Cold and flu season is upon us. And while there is no surefire way to avoid getting sick, including some nutrients in your diet may boost your immune system and help your chances of remaining sickness-free. This is especially true if these foods are enjoyed along with an overall healthy and balanced diet, and other precautions are taken as well, like being diligent about washing your hands and prioritizing quality sleep.
Kids are especially susceptible to getting sick during cold and flu season. Between being in a classroom in close proximity to other kids every day, possibly not practicing the best hand hygiene and putting their hands in their mouths more frequently than adults, and literally having thinner skin (and therefore having less defenses), having a little one who comes down with a cold is pretty common.
Snack time is the perfect opportunity to sneak in some immune-supporting nutrients to help your kids get through cold and flu season with a strong immune system. From vitamin C to vitamin D, and even protein, including key nutrients in their snack time can be a simple way to keep the little ones feeling their best.
If you are on the hunt for some immune-supporting snacks that your kids will actually enjoy, here are seven that are dietitian-approved.
A green smoothie made with spinach, frozen mango, pineapple, hemp seeds, and coconut water is a kid-friendly combo that is simple to make, assuming you own a blender. “I love smoothies for kids because you can pack in a variety of fruits and vegetables they may not otherwise eat into a delicious drink that they enjoy,” says Sarah Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN, dietitian for moms and owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition, LLC. “Spinach and mango are both excellent sources of vitamin C, which can support the immune system.”
Anzlovar added that one ounce of hemp seeds contains “Between 50 to 100% of kids’ zinc needs (depending on their age), an important mineral for immune health that may shorten the duration of colds.”
“Pumpkin seeds are a fun, crunchy, satisfying snack and are an excellent source of zinc, which is important for immune health and may shorten the duration of colds,” says Anzlovar. For kids who don’t enjoy the crunch of pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed butter spread on whole grain bread or fruit can act as a nice immune-supporting snack too.
Yogurt with berries
According to Anzlovar, “One cup of strawberries can provide 100 percent of your child’s daily vitamin C needs, and yogurt is a good source of probiotics, which supports a healthy gut.” A large part of your immune system lives in the gut, and initial research suggests that probiotics may support a healthy immune system.
Frozen orange juice
As long as you are using 100% orange juice and not an orange “drink” with added sugars, enjoying a serving of frozen OJ can be an icy treat that provides vitamin C, a nutrient that may shorten the duration and harshness of cold symptoms. Orange juice also contains carotenoids, like beta carotene, which help support immune health too.
Simply pour 6 ounces of 100% orange juice in a mason jar and place it in the freezer. When it is snack time, grab a spoon, scoop this naturally sweet snack up, and enjoy.
Fortified cereal with milk
Cereal may be thought of as only a breakfast food, but when enjoyed with milk, it can be a snack that is loaded with immune-supporting nutrients like protein, vitamin D, and zinc. Add a serving of berries or some sliced bananas to the cereal bowl for even more nutrients and a boost of naturally sweet flavor.
Chocolate covered kiwis
Kiwis are a source of fiber, vitamin C, and plant compounds. Kiwis can certainly be enjoyed on their own, but to make them a bit more fun to eat, try slicing them up and dipping them in dark chocolate. Feel free to add some naturally colored sprinkles on top for even more kid-friendly fun.
Baked cinnamon apples
Apples are a kid favorite no matter how they are enjoyed. And as long as the skin is consumed, kids will get a boost of a plant compound called quercetin, which may help support immune health. Sprinkling cinnamon on some sliced apples and baking them until they are soft is a cozy way to include this compound into a child’s diet with very little effort.
These snacks are an easy, delicious way to help boost your kid’s immune system during flu season and all year round. You can make them at home or find your favorite brands at the store. Whichever route you choose to take, you can rest assured that these snacks will give them a helpful dose of nutrients.
Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC