When the chilly weather rolls in and flu season looms, many parents are concerned about their little one’s immune system. Although exposure to some of these bugs can strengthen immunity and build resistance, a healthy immune system is essential for fighting disease. The trick to a truly healthy immune system is maintaining a balanced lifestyle and diet, starting from childhood.
We are born with an immature immune system and begin life with a borrowed type of immunity from breastmilk. As we grow, adaptive immunity develops until it reaches maturity in our adolescents. Incorporating safe exposure to sunlight, exercise, limiting stress, and plenty of sleep helps boost immunity and nutrition forms the foundation of a healthy immune system.
Essential micronutrients that contain phytonutrients, such as, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B6, zinc, selenium, iron, and omega-three fats, support the immune system by creating white blood cells responsible for fighting infection.
In partnership with Swisse Wellness, leading Clinical Dietician and Nutritionist, and mum of two little ones herself, Jamie Rose Chambers, highlights the tips and tricks for incorporating sources of essential micronutrients in your child’s diet to help boost a healthy immune system.
1. Eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables
These provide many nutrients that support good health – so variety is key!
They all contain phytonutrients that can support the immune system by creating more white blood cells responsible for fighting infection. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C such as citrus, berries, kiwi fruit, capsicum, Brussel sprouts, kale and papaya, are known to help support the immune system.
2. Eat foods rich in plant & fish fats
Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If your kids don’t like fish, you can make tuna or salmon patties, tuna pasta bake or fish fingers which are usually always kid-approved.
Walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds are also great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts, seeds and avocado are great for vitamin E.
Try adding seeds and nuts to smoothies or making them into bliss balls or muesli bars to boost your little one’s snacks. Avocado on toast or crackers is another great snack option.
3. Eat lean protein sources
Foods such as chicken, turkey, lean red meat, seafood and eggs are great sources of zinc, iron and are a great dietary source of vitamin D. Plant sources such as chickpeas and baked beans are great too.
You don’t need to eat much, just a small serving a day.
4. Focus on great gut health
Prebiotics can be found in plant foods like fruit and veg, as well as nuts, seeds, wholegrains, legumes and lentils. They can also be found in fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, pickled vegetables, tempeh, miso.
Try to avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics and limit highly refined and high added sugar foods.
5. Consider a supplement
If you have a bit of a fussy eater, and their diet is a bit limited in any way. Or their intake varies, which is normal for younger kids! A kid’s multivitamin can be good as a backup to make sure they meet their basic nutritional needs. Look for ones that are sugar-free and contain no artificial colours or flavours.
Jaime Rose Chambers is a leading Clinical Dietician and Nutritionist. As s a mum of two young kids, she is especially interested in and passionate about children’s nutrition. Jamie has partnered with Swisse Wellness to bring to light the importance of a healthy diet for growing children. For six years, Jamie was the Nutrition Leader for the NSW Government project Go4Fun. The project was aimed at overweight and obese children aged between 7 and 13. Jamie also co-authored The Mystery Gut, published in 2017, and authored ‘16:8 Intermittent Fasting’ published in 2019 with a follow up to ‘16:8 Intermittent Fasting’ in March 2021.