This time of year, we as moms are doing everything in our power to prevent our kids from getting sick. From teaching them how to wash their hands—with soap and water— to giving them vitamin C and elderberry syrup and everything in between, we’ve got an arsenal of tactics and lots of hope. In addition to all your prevention strategies, you’ve probably thought about your kids diet and wondered if there are foods that fight colds and the flu too.
Today, that’s what we’re talking about, but first… why do kids get sick so much?
WHY IS MY CHILD ALWAYS SICK WITH A COLD?
If you have little ones, there’s no denying that they’re sick all the time. In fact, it’s common for children to get 8 to 10 colds a year before they turn 2.
The reason kids get sick so often is because they’re in close contact with other kids at daycare, school and at mommy and me programs, and they’re swapping germs all day as they share toys, books, etc.
Another reason kids get sick so much is that they simply haven’t built up the immunity yet to fight off infections, and they’re indoors more and have less exposure to vitamin D which boosts the immune system.
MY CHILD IS CONSTANTLY SICK
Last year when my kids started the school year, it seemed like they were sick every few weeks. Colds, fevers and by January, we all had the flu—and yes, we all had the flu shot.
This year, I thought I had it all under control. I thought:
They’re older and presumably have stronger immune systems.
They know the importance of hand washing, especially at school where the kids sneeze and cough on each other and eat lunch after recess—yuck!
They eat healthy, take vitamins, probiotics and probiotic-rich foods.
They get plenty of sleep and I do my best to make sure they’re active.
My older daughter came down with a slight cold but that was it.
I thought we had this year covered, until last week, that is.
As I was heading out for a walk to take a break from work, the school called.
My younger daughter had a low-grade fever and a headache. I thought it was probably your run of the mill virus, but when she woke up the next morning with a 103 fever and feeling totally run down, we headed to the doctor and discovered she had the flu. Again. Despite having the flu shot, again.
10 FOODS THAT FIGHT COLDS AND THE FLU
Teaching kids how to wash their hands properly is the best way to prevent the spread of infection, but there are also foods that fight colds and the flu, may help ease your child’s symptoms and strengthen his immune system.
1. Chicken soup
When you were a kid, you know there was nothing better than a bowl of chicken soup when you were sick and as it turns out, this ancient remedy is one of the best foods that fight colds and the flu.
According to a well-known study published in 2000 in the journal CHEST, eating chicken soup can ease symptoms of a cold. Researchers found that the movement of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that defends the body against infection, was reduced. Therefore, the study suggests chicken soup may be anti-inflammatory, ease symptoms and shorten the duration of infections.
Although homemade chicken soup is fresher and more delicious, if you’re buying it in the store, always read labels because many versions—even those that the store makes—are high in sodium.
There’s truth to the old adage an apple a day keeps the doctor away especially for kids who get sick a lot.
Apples are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C and quercetin, an antioxidant that’s known for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
In fact, a May 2014 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases & Preventive Medicine suggests that quercetin may be promising in the treatment of the common cold.
Fresh ginger is an effective remedy against HRSV infections, which cause colds and respiratory illnesses, a January 2013 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found.
I don’t care for ginger myself unless it’s with sushi, but my older daughter loves it, especially in green juices and smoothies. You can do the same, or add ginger to soup or a stir-fry, or brew a cup of ginger tea.
In recent years, there’s been a ton of research looking at the benefits of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient and not only are optimal levels important for overall health, but it lowers inflammation and supports healthy bones and teeth, and the brain, nervous and immune systems.
In fact, a February 2017 meta-analysis in BMJ found vitamin D protects against colds and the flu.
To find out how much your kids need, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has a guide.
High in vitamin D, eggs are one of the best foods that fight colds and flu. They’re also one of the most easy and versatile kid-friendly foods.
Serve eggs in a frittata or quiche, make egg “fried” rice, add hard-boiled eggs to a salad or serve them as a snack.
Known for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects and its ability to boost the immune system, garlic can be an effective remedy for colds and infections.
When it comes to research about garlic’s efficacy however, the jury is still out.
A November 2014 Cochrane Review found insufficient evidence that garlic can prevent or treat the common cold.
Yet a June 2012 study in the journal Clinical Nutrition suggests that a garlic extract supplement may boost the immune system, which may in part, be responsible for reducing the severity of colds and the flu.
Although my kids despise it, I add garlic to just about every meal. You can find small, subtle ways to add garlic to your kid’s diet however, such as incorporating it in soups, stews or broth, pureeing it into hummus, or spreading minced garlic with a bit of olive oil on a piece of toasted bread.
It might take your kids awhile to come around to its’ tangy taste and thick texture, but kefir one of the best foods that fight colds and flu, thanks to its immune-boosting probiotics.
Since kefir can be high in sugar however, read labels carefully. Or opt for plain kefir and blend low glycemic fruit like blueberries or raspberries to make it sweet.
Consuming Vitamin C has long been seen as a way to prevent colds and infections, but most of the research hasn’t shown a direct link.
A 2014 Cochrane Review however, is promising. Kids who took 200 milligrams or more of vitamin C a day were found to have a 13.5% reduction in cold duration, or about a day less of feeling sick.
Strawberries, cranberries, blueberries and blackberries are fiber-rich and contain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and beta carotene. They’re also rich in anthocyanins, flavonoids that may have immune-boosting effects.
9. Whole grain bread
Whole grain bread is something your kid probably eats a lot of, which is good because it’s one of the best foods that fight colds and the flu.
In fact, a March 2017 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed whole grains had better gut health and an increase in memory T cells, a type of white blood cell that prevents infection.
When my kids are sick, it can be really tough to get them to drink water. Yet encouraging them to drink is really helpful to loosen up nasal congestion and prevent dehydration, especially when they have fevers.
Regular H2O, warm water with lemon and honey, clear broths, or teas are all good choices.
Since it’s high in sugar, try to steer clear of juice. Alternatively, you can make a green smoothie or juice with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit, but keep portion sizes in mind.
Like kefir, yogurt can be a good source of probiotics. In fact, a June 2018 study in the journal Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology, which was conducted in adults, showed probiotics are a safe and effective remedy for colds and flu-like respiratory infections.
Greek yogurt is a good option since it’s also high in protein.
Whether you buy regular yogurt of greek yogurt however, be choosy about brands. Look for those that state “live and active cultures.”
Also, avoid yogurts that are fruit-flavored or contain fruit because they’re usually high in sugar. Sugar can feed unhealthy bacteria in the gut so aim for yogurt that has less than 9 grams of sugar per serving. You can also buy plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit.