↵† Present address: Department of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA. Childhood malnutrition is accompanied by growth stunting and immaturity of the gut microbiota. Even after therapeutic intervention with standard commercial complementary foods, children may fail to thrive. Gehrig et al. and Raman et al. monitored metabolic parameters in healthy Bangladeshi children and those recovering from severe acute malnutrition. The authors investigated the interactions between therapeutic diet, microbiota development, and growth recovery. Diets were then designed using pig and mouse models to nudge the microbiota into a mature post-weaning state that might be expected to support the growth of a child. These were first tested in mice inoculated with age-characteristic gut microbiota. The designed diets entrained maturation of the children’s microbiota and put their metabolic and growth profiles on a healthier trajectory. Ecosystems such as the human gut microbiota are typically described by a “parts list” with enumeration of component members. Accordingly, the abundances of community components are commonly used as a metric for relati...