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6 Healthy Gut-Friendly Thanksgiving Foods for Kids

Published November 20, 2023

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, most of us are probably prepping our menus with seasonal foods ahead of the big day. While the holidays can certainly be filled with more indulgent foods, there are also several options that are healthy for kids. Here are six delicious and gut-friendly Thanksgiving foods that can help support the overall well-being of your little ones.

1. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are often found in common Thanksgiving recipes and there’s good reasons to keep it around. It’s a nutritious option that can help promote health in growing bodies, whether it's roasted or turned into a sweet version of mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes are packed with fiber to promote healthy digestion and provide essential nutrients like Vitamin A for immune health in kids. Sweet potatoes specifically contain soluble fiber, which can help soften stools to promote bowel regularity [1].

2. Pumpkin

A one-cup serving of pumpkin provides 3g of fiber to promote regularity and digestive health. Incorporating fiber-rich ingredients will not only help support gut health, but it can also provide a steady source of energy for our kiddos and prevent energy spikes throughout the day [2]. For an easy and delicious way to incorporate pumpkin this fall, check out our blog here: Three Gut-Friendly Fall Smoothies for Kids.

3. Green Beans

Green beans are a star ingredient in classic Thanksgiving side dishes. Nutrition-wise, they are also rich in Vitamin A and C, both nutrients that help promote immunity [3]. Green beans are also fiber-rich, which promotes good gut health. Studies suggest that including more plant foods such as green beans in the diet decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality.

Begin Health Expert Tip: When using these vegetables in your Thanksgiving recipes this season, opt for heart-healthy olive oils instead of canola or soybean oil. The healthy fats in olive oil can help enhance the absorption of Vitamin A in fruits and vegetables [4].

 

4. Butternut Squash

The orange color in butternut squash is from beta carotene, which the body uses to convert into Vitamin A [5]. Kids need Vitamin A for eye, skin, and immune health. Butternut squash contains an estimated 7g of fiber per one-cup serving, making up almost over 25% of the recommended daily intake of fiber for toddlers.

5. Brussels Sprouts

Cruciferous vegetables such as brussel sprouts are a good source of dietary fiber, providing 3g per one-cup serving. Brussel sprouts also contain vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin A, iron, calcium, copper, selenium, and zinc. While all of these vitamins can support your kiddo’s immune system, vitamin C has an additional superpower: it helps your little one absorb iron from plant-based foods that are packed with the essential nutrients. That means serving brussel sprouts with iron-rich foods like beans, lentils, or nuts and seeds can pack an extra nutritional punch [6].

6. Apples

Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fiber to promote gut motility and a diverse gut microbiota. Studies find that pectin, a type of fiber found in apples, can help boost bifidobacteria and lactobacillus in the gut to promote better digestion [8].

Begin Health Expert Tip: For our little ones who are also picky eaters, it’s much harder for them to eat well during the holiday season. Adding Growing Up Prebiotics into their daily routine is an easy way to boost their fiber intake, providing 3g of fiber from chicory root to support regularity and softer stools.

A Comparison of Fiber Amount in Thanksgiving Foods for Kids

Food + Serving

Total Amount of Fiber

Percent Daily Value (Ages 1-3)

Percent Daily Value (Ages 4-8)

Percent Daily Value (Ages 9-13)

Percent Daily Value (Ages 14-18)

Sweet Potatoes ( 1 cup mashed)

4g

21%

16%

13%

10.5% (male)
16% (female)

Pumpkin (1 cup, cubed)

3g

16%

12%

10%

8% (male)
12% (female)

Green Beans (1 cup)

3g

16%

12%

10%

8% (male)
12% (female)

Butternut Squash (1 cup, cubed)

7g

37%

28%

23%

18.4% (male)
28% (female)

Brussel Sprouts (1 cup)

3g

16%

12%

10%

8% (male)
12% (female)

Apples (1 medium size)

4g

21%

16%

13%

10.5% (male)
16% (female)

*Actual values may vary depending on the specific type and preparation of each food.

Summary: Thanksgiving foods that are gut-friendly and nutritious for your kiddos include sweet potatoes, pumpkin, green beans, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, and apples. One of the best tips to ensure that our little ones have a thriving microbiome is to incorporate a variety of fiber-rich foods. Of course, everything in moderation - Thanksgiving is here once a year so if your kiddo has a special dish they enjoy, give them the permission to have and balance it out with some of these gut-friendly options for a delicious and well-rounded Thanksgiving meal.

 

References:

[1] Huang Z, Liu Y, Qi G, Brand D, Zheng SG. Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. J Clin Med. 2018 Sep 6;7(9):258. doi: 10.3390/jcm7090258. PMID: 30200565; PMCID: PMC6162863.

[2] Batool M, Ranjha MMAN, Roobab U, Manzoor MF, Farooq U, Nadeem HR, Nadeem M, Kanwal R, AbdElgawad H, Al Jaouni SK, Selim S, Ibrahim SA. Nutritional Value, Phytochemical Potential, and Therapeutic Benefits of Pumpkin (Cucurbita sp.). Plants (Basel). 2022 May 24;11(11):1394. doi: 10.3390/plants11111394. PMID: 35684166; PMCID: PMC9182978.

[3] Chaurasia, S. (2020). Green beans. In Elsevier eBooks (pp. 289–300). https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-812780-3.00017-9

[4] Albahrani AA, Greaves RF. Fat-Soluble Vitamins: Clinical Indications and Current Challenges for Chromatographic Measurement. Clin Biochem Rev. 2016 Feb;37(1):27-47. PMID: 27057076; PMCID: PMC4810759.

[5] Grune T, Lietz G, Palou A, Ross AC, Stahl W, Tang G, Thurnham D, Yin SA, Biesalski HK. Beta-carotene is an important vitamin A source for humans. J Nutr. 2010 Dec;140(12):2268S-2285S. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.119024. Epub 2010 Oct 27. PMID: 20980645; PMCID: PMC3139236.

[6] Ağagündüz D, Şahin TÖ, Yılmaz B, Ekenci KD, Duyar Özer Ş, Capasso R. Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Bioactive Metabolites: from Prevention to Novel Therapies of Colorectal Cancer. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022 Apr 11;2022:1534083. doi: 10.1155/2022/1534083. PMID: 35449807; PMCID: PMC9017484.

[7] Koutsos A, Lima M, Conterno L, Gasperotti M, Bianchi M, Fava F, Vrhovsek U, Lovegrove JA, Tuohy KM. Effects of Commercial Apple Varieties on Human Gut Microbiota Composition and Metabolic Output Using an In Vitro Colonic Model. Nutrients. 2017 May 24;9(6):533. doi: 10.3390/nu9060533. PMID: 28538678; PMCID: PMC5490512.

[8] Blanco-Pérez F, Steigerwald H, Schülke S, Vieths S, Toda M, Scheurer S. The Dietary Fiber Pectin: Health Benefits and Potential for the Treatment of Allergies by Modulation of Gut Microbiota. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2021 Sep 10;21(10):43. doi: 10.1007/s11882-021-01020-z. PMID: 34505973; PMCID: PMC8433104.

May Zhu, RDN

May Zhu, RDN

May is the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and nutrition expert at Begin Health.

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