Kids and winter. It’s pretty much a tissue company’s dream. The snotfest is accompanied by a relentless hacking cough that’s more of a constant companion to your children from May to September than their invisible friend.
Worse still you’re more than likely to end up being struck down with the dreaded lurgy yourself – if you do manage to remain unscathed, the sleepless nights tending to your sick kids are enough to do you in anyway! Sigh.
While some sickness can’t be avoided, you can give yourself and your kids health the best chance by following some basic steps and paying special attention to their diet throughout these months.
On a general health level, teach your child from an early age the importance of regular hand washing – it’s the most effective way to minimise cold and flu bugs. Establish hand washing at set times – after the toilet, before meals and snacks, after coming home from school, the playground or a friend’s house.
Teach your child to avoid touching their eyes or nose (a challenge, granted!) and teach them to use a tissue when they cough or sneeze, or to sneeze into the crook of their arm.
Plenty of sleep, fresh air and exercise will help to keep their immune system thriving, but an essential way to keep them healthy from the inside out is by giving them a healthy diet. Follow these great tips for great disease-fighting winter nutrition.
Sneak in fruit and veggies wherever you can
You should be aiming for your child to eat five servings of fruits and veggies a day. Carrots, green beans, oranges, and strawberries are all packed with immunity-boosting phytonutrients such as vitamin C and carotenoids, which can increase the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells and interferon, an antibody that blocks out viruses.
Try these great ideas for upping their fruit and veg intake (without force feeding them):
Pack a punch
Fill your kids’ lunchboxes with freshly cut orange or mandarin segments for a great vitamin C hit (pack them some wipes as well so they can easily clean up afterwards). Other great lunchbox ideas include a halved kiwi fruit which they can scoop out with a spoon, or cut up sticks of carrot, celery and capsicum.
Make them souper strong
Flu-fighting antioxidants such as beta-carotene (found in carrots) and lycopene (in tomatoes and red capsicum) increase with cooking, which makes soups a great option. Soups are a great way to include healthy hidden veggies your kids might not normally eat, and you can add extra immune boosting ingredients like garlic and ginger to the mix, such as in this pumpkin and ginger soup. Serve it with croutons, crossini or toasted soldiers and they’ll literally be lapping it up.
Cheese sauce is the perfect way to make veggies more palatable for kids. It’s important not to over cook vegetables as it decreases their essential nutrients and vitamin C levels. Aim for gently steaming bite-size florets of broccoli and cauliflower in the microwave until just tender before pouring over some delicious cheesy sauce or melted cheese.
Potatoes have a bit of a bad rep for being a white starch, but unlike other starches like white bread and rice, which have been stripped of healthful nutrients, potatoes are a whole food that contain several beneficial nutrients, including two immunity boosters—vitamins C and B6. A medium potato provides a quarter of your daily needs of vitamin C, so don’t hesitate to serve up a delicious mash (be sneaky and stir in some other veggies like parsnips, cauliflower or sweet potato), some thick-cut home-made wedges or a delicious gratin and bask in your children’s affections.
Bulk up your bol
If you’re not adding extra veggies to favourite standbys like spaghetti bolognese, you’re missing a golden opportunity – ours includes onions, tomatoes, garlic, capsicum, carrots, zucchini and mushrooms. Add the same to kid-favourite meals like chilli con carne, shepherd’s pie and hearty winter stews and casseroles like this Italian beef and vegetable casserole, in which the flavour of the veggies is absorbed into the meal.
Let them serve themselves
Cater for different family members’ tastes by making a crowd pleasing dish like burritos or tacos, and including little bowls of garnishes such as shredded lettuce, avocado, corn kernels, chopped tomatoes and fried onion and capsicum – it’s amazing what they’ll eat when it’s accompanied by a large corn chip (and if you perhaps insist on a two-veg min!).
Go fishing for vitamin D
While we get plenty of Vitamin D via sunlight in the summer, it’s important that we supplement our vitamin D intake during the shorter, chillier months. Vitamin D is found in oily fish, dairy products and eggs, so give your kids a yummy omelette filled with healthy veggies like this simple Spanish omelette, make some healthy home-made fish fingers using salmon or make a luscious fish pie with boiled eggs in it for a mega D hit.