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Foods to Help Kids Stay Well This Winter
By Selina Lai, M.S., R.D.
Many of us have spent time recently huddled under blankets watching our athletes play soccer in the cold and rain. It is a time to think about hot half-time drinks (diluted cider, hot chocolate or tea) and about eating to protect your athlete from the flu and colds.
Did you know you can reduce your child's risk of illness by choosing healthy foods? A quick review of recent articles about food and immunity points to a few top contenders to help make your child's immune system better at fighting off disease. A wide variety of nutrients are essential for a proper functioning immune system so it is much better to eat healthy foods to improve protection against cold and flu rather than popping a nutrition supplement.
Here is a list of immunity-building foods that you can add to your child's diet:
Something ORANGE. Foods which are high in Vitamins C and A are usually orange in color. Look for red, orange and yellow peppers, oranges, grapefruit, papaya, mango, pumpkin and other squash, and yams. Other non-orange sources of Vitamin C include broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries and fortified fruit juices.
Something from WHOLE GRAINS. Eating whole grains increases our consumption of several trace minerals that increase the production of white blood cells. Whole grain sources include oatmeal, 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice, wheat germ and several brands of breakfast cereals (read the labels…).
Low fat yogurt with live cultures. The "friendly" bacteria that live in our digestive system are part of the first line of defense against infection. Eating yogurt regularly ensures a good supply of these helpful bacteria. Look for "Live and Active Cultures" on the label.
Chicken Soup. Believe it or not, there is scientific evidence that supports eating chicken soup to improve immune function and reduce cold symptoms. Adding garlic and onion can further enhance the immunity boost from this kid-friendly food.
A Cup of Tea. Both decaffeinated and caffeinated black and green teas contain potent antioxidants. My boys often have tea with dinner during the winter months. A note of caution - make sure your child is still getting 3 servings of milk or dairy (for calcium) if you begin to include tea in his/her diet.
Have fun adding these immune-boosting foods to your family's diet. Maybe a trip to the grocery store can be the key to an illness free winter!
©Selina Lai, M.S., R.D., Foods to Help Kids Stay Well This Winter, 2010. Please send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments and for reprint permission, visit her new blog at http://goodeatsforsoccer.wordpress.com/.
About the Author:
Selina Lai has been a Registered Dietitian for 20 years. She studied Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of British Columbia and California State University, Long Beach. She has worked as a nutrition educator with a wide range of clients.
Her recently published book "Good Eats for Soccer - Nutrition Choices for Competitive Youth Soccer" focuses on diet modifications for the moderate to high intensity physical demands of youth soccer players during tournaments.