We know what you might be thinking. The word “fermented” alone might not sound too appetizing. And, if you’ve personally sworn off sauerkraut long ago… well then your kids don’t stand a chance at adopting these oh-so-good-for-you treats! Because there’s a whole world of yummy fermented foods that are not only tasty but super nutritious. PLUS, they can help with digestive issues given their probiotic content. May we say…it’s the cool thing to do? For recipes and reasons, read on!
What’s a fermented food?A few in this list likely sound familiar to you: sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kefir, tofu, yogurt. Fermentation has been around for centuries to preserve food. Just like your kids, there are microorganisms (bacteria and yeasts) that love eating sugar and carbs. Fermentation is essentially when these microorganisms eat away at the sugars in food, converting them into carbon dioxide, acid, and alcohol. Ever leave a gallon of apple cider in your fridge too long? Did it get bubbly and smell a little yeasty after a while? That’s fermentation! As we all know, not all fermented items are suitable for kids. So let’s stick to foods over beverages :-)
Why should your family eat fermented foods?The process of fermentation does wonderful things to foods. With the presence of helpful bacteria, the food is essentially partially digested for you. Sounds kind of gross, but fermentation breaks down the food for you, yielding helpful digestive enzymes, bioavailable nutrients, and probiotics! Plus, the tastes and textures of different fermented foods offer variety to your palate!
Tell me more about probiotics.Okay! A probiotic is a living microorganism (mostly bacteria, of which there are many strains) that inhabits your body and helps things run smoothly - bowel movements, gut health, your immune system, even brain health! When your little one has had a recent bout of diarrhea, if they’re on antibiotics, or if they need help being regular, probiotics are recommended to help things get back in order.
Now, you can purchase probiotic supplements for your little one, but the science of supplements is lacking. At this time, researchers aren’t sure which strains of probiotics, in what quantities, are the best. A diet consisting of various fermented foods can, however, offer a wider array of probiotics, so you’re more likely to see a benefit.
You’ve convinced me, now convince my kids!If your family is completely new to fermented foods, it might be fun to learn about them together. Research the history of fermentation and do some science experiments by making homemade fermented veggies. Otherwise, find some in the grocery store and do a fun taste test! Talk about the tastes and textures there are, make funny faces, and give each food a score out of 10.
Alternatively, simply offer fermented foods along with your family’s favorite foods at mealtimes. Here are some yummy ideas for you:
- Make (or order out!) Korean bibimbap and serve with kimchi, a yummy, slightly spicy side dish made of cabbage
- Incorporate yogurt or kefir into smoothies or popsicles
- Add some chopped up fermented cauliflower, carrots, or onions into scrambled eggs (our in-house toddler approves of this one!)
- Serve Reuben sandwiches with your child’s favorite lunch meat and cheese
- Offer sauerkraut with baked beans or brats during your summer barbecue