Nutritionist Amanda Ford from Zest+Zing shares her top tips for helping your family avoid colds and the flu this winter.

With the cold and flu season in full swing, we all want to protect our children from illness during winter. But that can be a difficult task when they’re surrounded by other kids’ sickness in daycare or school everyday! If you want your child to stay healthy this winter, it’s about prevention and boosting their immune system so it’s resilient and can fight off those nasty bugs.

To avoid getting sick, a nutritious diet is essential, as well as adding in a few extra immune boosting foods and supplements if needed. Here are my top four tips:

Increase antimicrobials in the diet

Antimicrobials like garlic, ginger and chilli, stimulate your immune fighting cells to block any viruses or bacteria, which are trying to invade healthy cells. So increase these foods in your families diet throughout winter. This Immune Boosting Chicken Soup recipe by The Healthy Chef, is a fabulous cold-fighting remedy during winter. 

Stay hydrated

It sounds a little dull, but hydration is one of the most important things for our immune system. We need to keep our cells and our mucus membranes moist and hydrated to prevent any bacteria or bugs getting in. So ensuring your kids are drinking plenty of water in the winter months is essential.

Drinking water can sometimes be less appealing than, say, a hot chocolate, when the weather’s cold! To make water more appealing to your kids, you can try:

  • Flavouring it with some fruit or veg (orange, lemon, cucumber and berries all work well)
  • Serving water at room temperature, rather than chilled
  • Warm herbal tea if you think your child is up to it

Feed the gut friendly bacteria

The gut is our main immune organ, containing 80% of our total immune cells! So as you can imagine, our gut health really is key to strengthening our immune system. Get started by fuelling the friendly gut bacteria with the right foods:

  • Fermented foods like unflavoured Greek yoghurt (you can add your own fresh fruit or honey)
  • Fibre: Vegetables, colourful fruits, legumes and lentils, whole-grains like oats

A balanced microbiome will help fight off the bad bacteria and pathogens from invading, so during winter, giving your kids a daily probiotic is beneficial, as well as having added benefits for allergies and atopic conditions like eczema.

In fact, in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in children who attended day care centres, the kids who were given a daily probiotic supplement containing the Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG strain, had a significantly reduced occurrence, severity and duration of respiratory tract infections, compared to others. (Hojsak, Iva, et al, 2010)

Supercharge it with zinc

This key immune nutrient increases our white cell count to help fight off pathogens.  But zinc is also key in maintaining a healthy gut so we digest and absorb nutrients better, and have a healthy environment for friendly bacteria to thrive. 

Foods rich in zinc include:

  • Meat: Red meats, liver, chicken
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables like spinach and mushrooms
  • Nuts, tahini and seeds

If your child tends to get recurring colds or infections, then you might consider adding in a zinc supplement during winter to protect them further.

We hope these tips help your family get through winter with as little sickness as possible. Rug up and enjoy!

Amanda Ford, Nutritionist
Amanda Ford from Zest+Zing is an accredited Nutritionist who is passionate about educating her clients on the role of nutrition and how to use food as medicine. She wants everyone to be empowered to improve their health and get their zest for life back!

She has a special interest in digestive health and food intolerances, and enjoys working with young kids. And as a passionate foodie, Amanda is well known for her practical approach to healthy eating.

Amanda practices on the Northern Beaches, and also via Skype consultations. Visit her website for more information including healthy recipes and nutrition tips! You can contact Amanda directly via amanda@zestandzing.com.au or 0410 799 449 for any enquiries.

Hojsak, Iva, et al. “Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Clinical Nutrition 29.3 (2010): 312-316.