As you're loading your shopping cart with school supplies and new jackets, it is also an ideal time to stock up on natural items to help ward off coughs, colds and other maladies. I'm all about making easy but impactful shifts to help families address food and health challenges. And as germs descend upon us, I've got plenty of simple ideas for supporting your child's immune system!
Back-to-school immune system tips
1. Crack the code for hand-washing. This is one of the simplest ways to ward off colds. The secret to getting the job done is to make it fun. Try equipping your kids' bathroom with foaming natural soap, or soap bars in kid-friendly shapes. Or, make hand-washing a game by teaching your kids to blow bubbles through their fingers.
2. Prepare your natural medicine cabinet. Be ready at the first sign of a cough or sniffle. Here are seven immune-supporting items I keep in my cabinet at all times:
- Black Elderberry: Take this at the first sign of a stuffy nose or scratchy throat. The antioxidant-rich black elderberry is a real immune health hero. It's been used since ancient times in remedies for colds, coughs and upper respiratory infections. Chewable Sambucol Gummies are great for kids because they taste like berries.
- Vitamin D: Supplementing becomes even more important as days grow shorter and there's less sunshine. Plus, vitamin D3 is a natural flu fighter. [Editor's Note: Made Good snacks includes a whole serving of vegetables in their products which is amazing for those kids that don't eat their veggies. As an added bonus, there is 20% of your allotment of Vitamin D from shiitake mushrooms in each serving.]
- Zinc: Liquid zinc boosts white blood cell production to kill off viruses.
- Probiotics: Since most of the body's immune cells are in the gut, you want to keep it replenished with the good guys! [Editor's Note: Bio-K+ is a great liquid probiotic that has a kid specific offering in a yummy strawberry flavor. We love it because it is backed by research.]
- Omega-3s: These are boost mental focus, and boost gut and immune health. [Editor's Note: Barlean's makes a delicious Omega Swirl product just for kids that will help them focus in school while boosting their immune health.]
- Magnesium: This helps muscle recovery, digestive regularity, and promotes a good night's sleep. [Editor's Note: For a simple powder you can add to water, try Natural Vitality's CALM Specifics Kids.]
- Barley Grass Juice powder: This contains many amino acids, and is chock-full of vitamins and minerals for overall wellness.
3. Sweeten their lunch boxes without sugar. Refined sugar has a negative impact on the immune system. So instead of processed chips which may be loaded with inflammatory oils and hidden sugars, pack thinly sliced cucumbers with a side of hummus. Toss in fresh fruit slices to quell a sweet tooth.
4. Tempt them with nutritious afternoon snacks. Red apples are in season! They help clean up the liver as well as support the immune system. Serve them sliced with nut butter or sprinkled with cinnamon. Kids also love pears dipped in chocolate hummus, and Siete Foods tortilla chips (made with avocado oil and cassava flour) served with guacamole. Quench their thirst with smoothies or coconut water instead of sugary, caffeinated sports drinks.
5. Take advantage of opportunities to serve healthy meals at home. I know all about a packed schedule once school starts. But when meals are prepared in your own kitchen, you have more control over what goes into them. When the weather turns cold, I get excited because it's bone broth season. Genuine, homemade bone broth helps us recover from colds and it's my go-to afternoon pick-me-up. Pomegranates are also in season right now and they're antioxidant bombs! Carrots and sweet potatoes support respiratory health, and they are freshest in the fall. And be sure to watch for seasonal heirloom tomatoes. They not only taste great in tomato sauces and gazpacho, but I pack them like candy into lunch boxes. My Nutrition School for Families online program has many more ideas and resources for transitioning from fast-food to home-cooked meals.
Making positive changes is a process. It takes time. Make it your goal to adopt one of these back-to-school immune system tips each month. Start now and by mid-winter, you may notice fewer sniffles and coughs around the family dinner table.
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