderation’ – and exercise is no exception. Hitting the gym on most days of the week is an excellent way to burn calories and receive a rush of endorphins (happy hormones), but it’s also denying your body of much-needed rest. Experts say you require up to 48 hours of recovery between high intensity workouts.

On the other hand, spending 50 hours a week at your desk and neglecting exercise altogether will be an even faster path to lethargy.

The key is to prioritise exercise, but always listen to your body. Are you feeling run-down? Try opting for a light walk, so you can enjoy improved blood flow and boosted energy and mood without burning yourself out. Better yet, get outside. It’s hard to feel anxious or rundown when you’re exploring what nature has to offer.

Related: 10 ways to leap out of bed faster

Keep up your fluids

Think caffeine is the conqueror of tiredness? Think again. Water is actually the best energising beverage. Why? Dehydration is one of the main causes of fatigue. You only have to lose around 2% of your body’s fluids for your mood, performance, concentration and energy levels to deteriorate. So, quench your thirst with water first and look to the colour of your pee for proof. The clearer, the better.

Opt for slow burn

Carbs have a bad reputation, but it really depends which ones you’re talking. If you’re pounding the pavement without carbohydrates to burn, then you’ll end up facing extreme fatigue long –term. The key is to switch your mindset from ‘low carb’ to ‘slow carb’. Pad out your salads or snacks with quinoa, sweet potato, chick peas, or fruit, which release energy slowly and give you stamina to succeed throughout the day (workouts included). Another perk. These carbs dish up a healthy dose of fibre, so you may find your digestion and belly bloat improve, too.

Related: Fast fixes for food cravings

Breathe deeply

We unconsciously breathe to stay alive, but what if we breathed to thrive? If you stop and think about how you’re breathing – with deep inhalation and a strong focus on exhaling slowly – you’ll better control your bodily processes. This can extend beyond improved energy to mood regulation, enhanced sleep and general wellbeing.

Seek out happiness

Sounds like a pretty obvious one, but how often do you actually choose contentment? If you’re caught up in a daily cycle of work, meetings, picking up the kids, cooking dinner, watching TV, then truly meaningful moments fall by the wayside. As a result, stress and fatigue can quickly become your norm. So, always be sure to add some gratitude to your day, even if it’s three small things, helps to shift your focus and appreciate any situation.

Related: Keeping your mummy mind in check

This post was originally posted in Whimn and has been adapted with their permission.

Tips to Pack A Waste Free Lunchbox

, Does your child need a probiotic?
Perhaps your child’s school has initiated a Nude Food Day each week or month –  an initiative which helps reduce unnecessary waste in your child’s lunch box. Usually, this means lunch box food that is not overly processed, often making it a healthier and more environmentally friendly option.
According to research by Enviro Week, the average packed lunch amounts to approximately 30KG of waste per child each year. That’s a lot of landfill!

Following these rules can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.

Here are FOUR simple steps you can take to create a waste-free lunchbox:

1. Give up the plastic wrap/foil. Opt for a bento style lunch box with separate compartments for different foods, or pack snacks in different sized reusable containers or reusable sandwich bags, such as sandwiches, sushi, chopped fruit, veggies, yoghurt and dips, which you can then pack into an insulated lunch box. Another option is to use a vacuum-insulated food jar to keep food warm – ideal for the cooler months.
, Does your child need a probiotic?
2. Reduce overly-processed foods. Swap packets of biscuits or individually wrapped muesli bars/cookies, fruit straps, cakes, savoury slices, muffins for healthier home-made versions packed straight into reusuable containers. Make your own snack mix with dried fruit (apples, sultanas, apricots), pepitas, sunflower seeds and Fava beans.
3. Buy in bulk. Instead of plastic-wrapped processed cheese sticks, buy a large block of cheese and cut into desired shapes. Swap squeezie yoghurts for a large tub of plain or Greek yoghurt (drizzle with honey or cinnamon) that can portioned into small containers or reusable pouches through the week. This also prevents unwanted additives and flavourings and also saves money.
4. Use reusable drink bottles. Invest in a good quality drink bottle to avoid excess use of plastic and cartons of juice or milk. If not, encourage your child to use the recycling bin (yellow lid) for these items where ever possible.

What’s Your Eating Style?

, Does your child need a probiotic?

Do you often play mind games with yourself about what you should or should not eat? Or beat yourself up about your inability to stick to a balanced eating plan? These ‘disordered’ eating styles may be standing in the way of your health and happiness, so I’ve listed some tips to help you resolve them.

But first, what does having a healthy relationship with food even mean?

A healthy relationship with food involves a trusting that your body is functioning to the best of its ability, and your body trusts that you’ll provide it with the proper nourishment in return.

It doesn’t involve a set of strict ‘dieting rules’ telling you when, how, or what to eat. It involves you listening to your body and responding to its needs accordingly – a principle well known as mindful eating. There is no labelling foods as “good” or “bad” and there is no shame or guilt after eating certain foods. It tends to be more peaceful versus chaotic.

FOOD FRETTING

What could be wrong with eating healthy? But for some, a fixation on healthy eating develops into an obsession where a food is virtually off limits unless it’s either organic, raw, gluten, grain or fructose free. It’s an emerging eating style – particularly in professional women – called orthorexia where the pleasure is more in eating ‘correctly’ rather than simply eating. In other words, eating can become a source of anxiety instead of a source of pleasure.

Eventually food choices become so restrictive that health may suffer. The problem gets worse when very few self-identify as dieters (because we all know by now that ‘diets’ don’t work), instead, eating ‘clean’ becomes a revised version of food restriction which flies under the radar as healthy ‘lifestyle changes’.

The Fix: There’s no such thing as a perfect diet. Moderation is key which includes being flexible in what and when you eat and giving yourself permission to enjoy an occasional treat, like a gelato on a hot day. Consciously satisfy your craving; then resume your healthy eating patterns. Taken in moderation, these treats add contentment and variety to our diets – not to mention our lives.

SPORADIC EATER

From skipping meals to mindlessly munching while scrolling through Instagram, mayhem eaters spend a lot of time feeling either extremely hungry or extremely full, and for this reason may find themselves constantly scurrying for food and eating things they don’t even enjoy. Result? You end up eating more than you think.

The Fix: While women are great at multi-tasking, meal time is the one task where you do nothing else but eat, allowing you to be in better communication with your body’s true hunger signals. This includes making a conscious effort to eat when you are hungry (not ravenous) and stop when you’re comfortably full.

Planning ahead is also a must as knowing what, when or where you eat will put order back into your eating routine. Over time, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in both the quantity and the quality of what you choose to eat.

EMOTIONAL EATER

Eating is a complex behaviour and we don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger. We also turn to food for comfort, boredom relief, or as a reward – most likely calorific foods. While it’s perfectly acceptable to reward yourself with a special treat after a stressful day, letting your emotions dictate what and when you eat on a regular basis can often lead to a habit of overeating. Not only can this hinder your health and fitness efforts, it can also leave other issues in your life unresolved.

The fix: Keeping a food journal can help you rule out which emotions or types of feelings tend to drive you into the kitchen and what foods you’re likely to eat as a result. The next step is to make a list of what alternative behaviours will help deal with these emotions. For example, if you find that you’re about to reach for a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, consider introducing coping mechanisms other than food to your repertoire. Go for a walk, phone a friend or paint your toe nails. Whatever it is, do something other than eat to cope with the emotion and your eating habits will take a turn for the better.

Which of these types of eaters do you think you are?

This post was originally published on the Get There blog by Fitness First.

If this post resonated with you, be sure to check out Whats Eating You? which walks you through practical ways to heal your relationship with food and your body.