westcliff early learning food as medicine

Food as Medicine: Supporting Your Child’s Immune System

It’s flu season in Orange County! And as parents, one of our top priorities is keeping our children healthy, especially during the cold and flu season. While we often turn to medicines and supplements, we sometimes overlook one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal: food. Yes, you read that right – food can be medicine too! Westcliff Early Learning Academy takes pride in its health and wellness program, which includes incorporating various immune-boosting foods into provided snacks. We also offer parents the opportunity to order freshly made, healthy lunches delivered to campus daily. This is our way of helping to strengthen childrens’ immune systems naturally. Let’s dive into some of the key foods that can support optimal immune health for your little ones.

1. Fatty Fish: Salmon, mackerel, and tuna are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and play a crucial role in immune function. Try incorporating these fish into your child’s meals a few times a week to reap the benefits. Grilled salmon skewers, tuna sandwiches, or mackerel tacos are delicious and nutritious options that kids are sure to enjoy.

2. Liver: While it might not be the most popular choice among kids, liver is packed with essential nutrients like vitamin A, which is crucial for maintaining a strong immune system. Sneak liver into dishes like meatloaf or mix it with ground beef for burgers to disguise its taste. You can also try making liver pâté spread on whole grain crackers for a nutrient-dense snack.

westcliff early learning food as medicine colorful vegetables3. Colorful Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, kale, spinach, carrots, and red peppers are all loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support immune function. Get creative with how you serve them – whether roasted, steamed, or pureed into soups or sauces, there are plenty of ways to incorporate these veggies into your child’s diet. Make veggie-packed smoothies or veggie-loaded pasta sauces to ensure your child gets their daily dose of immune-boosting nutrients.

4. Quercetin: Found in foods like garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kale, quercetin is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. These foods not only add flavor and texture to meals but also provide a boost to your child’s immune system. Try making homemade garlic bread with whole grain bread or roasted garlic cauliflower as a side dish to increase your child’s quercetin intake.

westcliff early learning food as medicine glutathione5. Glutathione: Red onions, apples, red grapes, watercress, cherries, green tea, and red wine contain glutathione, a potent antioxidant that helps strengthen the immune system. Consider adding these foods to your child’s diet as snacks or incorporating them into salads and smoothies. Red onion and apple salad with a sprinkle of watercress or a refreshing cherry and green tea smoothie are tasty ways to incorporate these immune-boosting foods into your child’s diet.

westcliff early learning food as medicine probiotics6. Probiotics: Foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are rich in probiotics, which promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Since a significant portion of the immune system resides in the gut, maintaining gut health is essential for overall immune function. Serve probiotic-rich foods as snacks or incorporate them into meals – yogurt parfait with fresh fruit, sauerkraut on top of hot dogs, or kimchi fried rice are all delicious options that your child will enjoy.

7. Vitamin D: While sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D, foods like fatty fish, eggs, dairy, and mushrooms also contain this crucial nutrient. Make sure your child gets plenty of outdoor playtime and incorporate these foods into their diet to support their vitamin D levels. Serve sunny-side-up eggs with sautéed mushrooms for breakfast or make a cheesy mushroom omelet for a nutritious and vitamin D-rich meal.

8. Zinc: Found in foods like oysters, beef, chicken, chickpeas, lentils, and seeds, zinc plays a vital role in immune function and wound healing. Including zinc-rich foods in your child’s diet can help boost their immune system and keep them healthy. Serve zinc-rich foods in creative ways – chickpea and lentil soup, beef and vegetable stir-fry, or oyster mushroom risotto are hearty and nutritious meals that provide a good dose of zinc.

westcliff early learning food as medicine omega-39. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids: In addition to fatty fish, omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, and English walnuts. These healthy fats help reduce inflammation and support immune function, making them an essential addition to your child’s diet. Incorporate omega-3-rich foods into your child’s meals and snacks – sprinkle chia seeds on top of yogurt or oatmeal, add hemp seeds to smoothies, or make homemade flaxseed crackers for a crunchy and nutritious snack.

By incorporating these immune-boosting foods into your child’s meals and snacks, we can help strengthen their immune system naturally and reduce their risk of getting sick during the cold and flu season. Remember, food is not just fuel – it’s also medicine. So, let’s nourish our children from the inside out and empower them to thrive with the power of nutrition. Here’s to happy, healthy children year round!