Winter guide: How to increase immunity in kids

Written by Bhakti Kapoor
Published: February 6, 2023
An MSc in Food Science and Nutrition from the SNDT University Mumbai, and founder of HEALTHY HIGH - a virtual nutrition counselling platform.

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Kids are more likely to become ill during this time of the year. And that’s when parents wonder how to increase immunity in kids & keep them healthy throughout.

Growing children require meals that support the development of immune cells and the healing of bodily tissues in order to fight off diseases because they are frequently exposed to viral and bacterial infections in schools and playgrounds.  

Here’s how parents can strengthen their kids’ immune systems or boost their kids’ immunity over the winter. 

1. Brighten up the kids’ plate  

Brightly coloured actual food contains significant amounts of phytochemicals and antioxidants that support kids’ immune systems.  

Blueberries, beets, baby spinach,  pumpkin, and kiwi fruit are loaded with antioxidants. Make sure your kid’s plates are colourful and encourage them to consume powerful foods like acai, cacao nibs, and goji berries. 

2. Include protein-rich foods in your kid’s diet – NEVER skip protein-rich meal in your kid’s diet plan. You can include protein of your kid’s choice in their diet which includes food items like paneer, soy, chickpeas, or rajma, but never skip a protein-rich meal.

3. Good fats are a must –Give your children a handful of mixed nuts every day to get the healthy fats they need. Omega 3 fatty acids, which aid in creating immune system cells, are abundant in nuts. 

4. Avoid using needless antibiotics: Common colds and the flu  should only be treated by a physician. Without consulting a doctor, avoid administering antibiotics to children. Antibiotic overuse might reduce immunity and disturb the microbial flora. 

5. Avoid junk food, fried foods, and fizzy beverages. 

As winter approaches, there are seven superfoods that work as immunity boosting foods for kids and must be included in their diet on a daily basis.  

1. Garlic– One of the most popular medicinal plants found in Indian cuisine is garlic. The antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antibiotic effects of garlic are well documented. The majority of researchers claim that allicin, the main sulfur-containing ingredient in garlic,  aids in the prevention of the common cold. Additionally, garlic strengthens a child’s immune system.  

How to introduce garlic to your child’s diet: 

Any stuffed paratha you are preparing can have some crushed raw garlic added to it. When making dough, you may also finely mince raw garlic and add it to the flour before making filled or plain parathas or even chapattis.  

Any vegetable you prepare for your family may always benefit from the addition of one or two cloves of garlic. Additionally, you may add minced or crushed garlic to the soup you’re giving your kid.

2. Turmeric: Everyone is aware that turmeric is a key ingredient in any Indian cuisine and is one of the strongest spices available. Turmeric is recognised for its exceptional healing properties because of its richness in antioxidants, antifungals, antibacterials,  and anti-inflammatory compounds. Turmeric’s curative qualities will boost the immune system and ward against the flu not just this winter but every weather.  

How to include Turmeric in your child’s diet:  

Your child’s milk should contain a tablespoon of this wonderful turmeric powder. To make the milk a little bit sweeter, you may also add a sprinkle of jaggery powder. A small amount of turmeric powder may always be added to the dough for plain or filled parathas. 

3. Ginger: According to Ayurveda, ginger is one of the finest treatments for colds and coughs and works wonders for digestive health. The bioactive ingredient contributes to lowering the risk of infections.

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How to include ginger in your child’s diet: 

You may smash fresh ginger, squeeze out the juice, and then offer it to your child. This can help them feel much better when they have a cold or a  cough. You can also give your child dry ginger powder laddu due to its potent flavour and the ease with which a child may reject ginger  (sonth ke laddu). Any stuffed paratha you make for your child can also include ginger that has been finely chopped and crushed. You may always add some freshly chopped and crushed ginger to whatever veggies you are cooking for your family. 

4. Sweet potato: Given that it is winter everywhere in the nation, sweet potatoes are widely available. Sweet potatoes are a  delicious wintertime snack because they are a great source of fibre and also include high levels of beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C,  iron, potassium, magnesium, and natural sweetness. These nutrients help prevent the common cold and flu viruses, in addition to aiding in the formation of blood cells. 

How to include sweet potato in your child’s diet: 

One of the simplest methods to include sweet potatoes in your child’s diet is to boil them, chop them into little cubes, and then offer them to your child. The sweet potato can be baked, then sliced into small  pieces, seasoned with salt, and served. 

Sweet potato paratha is made by mashing boiling or baked sweet potatoes with flour and sugar to produce a dough. Once the dough is finished, just roll it into parathas. Your youngster will devour this in no time since it tastes so good.

5. Spinach: Vitamin A, K, C, and D, as well as calcium, magnesium, and iron, are all abundant in spinach. Beta carotene, another compound found in spinach, is useful for enhancing vision and strengthening the immune system. With all these vital nutrients,  spinach is a fantastic winter meal that protects kids from a variety of illnesses.  

How to include spinach in your kid’s diet: 

Spinach may be included in your child’s diet in a variety of ways- by adding it to parathas, pooris, salads, curries, cutlets,  and dals, among other foods. 

6. Broccoli: Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a  fantastic meal for strengthening the immune system. Beta-carotene and other potent antioxidants are present in broccoli. Due to its high calcium and vitamin K content, broccoli helps to maintain bone health. This combination of nutrients makes broccoli a  wintertime need. 

How to include broccoli in your child’s diet: 

Broccoli may be added to soup, salads, pizza,  spaghetti, daliya, khichdi, and stuffed parathas. 

7. Amla: Also known as Indian gooseberry, Amla is one of the best sources of vitamin C and is also rich in protein, calcium,  phosphorus, iron, carotene, and vitamin B complex, as well as minerals, fibre, carbs, and other nutrients.  

Its antimicrobial qualities aid in boosting defences. Amla supports healthy skin and hair, relieves constipation, and guards against anaemia. Amla aids in the wintertime battle against illnesses like the flu and the common cold since it is high in vitamin C.  

How to include amla in your child’s diet: 

Making handmade amla candy and giving it to your child. Amla chutney, amla murabba, and amla juice are some other options.  

Make sure to include these immunity boosting foods for kids in your children’s daily diet to lower their risk of contracting the flu and other wintertime diseases. 

Apart from this a few actions might be taken to boost your kids immunity. Include these on a daily basis.  

Regular hand washing – Encourage a youngster to wash their hands regularly and instil the habit in them.  

Replace old toothbrushes – Children must routinely replace their toothbrushes, especially after getting the illness.  

Hydrate – Increase your child’s fluid intake by drinking more water,  soup, Bournvita milk, or juice.  

Enough Sleep – Lack of sleep might increase a child’s susceptibility to sickness by lowering natural killer cells, which are the immune system’s main defence against pathogens and cancer cells. Therefore, make sure your child receives enough rest.  

Increase their Vitamin D intake – Since low vitamin D levels have been linked to a higher incidences of infections, autoimmune diseases, and allergies, therefore, always make sure that your youngster receives adequate amount of vitamin D each day. 

As parents, if we follow the tips and include the foods mentioned above, we can surely give our kids’ immunity an added boost this winter season.

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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