immune foods for kids

The winter months are almost upon us. Now is the time to start ramping up the immune-boosting foods in your family’s diet. We all know children can be fussy eaters, especially when we try to introduce (or reintroduce) a healthy food into their diet. Below is a list of 4 immune-boosting foods for kids, shared by our Naturopath Claire Luckman, along with (tried and tested!) ways to get your little one to eat them!

Orange-coloured Veggies

Pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, red and yellow capsicum are all great sources of beta carotene. Beta carotene is the precursor to vitamin A. a vitamin that is often neglected in the modern Australian diet. Vitamin A is vital for optimal immune health and supports healthy mucous membrane function in the nose, mouth, throat and the gut. Getting lots of beta carotene in your child’s diet is a great way to provide them with a safe and healthy dose of vitamin A, as their bodies will convert what they need into the active form. Offering these veggies on their own often won’t get you too far, so try the following ways to increase their intake of these brightly coloured veggies:

  • Honey-roasted pumpkin soup blended with chicken broth and a little good quality cream or coconut cream.
  • Homemade rainbow pizzas with red and yellow capsicum, along with their other favourite pizza toppings. You can also make your own pizza sauce – in a food processor or blender whizz up a tin of whole tomatoes, red and yellow capsicum and even some baby spinach if you can disguise it!
  • Carrot sticks in lunch boxes or as a snack.
  • Sweet potato and white potato mash.

Red Meat

One of the best sources of zinc and bioavailable iron, red meat is important in a child’s diet and ideally should be given 3-4x per week. Zinc and iron are vital for a strong, healthy immune system and children need adequate intake of each nutrient every day to support their rapidly growing bodies. Deficiencies in one or both these nutrients will lead to poor immune health, recurrent colds or infections, low energy, slow wound healing, poor mood, inability to concentrate and more.

Many children love eating red meat and so this one may not be a problem in your household. However, in clinic I do see lots of little people who do not like eating meat, unless it’s in the form of a sausage! To encourage more red meat in their diet try offering it in the following ways:

  • Mince meat is easier for a young child to chew, so make meatballs or spaghetti bolognese with grated veggies in there too.
  • Slow cooked meat is soft and also easy (and quick!) to chew, making it more appealing to little mouths. Try a slow cooked lamb shank recipe, or a beef ragu served with mashed sweet + white potato or their favourite pasta to encourage them to eat it.
  • If they do like sausages, opt for those from a good butcher that are gluten-free and preservative free. Better still, see if your butcher does a beef and liver sausage – liver is an amazing source of iron and vitamin A and is a great traditional food for children. Just make sure the liver is organic or pasture raised.

Green Leafy Veggies

I know, I know. We all try these ones, and usually they end up on the floor. But here’s a tip – the more you expose your children to the veggies they stick their nose up at, the more likely they are to eventually start eating them, on their own. Continue to serve green veggies, in all their plain glory, on your child’s plate and don’t force them to eat it. You can encourage, and most of all lead by example and eat them all yourself! But don’t force or threaten, as this is generally met with more resistance and creates unhappy dinner times for the whole family.

Starting your children off on green veggies from the very beginning is also key and continuing to offer them through the fussy toddler and preschooler years. This is most commonly the time when parents stop offering them, as they have had their child continue to (loudly!) refuse them or make a mess with them. Be persistent – the more your child sees that veggies at every meal are the norm in your household, the more they will be accepted. However, you can also disguise them in the meantime, whilst you also continue to offer them undisguised!

Here are my favourite ways

  • Secretly ‘green’ smoothie: This looks like a chocolate smoothie but has hidden baby spinach and avocado in it. The trick is to start with small amounts of the green stuff so your child doesn’t find out you! You’ll need:
    • 1 cup almond/coconut/oat/rice milk
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1 frozen banana
    • 1/4 small avocado
    • 2 tsp white chia seeds
    • 1 tsp ABC nut butter or a natural peanut butter
    • 1-2 tsp cacao powder
    • 1 small (child-size) handful baby spinach
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • Optional – 1 small date
    • Blend all ingredients in a high-power blender. If you want to add more baby spinach just add a touch more cacao powder to disguise the colour coming through and you can add the optional date to sweeten the smoothie if the banana isn’t enough. The avocado adds creaminess and a good source of healthy fats!
  • Grated broccoli and very finely diced baby spinach into mincemeat sauces.
  • Kale chips: I use the recipe and tips from the website Oh She Glows Flawless kale chips, without the chilli or onion powder. The nutritional yeast is a great addition as it gives a cheesy touch and is also a great source of B vitamins.

Broth

Chicken or bone broth is a wonderful source of glutamine, an amino acid that is nourishing and healing to the gut. Gut health and immune health go hand in hand, so it’s important to support your child’s gut in order to boost their immunity. Some children love drinking chicken or bone broth – others wouldn’t go near it. If you haven’t ever offered your child a cup of warm broth, try it and you may be pleasantly surprised! They may love the salty flavour and as a result start asking you for it regularly. If they don’t like it, you can still use chicken or bone broths in your cooking and they’ll never know.

I often add ½ cup of broth to my spaghetti bolognese mince sauce along with passata as I’m cooking it down, and of course as the base to all soups, slow cooker dinners and stews. Jelly gummies are another great way to get broth into kids – please get in touch if you would like our recipe. Ensure the broth is good-quality and not full of artificial flavours and preservatives. You can of course make your own easily, or I recommend buying brands like Good Bones Organic Broth (available in Harris Farm and some good supermarkets) or Nutra Organics Bone broth powder which is easy to have on hand at home.

Kid’s Consults

If your child is a particularly fussy eater or suffers with poor immunity and you would like further support, please contact us at Darling Health to make a 30-minute Kid’s Consult booking with Claire Luckman. Claire is highly experienced in working with children’s health and uses gentle supplementation to optimise health and wellbeing. Claire is a ‘wholefoods diet’ advocate and offers lots of practical, realistic dietary advice to support parents with feeding their child a nutritious diet. Email us at reception@darlinghealth.com.au or call 9555 8806