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When the temperatures drop and the daylight hours are shorter, energy levels can take a big dip, right along with mood. Children might be less active in the cold, winter months, making it extra important to focus on adequate nutrition at this time of year, not only to restore vitality but to ward off colds and flu as well.
Children and winter: It’s pretty much a tissue company’s dream. The snotfest is accompanied by a relentless hacking cough that’s more of a constant companion to your children from May to September than their invisible friend.
Worse still you’re more than likely to end up being struck down with the dreaded lurgy yourself; and if you do manage to remain unscathed, the sleepless nights tending to your sick kids are enough to do you in anyway! HYGIENEOn a general health level, teach your child from an early age the importance of regular hand washing – it’s the most effective way to minimise cold and flu bugs. Establish hand washing at set times – after the toilet, before meals and snacks, after coming home from school, the playground or a friend’s house. Teach your child to avoid touching their eyes or nose (a challenge, granted!) and teach them to use a tissue when they cough or sneeze, or to sneeze into the crook of their arm.
NUTRITION Plenty of sleep, fresh air and exercise will help to keep the immune system thriving, but an essential way to keep children healthy from the inside out is by giving them a healthy diet. Follow these great tips for great disease-fighting winter nutrition. These foods will help your children stay healthy and happy this winter. SalmonThe tryptophan in salmon and other animal proteins is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation. Salmon is also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown in some studies to help manage depression. Some children will eat salmon broiled or grilled — try using a marinade or sauce they love on other foods — or cut the fish into small pieces and make kebabs with veggies. NaartjiesNaartjies are an adorable winter citrus packed with vitamin C and fibre. They also contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium for strong bones and good muscle function. Children love that they're usually easy to peel and fun to eat, making them perfect for school lunchboxes or snacks. You can also toss the sections into salads to make greens more appealing. Winter squashWinter squash is rich in vitamin A and carotenoids, which have been shown to benefit heart health and immunity while promoting healthy skin. They're also a good source of fibre, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable. Most winter squash varieties are naturally sweet, and what child doesn't like sweet? Try roasting butternut and tossing with cinnamon and maple syrup. You can also mix pumpkin with your child's favourite pasta sauce.
Sweet potatoesAnother great source of fibre, sweet potatoes are also packed with vitamin A and potassium. Their mellow, sweet taste works in all kinds of recipes. Slice into thin ‘coins’ and toss with canola or olive oil before roasting. Sweet potato purée can also be used in foods like macaroni cheese, oatmeal and brownies. Use baked sweet potatoes as an alternative to french fries. CauliflowerThis member of the cruciferous veggie family has been noted for its high phytochemical content and potential to help prevent cancer and inflammation. Cauliflower is delicious on its own but easily blends with other flavours. It's rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as many B-vitamins. But that's not all – cauliflower provides a small amount of protein (1.1 g per serving), plus potassium, magnesium and manganese — important for growth and development — while the fibre promotes stable energy levels and good digestion. Cauliflower is delicious roasted, but if your child is averse to eating veggies try making cauliflower ‘rice’ in a food processor and adding it to stir-fries.
Soups Flu-fighting antioxidants such as beta-carotene (found in carrots) and lycopene (in tomatoes and red peppers) increase with cooking, which makes soups a great option. Soups are a great way to include healthy hidden veggies your children might not normally eat, and you can add extra immune-boosting ingredients like garlic and ginger to the mix. Serve soups with croutons, crostini or toasted soldiers and they’ll literally be lapping it up. If you’re not adding extra veggies to favourite standbys like spaghetti bolognese, you’re missing a golden opportunity. I make mine with onions, tomatoes, garlic, capsicum, carrots, zucchini and mushrooms. Add the same to kid-favourite meals like chilli con carne, cottage pie and hearty winter stews and casseroles – the flavour of the veggies is absorbed into the meal. While we get plenty of vitamin D via sunlight in the summer, it’s important that we supplement our vitamin D intake during the chillier months with their shorter days. Vitamin D is found in oily fish, dairy products and eggs, so give your children a yummy omelette filled with healthy veggies. Make some healthy home-made fish fingers using salmon or make a luscious fish pie with boiled eggs in it for a mega D hit.
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