Probiotics are those beneficial bacteria that our modern diet lacks because we don’t use natural fermentation as much as we used to. As a family nutritionist, I prefer recommending food instead of capsules or caplets, which I usually save for special medical conditions. If you are generally healthy, eating your probiotics is just as good for you, much cheaper, and of course, much more fun than taking it as you would take a medication.
We tend to forget, but probiotics are present in a very common and delicious food: yogurt! No matter if it is plain, liquid, or packaged in a tube, yogurt is the source of probiotics of choice for children. Yogurt also gives them the protein, energy, and calcium they need to grow. But not all yogurts are created equal. In the manufacturing process, some of these living cultures can be mistreated, making a so-called yogurt, not real yogurt. Manufacturers who include enough bacteria in their product ―so it can be called probiotics― usually indicate it on their label because that higher nutritive value is what justifies their higher price.

What about frozen yogurt? If it’s yummy, it must be because it’s not healthy, right? Wrong! In its frozen form, yogurt can contain a significant amount of probiotics. And unlike ice cream, it usually has a lower fat content. In terms of sugars, the overall amount of sugar per 100 grams in frozen yogurt is not higher than that of ice cream. Of course, the health attributes of any food has a lot to do with how much you are eating, too! So it’s not because it’s extra good that your stomach has extra room to welcome it.

Another thing I like about yogurt: frozen or not, yogurt is a great way to introduce your child to a variety of fruit. Having fun matching different fruit toppings with different yogurt flavors can lead to a whole new world of tasting experience for the whole family. To enhance protein content of this already nutritious food, you can add nuts on top, providing the essential fatty acids we all need to be healthy. The possibilities are endless, and on the taste level, fruit can really compete with candy sprinkles and smarties. Let’s admit it; a little touch of color once in a while doesn’t cancel out everything good underneath.

Like with all treats, moderation is the key. To learn about moderation, a child has to experience both ends of the spectrum: not enough, too much, just enough, etc. A child learns through experience. As parents, we provide opportunities to distinguish real hunger that is, being hungry in your stomach, and the other types of hunger: wanting more because it feels good in your mouth or what I call hunger of the heart, wanting more because it soothes a particular emotional pain. These three all exist, they are part of life, and feeling the difference is critical for a healthy relationship with food as an adult. As a family nutritionist, I see children and adults with various eating issues and believe me, it is much easier to learn about hunger signs and moderation as a child than it is as an adult.

In conclusion, when you teach your child to use food wisely, there is no reason to pass on a good dairy treat. Now eat your probiotics!

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About the author

Marie-France Lalancette, registered dietician, is the director of Nutrition Familia, which offers nutrition counselling services to the whole family.. For adults, Nutrition Familia offers the "Stop dieting start living program" to help reintegrating a healthy lifestyle after a long diet history. She is the author of the Adieu Regime, bonjour la vie, published at Editions de l'Homme and has 17 years of experience in healthy weight management and 7 years in pediatric nutrition and perinatality.