Fermented foods for kids! Why we recommend offering them regularly and how to serve fermented foods to kids.
Fermented foods often come up in conversations about health for adults, but what about kids? And even if you give your child fermented food, how should you offer it?
One of the main reasons we love fermented foods for the whole family is that they are a natural source of probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that help keep the gut microbiome in balance. There’s a strong link between the health of our gut microbiome and overall health and immune function.
Probiotics are often talked about in terms of supplements. But there are plenty of fermented foods that can be incorporated into your family’s menu that provide these bacteria naturally.
Let’s talk about five fermented foods we love for a healthy gut microbiome and how to offer them to your kids.
Tempeh is a firm, cake-like food made from fermented whole soybeans. It has more of a meat-like texture than its non-fermented relative tofu and comes with a nutty and slightly bitter flavor.
Like tofu, tempeh can take on an array of flavors using marinades, seasonings, and sauces. To reduce its natural bitterness, you can steam it before preparing it for your meal. Place tempeh slices in a steamer basket fitted into a saucepan with a few inches of water in the bottom and steam for around 10 minutes.
Some of our favorite ways to offer tempeh to our kids include
- Crumbled tempeh in place of ground beef for tacos, Sloppy Joes, chili, and stews
- In Buddha bowls and grain dishes
- Cut into strips and marinated for stir fry
- Tempeh bacon for veggie BLTs or tossed into potato soup
- Tempeh tacos with all your kid’s favorite stuffers
2. Sauerkraut and Kimchi
Sauerkraut is a type of fermented cabbage, and kimchi is a spicy pickled cabbage. Both are rich in probiotics, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The initial flavor and texture of these can be a bit strong for some kids (or adults who don’t eat them very often!), but so delicious once they become accustomed.
You can try a small dollop of sauerkraut or kimchi on the side of a plate and let your child explore it. They can work well as condiments on veggie hotdogs or burgers, in Buddha bowls, or served with rice.
3. Fermented Vegetables and Pickles
Fermented veggies and pickles can be a fun food to try for kids! Especially if they’re served as part of a homemade charcuterie board or snack plate that kids enjoy. These may be more welcomed by kids who don’t love the textures of sauerkraut or kimchi, too.
Plus, they’re a unique way to offer natural probiotics on the plate. You might find fermented carrot spears or green beans, for instance, as well as mini pickles that are fun finger foods.
Note that pickles are high in sodium. While a fun occasional food for kids, we don’t recommend high-sodium foods or adding any type of salt to food for babies under 12 months of age, as their kidneys aren’t mature enough to process it.
4. Probiotic Yogurt
Yogurt labeled as having “live and active cultures” indicates that it contains live probiotic bacteria. Many store-bought yogurts tend to be high in added sugar unless they are unsweetened.
To help naturally sweeten plain yogurt for our kids, we like to make fruit-on-the-bottom cups for school and easy snacking, using things like mashed berries or slightly thawed frozen mango or peaches.
We opt to make our own non-dairy probiotic yogurt sometimes, too. See our post on Homemade Almond Cashew Yogurt for an easy recipe.
Miso is a thick paste made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji. It’s widely used in Japanese cooking to add an umami flavor to things like sauces, pickled vegetables, and miso soup.
When it comes to miso, a little bit goes a long way. It can taste very salty. We like to use it in small amounts in spreads and soups – usually a tablespoon or less – to add flavor and natural probiotics.
Chime In: Does your family enjoy fermented foods? If we missed any of your favorites on our list, share them in the comments, plus how you like to serve them!
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