The soundtrack of winter in our household isn’t the romantic pattering of rain on the roof - it’s the constant sniffles and throaty coughs from little ones, as their immune systems fight off the latest day care lurgy 😷
Although we can’t prevent kids from picking up snotty nosed germs (they literally put EVERYTHING in their mouths at the moment!), we can help support them nutritionally as they get through the winter sniffles.
The immune system is a complicated and multifaceted battleground and although there is no such thing as a ‘quick fix’ when it comes to keeping well, the right nutrition can lay solid foundations to help strengthen and support the body and give it the best chance to overcome any seasonal nasties.
NUTRIENTS FOR THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
There are some key nutrients that help to create the support system that our immunity relies on.
Vitamin C – Also known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is an essential nutrient in our diet. It has many biochemical and molecular functions including energy release from fatty acids, metabolising cholesterol and maintaining our connective tissue.
For our immune system Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant (helps fight free radicals) and it can stimulate the production of interferons, which are the proteins that protect our cells against viral attack. The most concentrated source of Vitamin C are blackcurrents, capsicums, chillies, oranges and strawberries.
Vitamin A – Plays an important role in immunity through its modulating effects. It helps to maintain the function of our white blood cells such as neutrophils, macrophages and natural killer cells (which fight foreign invaders in our body). Vitamin A also helps keep our mucous membranes healthy, which are the protective barriers that guard against pathogens.
You can find high levels of Vitamin A in liver and fish oils, egg yolks and whole milk. Dark leafy greens, yellow/orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes also have an abundance of vitamin A.
Allicin – Garlic has been used as a food and as a medicine for over 3500 years. Legend has it that garlic was used in Ancient Egypt to increase resistance to infection. Modern science has since discovered that allicin is the constituent responsible for many of garlic’s protective qualities. Research shows that allicin has a strong antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory actions and antimicrobial properties that protect against various pathogens.
The allicin works when the garlic is crushed or chewed and it becomes activated when alliin is exposed to another component, an enzyme called alliinase. So whenever you are added garlic to support immunity, remember to crush it up before adding it into your meal to unlock it’s protective powers.
Ginger – Ginger is another food that has been used as medicine since ancient times. Ginger has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral and it also has strong antioxidant activity. Ginger can have a strong flavour so add it gradually to recipes for kids as they might find it a bit too warming initially.
Curcumin – Turmeric rhizome can attribute it’s immune stimulating properties to a constituent called curcumin. There has been lots of research that proved curcumin has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulatory and antimicrobial properties which can all contribute to the symptomatic relief of winter cold and flu. Like ginger, turmeric can be an acquired taste for little ones, so best to build them up slowly if it is a new flavour.
Zinc – An essential trace element that is essential to all living cells. Zinc belongs to the class of type 2 nutrients that are considered the building blocks of our body. As well as being a cofactor in many biochemical reactions, zinc is also involved in many aspects of immunological function.
It is essential for the development and function of cells, especially our white blood cells and it helps build our acquired immunity and is a key anti-inflammatory nutrient. You can find zinc in meat, liver, eggs and seafood as well as nuts, legumes, whole grains and seeds. Miso, tofu, mushrooms and green beans are also high in zinc.
KIDS RECIPES FOR WINTER IMMUNITY
LOADED SWEET POTATO WITH MUSHROOMS AND BLACK BEANS
PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 40 MINUTES
TOTAL TIME: 55 MINUTES
- 4 sweet potatoes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups black beans
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes chopped
- 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 1/3 cup baby spinach chopped, tightly packed
- 1/4 cup red or green capsicum diced
- 1 clove garlic crushed and diced
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- pinch pepper
- pinch chili flakes (optional add on for adults!)
EASY GUACAMOLE (FOR TOPPING)
- 1 avocado
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- pinch sea salt
- Sour cream (to drizzle on top)
- Preheat oven to 200C. Using a fork, poke small holes in sweet potatoes going all the way round, about 1-inch apart. Line baking tray with parchment paper, and paint sweet potatoes with oil to lightly coat. Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until fork tender.
- In a bowl combine the black beans, tomato, mushrooms, capsicum and garlic. Cook in a fry pan for 3-5 minutes until mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat and put back into the bowl.
- Add baby spinach and mix to combine with the lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and (optional) chili flakes.
- Prepare easy guacamole: Mash avocado in a bowl with lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
- Cut sweet potatoes in half and fill with black bean medley. Top with easy guacamole and drizzle with sour cream.
GINGER AND TURMERIC CARROT SOUP
PREP TIME: 10 MINS
COOK TIME: 35 MINS
TOTAL TIME: 45 MINS
SERVES: 3(OR 4 LITTLE ONES)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 piece thumb-sized of fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- (500 g) carrots peeled and chopped
- 4¼ cups (1 L) vegetable stock
- toasted hazelnuts roughly chopped
- Optional cream or sour cream
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sautee for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, orange zest, salt, pepper and sautee for 2 minutes or until the spices are fragrant. Add the carrots and sautee for 3 minutes.
- Pour in the vegetable stock and orange juice, bring to a boil and lower to simmer. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the carrots are cooked through.
- Puree the soup in batches in a high speed blender. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Return the soup to the pan and reheat, adding more liquid if you prefer a thinner consistency.
- Divide the ginger and turmeric carrot soup between bowls and top with chopped toasted hazelnuts and a swirl of cream or sour cream (optional).
PREP TIME: 15 MINS
COOK TIME: 15 MINS
TOTAL TIME: 30 MINS
- 3 medium zucchinis
- 1 1/2 Tbsp and 1 Tbsp olive oil, separated
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped baby spinach
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/8 cup tahini
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp garlic pressed
- 1 Tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and position one of the racks on the top, closest to the heat.
Peel the zucchini with the vegetable peeler into lengthwise ribbons. Peel off several from one side until you reach the seeds, then turn the zucchini and peel off more until all that is left is the core. Set the core aside.
Place the zucchini noodles into a bowl and toss with 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil and ground pepper (optional, depending on the palate and age of your little ones).
Place baking paper onto a dish and spread zucchini noodles out evenly on the paper. Place into the oven onto the top rack and roast for 15 minutes.
While the zucchini is roasting, mix baby spinach, turmeric, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and water. Blend into a smooth dressing. After the zucchini is finished, toss the sauce and zucchini together.
Serve warm or cold.
Note – You can also add some extra veggies into this dish as well with grated carrot or chopped steamed broccoli.
KIDS FAVOURITE STIRFY
PREP TIME: 15 MINS
COOK TIME: 10 MINS
TOTAL TIME: 25 MINS
This recipe you can go a bit rogue with and include your kids favourite veggies. You can use any protein that you like – Chicken and tofu are both good options.
FOR THE SAUCE
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey or pure maple syrup
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional for kiddies)
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons organic cornstarch
FOR THE STIR FRY
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 large red onion, sliced
- 1 large red capsicum, sliced
- 1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced
- 2 ½ cups fresh green beans
- 1 ½ to 2 cups cooked and chopped protein of choice*
- ½ cup raw walnuts, chopped
- cooked brown rice or quinoa, for serving
FOR THE SAUCE:
- In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.
FOR THE STIR-FRY:
- Add the oil to a large pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the onion and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until it starts to soften.
- Add in the capsicum, zucchini and green beans (or whichever veggies you chose) and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, until tender to your liking.
- Add in your protein of choice, the walnuts and sauce (give it a quick whisk first). Continue to cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened.
- Remove from the heat and serve with rice or quinoa.