In winter, we all seem to spend far too long taking our little ones to the doctors… runny noses, sore heads, scratchy throats and fevers are passed from one family member to another and make for a miserable few months. If this sounds all too familiar, it’s time to start boosting your whole family’s immune system the natural way with plenty of vitamin-rich foods! Today on the blog, certified Paediatric Nutritionist Mandy Sacher, our Kids Health Expert, shares the best ways to boost children’s immune systems for the winter months!
The following are Wholesome Child’s favourite immune boosting pantry and fridge essentials:
Berries – Acai, Goji, and Cherries
Berries are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. They are especially great for children as they help oxygenate the blood and promote a healthy immune system. If your child is starting to get the sniffles, add berries to their porridge, cereal, yoghurt, and offer them as snacks throughout the day. Berries are exceptionally high in antioxidants and perfect for adding to smoothies or porridge in the cooler winter months. Remember, for babies and toddlers, always introduce new foods slowly and watch for reactions.
Wild Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel
Oily fish contain omega-3 oils, the number one anti-inflammatory for the whole body. They also contain selenium and vitamin E – important immune system strengtheners. Not only do they help the body fight disease, but they are essential for healthy brain development. For an extra boost, you can include cod liver oil in your kids’ diet, especially during the winter months when they are prone to getting sick more often.
Broccoli is a super vegetable, containing an abundant supply of antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, iron, beta-carotene and folate. Broccoli is also high in fibre so it can help prevent constipation in adults and children alike. Try adding it to at least one meal every day – if your little ones struggle with broccoli, try pureeing it and adding (in small amounts at first) to veggie sauces for pasta, chicken or fish. Remember that with all new foods, injecting a little fun into meal times will make for a more enjoyable experience for you and your children – just offering “baby trees” can often be more fun that plain “broccoli”.
Eggs offer a great source of protein, and they’re one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. Eggs also contain iron, vitamin A and a rich supply of B vitamins. There are numerous fun ways to incorporate eggs into your kids’ diets – using fun moulds to shape hard boiled eggs for lunchboxes or as scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Vegetables like brussel sprouts, spinach and kale are packed with essential vitamins and minerals – including, vitamin A, vitamin C, fibre and calcium, which are needed to fight infections and help boost the body’s natural healing powers. These can often be the hardest “sell” for tiny taste buds if they haven’t been exposed to veggies of this kind from an early age, so start out slowly, adding small, pureed tastes to soups, stews, and stir-fries.
Homemade bone broth is excellent for speeding up healing and recuperation from illness. It’s nourishing and contains vital minerals in forms that young children can easily absorb such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and more. Chicken bone broth is rich in a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs making it less sticky so it can be expelled more easily. Processed, canned soups do not have the same nutritional benefits as slow-cooked, home made bone broth. However, if boiling bones is too much for you to handle, then the best store bought alternatives are those available at health food stores.
There are plenty of easy ways to add bone broth to you children’s diet:
- Boil or sauté veggies in the broth
- Boil rice or pasta in the liquid
- Use as a base to soups
- Substitute for stock or water in recipes
- Add to bolognaise and other dishes that require a stock.
Probiotic Rich Foods
Keffir yoghurt is packed with probiotics and now readily available at specialty and health foods stores. The taste is a bit tart so best to add it to your child’s normal yoghurt in small doses to start off with, or add it to smoothies. Other probiotic rich foods include kombucha, which most children enjoy but can also be added to smoothies. Another way to get probiotics into your children is through supplementation. But remember, always speak to a qualified expert to ensure your child is on the right strain for their age and immunity requirements.
Brightly Coloured Fruit and Veggies
All of the brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables such as oranges, kiwifruit, red and yellow capsicums, beetroot and all the berries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants which fight germs and promote well-being. Creating a visually appealing rainbow coloured veggie plate will entice your children to eat these powerful health-boosters. You can also try our tasty Home-Made Tomato Sauce for an additional boost of vitamin C and Lycopene – a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes.
During the cold winter months be mindful of the need to increase children’s water intake – keep them hydrated to help fight against unwanted flu germs and get rid of harmful toxins. Other fluids that can be of benefit are cold pressed veggie juices, herbal teas such as ginger and lemon, chamomile, turmeric and cinnamon, peppermint and rooibos tea. We also love offering little ones a fresh coconut, they can enjoy the juice and gobble up the delicious fleshy bits as well – a great afternoon snack!
Mandy Sacher is a certified Paediatric Nutritionist and Founder of Wholesome Child. Her clinical practice focuses on prenatal and childhood nutrition, helping parents and mums-to-be-feed their children healthy, nourishing foods right from the start.
She has appeared recently on Channel Ten’s Everyday Health and is currently writing her first book, The Wholesome Child Nutrition Guide and Recipe Book, which will be available to purchase mid-April. www.wholesomechild.com.au. All views expressed are Mandy’s own.