It seems winter is well and truly here! Which means.. the coughs and colds will be doing the rounds.
Nutrition can play a huge role in supporting the immune system, so I thought I’d share some key nutrients and tips to help support your child’s immune system throughout the winter months.
Firstly Vitamin C
When we think of coughs and colds, we automatically think vitamin C and with good reason. Research suggests that vitamin C can help reduce the duration of the common cold. Foods high in vitamin C include: oranges, kiwis, capsicums, broccoli, tomatoes, berries, sweet potatoes and dark green leafy veggies eg: spinach and silverbeet. Try and offer these raw as well as cooked to get the most antioxidants; offer veggie sticks with dips, have chopped up fruit available and have regular salads with dinner. A little trick that I do, is grate raw broccoli and stir it through pesto pasta. Smoothies are also a great way to get some raw veggies into your child’s diet.
Check out my “get your greens in pesto pasta” here.
Zinc is an important mineral that helps support healthy immune function. Foods high in zinc include: good quality red meat, eggs, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Try my superseed slice here, its a perfect lunchbox treat and a great way to get extra zinc into your child’s diet.
Vitamin D is another great one for the immune system, which is ironic as we struggle to get as much vitamin D during the winter months. The best source of vitamin D comes from the sun, so try to get plenty of outdoor play when possible. Food sources include: eggs, liver, fish such as mackerel and salmon. To help get some extra vitamin D into you little ones, try eggs for breakfast or you could try my kid friendly salmon fingers here.
Iron, again another important mineral that helps with proper functioning of the immune system. Iron deficiency is common in toddlers, especially if they are filling up on lots of milk. If this is something that you are concerned about, I recommend to speak to your doctor.
Foods high in iron include: good quality red meat, lentils, beans, tofu, spinach and cashews. To help improve the absorption of iron, try and include some vitamin C (see examples of vitamin C above). My lamb meatballs is a family favourite and a great source of iron, check out recipe here.
Pre and Probiotics
Gut health is crucial in supporting a healthy immune system. In fact, 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. We could really talk about gut health for days (I love this topic!) however for the purpose of this post I’ll keep it simple and give you a few quick tips to help support your child’s gut health.
Firstly reduce sugar, aim for less screen time and more outdoor play (let them get dirty)! Nutritionally we can try and increase fibre rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. Microbes (good bugs) love fibre rich foods and they can really flourish in this environment. They particularly love inulin, this is a common prebiotic and can be found in foods such as garlic, onions, leeks and asparagus.
Consider a good quality probiotic. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help support a healthy digestive and immune system. Food sources containing probiotics include: natural or Greek yoghurt, some cottage cheese, some sourdough bread and fermented foods. However with fermented foods I would be mindful of the salt content for children.
Bone broth is also a great source of vitamins and minerals which help to support the immune system. I usually make a batch of bone broth, freeze into portions and then take out when needed. I’ll add it into dishes such as spaghetti bolognese, mac and cheese or risotto.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If you feel like you need some extra help around mealtimes and your child’s fussy eating, please feel free to get in touch!