Welcome to Family Wellness Month! As parents, guardians, and caregivers, we all want our children to grow up healthy and happy. While many aspects contribute to overall family wellness, one essential - yet often overlooked component - is FIBER!!
Fiber plays a crucial role in the prevention of chronic disease, immunity support, digestive health, and overall well-being. Today, we'll delve into the importance of prebiotic fiber and highlight why children often fall short of their fiber intake —and how to fix it!
A word on ultra-processed food marketing…
It's no secret that kids of any age can be picky eaters. Despite our best efforts, kids are naturally drawn to bright, colorful, and indulgent foods, and it is no coincidence that most of these foods fall under the category of ultra-processed.
These types of foods, such as sugary cereals, sweetened beverages, and packaged snacks, are designed to be highly palatable and convenient, making them attractive to young taste buds and busy parents alike.
Food manufacturers invest substantial resources into clever marketing strategies that target children with captivating advertisements. They employ branding tactics to make their products appealing and enticing, often leveraging popular cartoon characters, celebrities, and engaging jingles that get stuck on repeat in our heads! LOL!
This near-constant exposure to enticing marketing messages creates a strong influence on our children's preferences and desires, shaping their food choices from an early age.
By associating these products with positive experiences, fun activities, and the company of beloved characters or role models, they create a sense of loyalty among young consumers.
These marketing tactics not only make ultra-processed foods
highly appealing but also normalize their consumption
as an integral part of your child’s lifestyle.
^^ FULL STOP!!! Read that again. ^^
Ultra-processed food marketing not only influences our children's food preferences but also affects their habits and health outcomes throughout their lifetime. And some kids even develop an aversion to more nutritious options, leading to an increased risk of childhood obesity, poor oral health, and nutrient deficiencies.
We can’t avoid it!
Ultra-processed food marketing is everywhere, and we simply cannot avoid it, but what we can do is continue to educate our kids about the role nutrition plays in our lives and how it impacts everything that happens inside of our bodies.
By empowering children with knowledge about healthy eating habits and by creating an environment that supports nutritious choices, we can help them resist the allure of ultra-processed foods and foster a culture of nutritional self-care from an early age.
Childhood Fiber Deficiency:Study after study shows that children are not consuming adequate amounts of fiber, falling short of the recommended daily intake. (See the fiber intake chart for kids here!)
as it leads to poor gut health, weakened immune systems, obesity,
and an increased risk of chronic diseases later in life.
Understanding Prebiotic Fiber
Fiber comes in two main forms: soluble and insoluble. While both are crucial for healthy living, prebiotic fiber, a type of soluble fiber, deserves special attention.
Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that feed beneficial gut bacteria and promote a healthy microbiome. They act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria in our digestive system, providing the ideal environment for these good guys to thrive and multiply!
The Importance of Prebiotic Fiber for Children
Prebiotic fiber improves digestive health, increases nutrient absorption, strengthens the immune system response, supports mental health, cognitive function, and healthy weight management.
Let’s take a closer look at each:
Digestive Health Support: Prebiotic fiber is the food for the gut’s good bacteria, and fiber also promotes regular, healthy bowel movements. Happy gut = happy kid!
Increased Nutrient Absorption: A well-functioning gut is crucial for nutrient absorption as it enables the body to receive essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients from the food we eat. A healthy gut, with a diverse and thriving community of beneficial gut bacteria, helps optimize the nutrient absorption process by breaking down complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, making them more accessible to the organs that need them. They also produce enzymes and other substances that assist in nutrient absorption.
Immune System Support: The gut microbiome plays a vital role in supporting a robust immune system. By nurturing the growth of beneficial bacteria, prebiotic fiber helps strengthen the immune response, reducing the risk of infections and even seasonal allergies in children.
Cognitive Function and Mental Health Support: Emerging research suggests a strong connection between gut health and mental health. A balanced gut microbiome supported by prebiotic fiber can contribute to improved mood and cognitive function in children.
The gut-brain axis, the bidirectional communication network between the gut and the brain, has been gaining attention as a potential factor in cognitive health.
Cognitive health and mental health are closely interconnected in children. Cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, problem-solving, and learning, play a significant role in a child's overall mental well-being. Impairments in cognitive function can contribute to mental health challenges and vice versa.
Prebiotic fiber supports the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria, which can produce compounds that positively impact brain function.
By fostering a healthy gut microbiota through prebiotic fiber intake, children may experience improved cognition, memory, attention, and overall brain health. WOW!! Fiber up brain health!Weight Management: Fiber-rich foods are more filling, helping children maintain a healthy weight by keeping their tummies feeling happy and full. Prebiotic fiber also influences the release of certain hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, helping them to snack less!
Close the Fiber Gap in Your Family
Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to bridge the fiber gap in your family’s healthy living routine! Here are a few of our best tips:
Creative Meal Planning: Experiment with recipes that prioritize whole foods incorporating fiber-rich ingredients in fun and flavorful ways.
Smoothies, homemade granola bars, vegetable-packed pasta dishes, and DIY pizza nights are just a few examples of how you can make fiber intake enjoyable for children.
Plant a Fiber-Rich Garden:
Start a family garden where each family member chooses a veggie, a fruit, and an herb to care for and grow. This is perfect for families with picky eaters because kids who help in the garden are more likely to eat a wide variety of produce, and they're more willing to try new things! (Learn more about this here!)
Lead by Example: Children are more likely to adopt healthy habits if they see their parents and caregivers practicing them. Be a positive role model by consuming fiber-rich foods and openly discussing the benefits of a high-fiber lifestyle every chance you get!
Incorporate Prebiotic Fiber Supplements: Consider including a high-quality, Non-GMO prebiotic fiber supplement like just better.® fiber in your child's routine. It provides an additional boost of prebiotic fiber to support their gut health and immune function.just better.® fiber is 100% dissolvable, and the best part? It’s FLAVORLESS! Add it to their yogurt, ranch dip, soups, mac n cheese, apple sauce, or any of their favorite drinks! We made it simple for parents and caregivers to ensure their families are getting the fiber they need to live just better.®!
A note from a just better.® fiber mom to families with young adults:
I didn’t fully understand the role fiber played in nutrition when my kids were young. It took an illness for us to take a closer look at what we were eating and how we were not even coming close in terms of fiber intake.
I changed my ways and brought my older kids with me because when you know better, you do better, right?! We learned as a family that getting enough fiber every day makes us feel just better.®!
So if you’re like I was and a little late to the fiber party, don’t beat yourself up; just get started now—today, it will be one of the best decisions you’ll make for your family all year!
As we celebrate Family Wellness Month, let's prioritize fiber intake for the whole family, especially for our kiddos! By understanding the importance of prebiotic fiber and taking proactive steps to bridge the fiber gap in your family, you can lay a foundation for a healthier future.
With a well-nourished gut, our children will have the energy and vitality they need to thrive and live just better.® lives!