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10 Kid-friendly foods to prevent colds and flu

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Eat well and stay healthy

Give your kids their best chance of avoiding colds and the flu this season by feeding them foods that will help them ward off illness. Here are 10 kid-friendly ideas for eating your way to a healthy winter.

Ants on a log

Sniffle, cough, hack ... it's that time of year: cold and flu season. Cue the scary music.

The good news? With the right tools (as in the right nutrients from good foods), your kid's body can fight back against the cold and flu before the runny nose starts. "I truly believe that mantra that food is medicine," says Registered Dietitian Jennifer Haas of the Nova Medical & Urgent Care Center, Inc. in Ashburn, Virginia. Haas says that food provides fuel and energy for the body, first and foremost, and nutrients from food can also boost body functions -- like the immune system.

What should you and your kids eat to try to avoid the cold and flu?

Fruits

We've all heard that if you want to ward off an oncoming sickness, then you should get more Vitamin C. STAT! Well, Haas says that while Vitamin C may not be the wonder vitamin, it does help your body adsorb important nutrients like iron. "It's not a magic nutrient ... (but) Vitamin C is essential for a lot of things in cell support and in membrane. It can help with absorption," says Haas.
Kid-friendly food ideas:

  • Fruit kabobs with creamy dip - Skewer Vitamin C-rich foods like papaya, strawberries, and cantaloupe. Serve it with a creamy dip, made with equal parts cream cheese and marshmallow fluff.
  • Chocolate dipped orange segments - Melt a little dark chocolate in a double boiler. Dip a portion of each orange segment in the chocolate and let cool on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet until the chocolate is firm.

Veggies

Telling your kids to eat their veggies isn't just about making them have a well-balanced diet. Those veggies are an important part of a healthy body -- and a strong immune system. Rich in vitamins, like Vitamin A (which Haas says is one of the important ones), vegetables really do a body good.
So, what's so good about Vitamin A? According to World's Healthiest Foods, Vitamin A stimulates the immune system, even enhancing the performance of white blood cells.
Kid-friendly food ideas:

  • Ants on a log - Haas suggests this option as a good, kid-friendly food. What is it? "Celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins," says Haas.
  • Dippin' veggies - Break out a little creamy dressing like ranch or blue cheese, and serve it with sliced veggies like carrots, red bell peppers and cucumbers.

Lean proteins

When you are building a meal, it's natural to build it around proteins ... and when it comes to fighting off the cold and flu, lean proteins are paramount. "The amino acids that are found in protein make up the body's cells - including those that power the immune system. Not eating enough lean protein results in fewer white blood cells to combat antigens," says Haas.

So, what are lean proteins? Some examples include pork loin, extra lean ground beef and boneless, skinless chicken breasts. For more ideas, check out MyPyramid.
Kid-friendly food ideas:

  • Turkey burgers - Trade your beef for extra-lean ground turkey and make some delicious turkey burgers for dinner. Be sure to load it up with tomato and lettuce for some extra nutrients.
  • Ham and cheese roll ups - Forget the bread! Kids love simple rollups of meat and cheese. Layer a slice of luncheon meat on top of a slice of Swiss and roll into a tube. Want to punch up the flavor? Add a dab of honey mustard before you roll!

Good fats

Not all fats are created equal. While you want to avoid saturated and trans fats, other fats can actually be really good for you - even for preventing cold and flu. "Reducing bad trans fat can boost immune function. Try eating foods with unsaturated fats found in foods like nuts, avocados, and seeds, as well as omega-3 fatty acids found in some types of fish to help your immune system to defend against antigens," says Haas.
Kid-friendly food ideas:

  • Tortilla chips and homemade guacamole - Make the guacamole by mashing a chopped avocado with a little lime juice and salt. If decided, toss in a diced plum tomato or even a little hot pepper -- if the kids like a little spiciness.
  • Trail mix - Haas says that this is a good option, as long as you are careful about portion sizes.

Green tea

Yes, you read that heading right. Green tea is among Haas's recommended eats for a cold and flu-fighting diet. "It's a rich source of a type of antioxidant called catechin which research has found helps fight antigens and viruses that causes colds," says Haas.
Kid-friendly food ideas:

  • Green tea iced tea - You can buy green tea iced tea in many grocery stores. Can't find it? Brew your own at home (be sure to make it double strength!) and chill before serving.
  • Green tea-infused baked goods - Everyone loves desserts. Why not try a green tea infused version? Check out the SheKnows article on Matcha green tea recipes for inspiration.

Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Get tips here on getting your picky eater to like healthy foods.

More tips on keeping kids healthy:

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