It can be difficult getting our children to voluntarily eat fruits, veggies, and any other healthy foods that will boost their immunity. But when you’re talking to your child about nutrition around the table this holiday season, try to use language that paints a vivid picture.
Eating the right foods and doing the right activities in our day to day lives protects us like a shield protects a warrior, keeping our bodies safe from the dangers of getting sick. And just like nutritional foods don’t have to be synonymous with boredom or a bad taste in the mouth, winter doesn’t have to be synonymous with sniffles and coughs if we take care of our bodies.
By incorporating some practical and tasty nutrition tips into your child’s daily routine, you can help fortify their immune system and set the stage for a healthy and happy winter season. Let’s look at ten helpful winter nutrition tips for boosting your child’s immune system.
Tip 1: Power Up with Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
One of the most beneficial things you can do for your child’s immunity this winter is encouraging them to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Vibrant fruits and veggies such as apples, oranges, celery, and squash are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that play a crucial role in supporting the immune system.
Even if you’re serving up winter dishes for a picky eater, you can find creative ways to expand their palettes. Include favorites like berries, oranges, broccoli, and carrots in their meals and snacks to provide a diverse range of nutrients.
Tip 2: Explore Immune-Boosting Superfoods
Just as winter is known for ushering in cold weather, certain foods are known for their immune-boosting properties.
Consider adding the following superfoods into your child’s diet:
- Yogurt with probiotics, which support a healthy gut microbiome
- Almonds and sunflower seeds, which offer up healthy doses of vitamin E
- Berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, elderberries, and gooseberries
- Leafy greens like lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, chard, and collard greens
- A touch of garlic, which includes natural antibacterial properties that can aid in preventing infections. Try adding garlic to child favorites such as spaghetti and pizza!
Tip 3: Prioritize Vitamin C-Rich Foods
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant known for its immune-boosting benefits, but it plays an even more important role during winter when our bodies are more prone to catching colds.
Vitamin C helps protect our cells during respiratory illnesses and inflammation, safeguarding our immune system when in distress. So if you’re wondering how to give yourself that extra layer of protection, you might need some more Vitamin C in your system during the holidays.
Citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, and bell peppers are delicious sources of vitamin C—and you can create tasty snacks or incorporate these fruits into meals to ensure your child gets an ample supply of this essential nutrient.
Tip 4: Include Lean Proteins
Proteins are vital because they help our bodies produce antibodies and immune cells that keep us healthy.
Make sure that your child’s diet includes lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, and tofu—all of which provide the necessary building blocks for a robust immune system that will enable your child to thrive during the winter.
Tip 5: Don’t Forget Vitamin D!
Vitamin D is crucial for immune function, and during the winter, when outdoor activities may be limited, it’s essential to ensure your child gets enough of this vitamin.
You may want to include vitamin D-rich foods such as eggs, fatty fish, and fortified dairy products (or vegan alternatives like soy or almond milk) in their diet.
You can also consult with a healthcare professional about whether taking vitamin D supplements is right for your child.
Tip 6: Hydration is Key to Winter Nutrition
Proper hydration supports your child’s overall health, and it’s particularly important for a well-functioning immune system.
Encourage your child to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day. How much water they should drink may change depending on their size and age, but generally, your child should be drinking at least six cups of water per day.
You can also include hydrating foods like soups and water-rich fruits (watermelon, cucumber) in their diet.
Tip 7: Incorporate Whole Grains
Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, and quinoa provide essential nutrients like zinc.
Zinc plays an essential role on the cellular level, protecting our immune system and strengthening our metabolism to keeping our skin looking nice and healthy.
Swap out refined grains like white flour and white rice for whole grains in your child’s meals to ensure they receive the full spectrum of nutrients these foods offer.
Tip 8: Limit Added Sugars
It may not be a popular opinion around recess, but you may want to drastically limit your child’s sugar intake. High levels of sugar can cause inflammation, making your child’s immune system work harder, weakening its ability to protect them against bacteria and viruses.
Minimize their intake of sugary snacks, candies, and sweetened beverages and instead opt for naturally sweet options like fruits to satisfy their sweet tooth while providing beneficial nutrients.
Tip 9: Encourage Regular Physical Activity
In addition to a nutritious diet, getting in some regular physical activity will contribute to your child’s overall well-being and immune system function.
Find fun and age-appropriate activities that your child enjoys, whether it’s playing sports, dancing, or simply taking a walk together as a family.
Tip 10: Promote Healthy Sleep Habits
Adequate sleep is a cornerstone of a strong immune system—our bodies simply need the time to recover and recharge. It’s so vital that a lack of sleep can even make us more prone to getting sick.
During sleep, our bodies are able to produce natural immunity defenses, such as cytokines, which help fight back against viruses.
For reference, adults need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. School-aged children, however, typically need 10 or more hours each night, so ensure that your child gets the recommended amount of sleep for their age.
If you want to ingrain effective sleep habits, consider creating a consistent bedtime routine to help your child relax and unwind before bedtime. A healthy bedtime routine can include brushing their teeth and reading a nice, cozy book.
Stay well, stay warm, and enjoy the winter season as a healthy and resilient family!
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