As you’re loading your shopping cart with school supplies and new jackets, it is also an ideal time to stock up on natural items to help ward off coughs, colds and other maladies. I’m all about making easy but impactful shifts to help families address food and health challenges. And as germs descend upon us, I’ve got plenty of simple ideas for supporting your child’s immune system!
Crack the code for handwashing. This is one of the simplest ways to ward off colds. The secret to getting the job done is to make it fun. Try equipping your kids’ bathroom with foaming soap, or soap bars in kid-friendly shapes. Or, make handwashing a game by teaching your kids to blow bubbles through their fingers.
Prepare your natural medicine cabinet. Be ready at the first sign of a cough or sniffle. Here are seven immune-supporting items I keep in my cabinet at all times:
Black Elderberry: Take this at the first sign of a stuffy nose or scratchy throat. The antioxidant-rich black elderberry is a real immune health hero. It’s been used since ancient times in remedies for colds, coughs and upper respiratory infections. Chewable Sambucol Gummie are great for kids because they taste like berries.
Vitamin D: Supplementing becomes even more important as days grow shorter and there’s less sunshine. Plus, vitamin D3 is a natural flu fighter.
Zinc: Liquid zinc boosts white blood cell production to kill off viruses.
Probiotics: Since most of the body’s immune cells are in the gut, you want to keep it replenished with the good guys!
Omega-3s: These are boost mental focus, and boost gut and immune health.
Magnesium: This helps muscle recovery, digestive regularity, and promotes a good night’s sleep.
Barley Grass Juice powder: This contains many amino acids, and is chock-full of vitamins and minerals for overall wellness.
Sweeten their lunch boxes without sugar. Refined sugar has a negative impact on the immune system. So instead of processed chips which may be loaded with hidden sugars, pack thinly sliced cucumbers with a side of hummus. Toss in fresh fruit slices to quell a sweet tooth.
Tempt them with nutritious afternoon snacks. Red apples are in season! They help clean up the liver as well as support the immune system. Serve them sliced with nut butter or sprinkled with cinnamon. Kids also love pears dipped in chocolate hummus, and Sietta tortilla chips (made with avocado oil and cassava flour) served with guacamole. Quench their thirst with smoothies or coconut water instead of sugary, caffeinated sports drinks.
Take advantage of opportunities to serve healthy meals at home. I know all about a packed schedule once school starts. But when meals are prepared in your own kitchen, you have more control over what goes into them. When the weather turns cold, I get excited because it’s bone broth season. Genuine, homemade bone broth helps us recover from colds and it’s my go-to afternoon pick-me-up. Pomegranates are also in season right now and they’re antioxidant bombs! Carrots and sweet potatoes support respiratory health, and they are freshest in the fall. And be sure to watch for seasonal heirloom tomatoes. They not only taste great in tomato sauces and gazpacho, but I pack them like candy into lunch boxes. My Nutrition School for Families online program has many more ideas and resources for transitioning from fast-food to home-cooked meals.
Making positive changes is a process. It takes time. Make it your goal to adopt one of these tips each month. Start now and by mid-winter, you may notice fewer sniffles and coughs around the family dinner table.
About the author: Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS, is an Integrative Dietitian, Lifestyle Coach, Mom, and bestselling author of Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat; Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous; Secrets of Gorgeous; and The Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous Project.