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Tips for Keeping Kids' Tummies Healthy

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 8 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Tummy Children Kids Healthy Digestion

Keeping your own tummy and digestion healthy can be a challenge in itself but keeping your child's tummy happy and comfortable can be even more challenging because you can't control everything your child eats or does.

Lead by Example

Still, there are some important tips for giving your children a head start when it comes to healthy habits that promote happy, healthy tummies. Don't forget as well that the most important way to solidify these habits is to set the right example by following the same habits. Children tend to learn well by example and starting with good examples of healthy habits in the home can ensure good digestion in your children.

Show Kids How to Slow Down

Mealtimes should never be rushed. Instead, encourage kids to eat slowly and enjoy their foods. Eating too quickly can bring on stomach discomfort or excessive fullness from eating too much. It takes time for your children to fully register the food intake, so coax them to take their time and enjoy the meal.

Schedule enough time for breakfast so that you're not rushing them through their meal and out the door. You can also enjoy mealtimes as a social, bonding family experience.

Chew Carefully and Repeatedly

Your kids need to learn to savour their food and chew repeatedly rather than wolfing down food with a mere few bites. This helps to break food down into smaller bits and encourages the flow of digestive enzymes that start in the mouth. Your kids will benefit from improved digestion and greater enjoyment of their meals.

Provide a Varied, Nutritious Diet

How your children eat their food is important but similarly important is what foods they eat. The greater the variety of healthy foods – the better, because this helps to ensure that your children are obtaining a wide range of important nutrients for good health. Aim to avoid overly processed foods and try to include oily fish, whole grains, nuts, dairy products, lean meats and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

You can help to prevent constipation through a balanced, high-fibre diet. At the same time, read labels and avoid food preservatives whenever possible. Some kids are sensitive to preservatives and can experience reactions such as headaches.

Limit Stress for Kids

Kids are similar to adults in that stress can affect their eating habits and appetite. If your child is feeling stressed from school or a personal issue with a bully, for instance, he or she might not feel like eating. Or, your child might be so nervous that the result is an upset tummy each time food is eaten.

Keep mealtimes calm, relaxed and devoid of arguments. Try to maintain open communication with your child at all times and if you notice a change to your child's eating habits or your child is complaining frequently of an upset tummy, then have a gentle, probing chat about anything that might be bothersome.

Aim for Smaller Meals

Kids don't always have the robust appetites that some adults seem to share, so it can help to offer them smaller, frequent meals throughout the day. This prevents them from filling up too much and helps to ensure they are eating enough food as well. You can try for six mini-meals; offering small snacks such as yogurt is also helpful, particularly since some of them contain probiotics – the 'good' bacteria – to aid digestion.

Drink Plenty of Healthy Fluids

Dehydration can leave kids feeling tired and thirsty as well as reducing their mental activity and digestive health. Make sure your kids have access to plenty of water and try to dilute juices and other sugary drinks. It's good to get kids used to water and diluted drinks at an early age, so they don't get into the habit of craving high-sugar drinks and foods. The other benefit is that this can help with oral health too, because the teeth aren't frequently bathed in sugary fluids.

Happy and Healthy Tummies

With a bit of prior planning and consistent education right from the start, you can keep your kids' tummies happy and healthy. Follow the tips for good digestion and eating habits, which will benefit the entire family for years to come.

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