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Healthy smoothy, green with bananas

One sure way to get the new school year off to a good start is with gut-friendly snack ideas.  You see, the gut is home to trillions of bacteria that contribute to good digestion, metabolic health, and a strong immune system. When both kids and parents keep their guts healthy and strong with good snack choices, both are likely to have a smoother transition into the new school year.

Why? Because science shows that the gut microbiota regulates our body’s stress response. It also influences brain development and behavior, which can translate to better school performance. And because 70-80% of our immune cells are in the gut, this could mean fewer or milder colds and other respiratory infections. What we mean with gut-healthy snacks is foods that pack fiber, probiotics, and antioxidants. These should also be low in saturated fat, added sugar, and questionable additives. With that said, below are 14 back-to-school snack ideas, savory and sweet options included.

1. Bananas

Bananas are one of the most convenient snack foods there is. They’re portable, you can add them to so many treats (think muffins, pancakes, and oatmeal), and they’re filling. A medium banana has just around 100 calories, 12% of the daily value for fiber, and lots of vitamin C, B6, as well as potassium. Choose greener bananas as studies show these are higher in prebiotic-resistant starches that can benefit gut health.

2. Yogurt or Kefir

Fermented dairy drinks make a fantastic snack option not only because they’re convenient, but also because they’re filling, support bone health, and contain gut-benefiting bacteria. To make them more kid-friendly, consider adding honey, berries, and granola for sweetness and crunch. Choose yogurt with active live cultures and consider making kefir at home to ensure you’re getting the real deal.

3. Oats Everything

There are more ways to enjoy oats than just oatmeal. Incorporate this healthy food into your snack routine by making oatmeal muffins, energy bites, bars, or cookies. Or for convenience, opt for sugar-free oat bars. Oats contain beta-glucan, a dietary fiber known to lower cholesterol and blood sugar. It was also found to improve the diversity and health of human gut microbiota.

4. Fruit Skewers

If you’re trying to get the kids to eat more fruit, try fruit skewers. With their rainbow colors and easy-to-eat presentation, they might find this snack more appealing. Plus, you can get the kids involved in the preparation, which can serve as another motivator. Opt for fiber-rich, low-sugar fruits like berries, green bananas, mandarines, and kiwis.

5. Guacamole

Guacamole and tortilla chips are surprisingly healthy compared to many other chips and dips. You can also make this popular meal kid-friendly by replacing the raw onions with onion powder and skipping the chili. Avocados are one of the best sources of fiber, with half of the daily value found in one medium fruit. It’s also rich in anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) that research has linked to better gut health and immunity.

6. Sweet Potato Fries

French fries are an adult’s guilty pleasure and are highly addictive for kids. Choose a healthier potato option for your own and the kids’ sake in the form of sweet potato fries. Sweet potatoes have fewer calories, more fiber, and more micronutrients and disease-fighting antioxidants. Studies have found that their fiber and antioxidant both promote a healthy microbiome.

7. Whole Grain PB & Jelly

PB & Jelly sandwiches are a time-saver for parents everywhere. To make them healthier, however, choose whole grain bread over white sandwich bread and consider low-sugar strawberry jam. Your goal is to up the fiber content and lower the added sugars as much as possible for better gut health.

8. Turmeric Cookies

Turmeric is an Indian spice with an earthy and peppery flavor. It’s normally used in savory dishes but can work just as well in sweets and treats with the right recipe, like in turmeric cookies. Turmeric contains one of nature’s most powerful polyphenols called curcumin. Recent research has found that curcumin promotes the growth of good gut bacteria and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the GI tract.

9. Energy Bites

Definitely include these healthy,on-the-go, energy-boosting treats this school year. They’re easy to prepare, and you can even get the kids to join in on the fun. They’re also loved by adults and kids alike and can be modified in countless ways. All you need is a food processor, dried fruits,nuts, seeds, oats, and a host of other high-fiber ingredients that boost gut health and satisfy
cravings along the way.

10. Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are one of those rare veggies kids are likely to love. They’re crispy with a salty flavor and are rich in probiotics since they are fermented. If you’re worried about the sodium content — an ounce can have 245 mg (10% DV) of sodium — go for kosher or low-sodium varieties. Besides cucumbers, other pickled vegetables that can provide both fiber and probiotics includecarrots, bell peppers, and tomatoes.

11. Green Smoothies

Smoothies can be a drink, meal replacement, and even a slurpable snack depending on how you serve them. They can also be a great way to sneak in veggies into your kids’ diet. A green smoothie that combines bananas, berries, honey, and spinach, for example, will taste sweet enough to be kid-friendly while providing the benefits of greens along the way. And one such benefit is a healthy gut thanks to the added fiber and antioxidants found in cruciferous veggies.

12. Kale Chips

If you’re looking for more ways to sneak gut-healthy greens into the kids’ (or your own) diet, then experiment with kale chips. Kale chips and salty, crunchy, and addictive just like regular potato chips. But they’re also somewhat of a nutritional powerhouse and superfood because they’re low in calories, a good source of micronutrients, rich in fiber, and contain GI disease-fighting antioxidants.

13. Homemade Popcorn

Here is another healthier potato chip alternative, especially if you make your own at home.Popcorn is more filling than potato chips and has more antioxidants called polyphenols than fruits and vegetables. A recent study on quality protein popcorn, which is a novel variety, even found that its proteins stimulate greater butyrate production in the gut. Butyrate is a type of fatty acid that relieves inflammation in the intestines.

14. Dried Fruit

Instead of gummy bears and candy, let the kids satisfy their sweet tooth with dried fruit like figs, apricots, banana chips, mango, kiwi, and apples, you name it! Dried fruit is concentrated in fruit flavors and contains many of the same vitamins and fiber found in fresh counterparts. Keep portions moderate, though, to avoid bloating and gas. Dried fruit is high in fructose and some forms have sulfur dioxide, which can cause stomach upset when taken in excess.



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