Winter immunity-boosting foods for kids

Written by Arjita Singh
Published: February 6, 2023
An ISSA-certified nutritionist, a healthy recipe creator & founder of WeNourish.

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Winter is here, and with it comes the common cold, flu, and other seasonal illnesses. Keeping children’s immune systems strong during this time is crucial to prevent them from getting sick. At their early ages, their immune systems aren’t fully developed, making them more vulnerable to pathogens. This is also why your child gets sick with a cold, cough, or fever more frequently  than you do. One major way to prevent children from getting sick is by incorporating immune-boosting foods into their diet. 

Here is a list of immunity boosting foods for kids, curated especially for the winter season,  including food that help us to grow and nourish our children: 

1. Seasonal fruits: There is no better way to start the winter season food list than seasonal fruits. Guava, oranges, apples, custard apples, strawberries, etc are abundantly  available in India during winter. They are rich in vitamins and minerals which help in  building overall health, including growth and development, and fruits rich in vitamin C like  guava, oranges, berries, and kiwis are essential for a healthy immune system. Vitamin C  helps to produce white blood cells, which fight off infections.

2. Green Garlic: Garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It’s packed  with the powerful antioxidant Allicin that helps in boosting immunity and helps in cell  regeneration caused due to oxidative stress. 

3. Ginger: Ginger contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant  properties. It can help to relieve sore throat, cough, and cold symptoms. Ginger can be  added to tea, soups, and stir-fries. 

4. Spinach: Spinach is a great source of vitamins A and C, both of which are important for  a healthy immune system. It also contains folate and iron, which help to protect against  infections. Spinach can be added to salads, and smoothies, and sautéed as a side dish. 

5. Root vegetables: sweet potatoes, yam, carrots, beetroots, spring onion, and turnips are  all great sources of complex carbs, rich in fiber, and good sources of b12. They help boost the immune and prevent malnourishment.

 6. Mushroom: Mushrooms are a great source of beta-glucan, a type of fiber that has

been  shown to boost the immune system. They are also rich in selenium which helps in building immunity and keeping infections at bay. 

7. Sesame seeds: These small seeds contain a good amount of essential fatty acids,  vitamin E, calcium, and protein and are very good for skin and hair health. These can be  sprinkled on salads, and vegetable pancakes, or used in laddus.

8. Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and  sunflower seeds are a great source of healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals which helps to boost  the immune system. They are also a good source of zinc, which is essential for the production  of white blood cells. Peanuts are abundantly available in winter and are regarded as the world’s  healthiest foods. helps in boosting immunity and helps in cell regeneration caused due to  oxidative stress. Healthy fats are important for brain development and overall health. Children  need about 10-30% of their daily calories from healthy fats. 

9. Winter millets: They are high in fiber and powerhouse of nutrients, which helps to keep  the digestive system healthy. This can help to boost immunity and keep children healthy during  the winter months. You can include these nutrient-dense millet flours like Maize (Makki),  Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra) Flour, Finger Millet (Ragi), etc. 

10. Turmeric: Turmeric is known worldwide for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial  properties. It can help to boost the immune system and protect against infections. Turmeric can  be added to soups, curries, and smoothies. Combining turmeric with some black pepper and  some good fat like ghee enhances the bioavailability of curcumin leading to better absorption. 

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Along with a well-balanced diet, it’s important to follow these tips, mentioned below, on  how to boost immunity in kids during winter: 

1. Limit sugar and processed foods: Consuming too much sugar and processed foods can  weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illness. Encourage your child to eat  a balanced diet with limited amounts of snacks and junk food. 

2. Offer probiotics: Probiotics, or “good bacteria,” can help boost the immune system by  supporting digestive health. Foods such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods like  kimchi, sauerkraut, and homemade pickles can provide probiotics.

3. Get enough sleep: Sleep is essential for a strong immune system. Make sure your child  gets plenty of rest, especially during cold and flu season. Aim for at least 8-10 hours of  sleep each night. 

4. Encourage exercise: Regular physical activity can help boost the immune system by  increasing circulation and reducing stress. Encourage your child to participate in a  variety of physical activities, such as sports, dance, or outdoor play. 

5. Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is important for a healthy immune system. Encourage  your child to drink plenty of water, especially during the winter months when it’s easier to  become dehydrated. 

6. Manage stress: Stress can weaken the immune system, so it’s important to manage  stress levels in kids. Encourage your child to participate in activities that help reduce  stress, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. 

7. Wash hands frequently: Washing hands regularly can help prevent the spread of germs  and illnesses. Teach your child the importance of washing their hands often, especially  before eating and after using the bathroom. 

8. Get vaccinated: Vaccines are an important way to protect your child against illness and  disease. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about which vaccines are recommended  and keep your child’s vaccination schedule up to date.

In conclusion, making full use of nourishing winter food items and providing children with a nourishing balanced diet combined with these tips (mentioned above) can help us grow our  children well and build robust immunity. It’s also worth noting that it’s important to consult a  doctor or a nutritionist before making any drastic changes in your child’s diet, especially for  children with food allergies or other health conditions.

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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