Children are the biggest culprits when it comes to high consumption of sugar sweetened beverages. Picture: Supplied
Children are the biggest culprits when it comes to high consumption of sugar sweetened beverages. Picture: Supplied

Dietitian shares inexpensive ways to boost your child’s immune system

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Jul 27, 2021

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Nutrition is essential to childhood development. Poor nutrition results in poor health, increased prevalence of disease, low cognitive development, delayed milestones and low educational attainment.

With winter and the pandemic, some children may need help with nutrition to help them fight disease.

Laager Tea4Kidz brand manager, Wandile Ngubane says: “The Delta variant driving the 3rd wave is the most transmissible Coronavirus variant to date. And while vaccinations against the virus are still unavailable to children, we need to ensure their immunity is supported to protect them as much as possible.”

This time of year, there are a few culprits often behind children's sniffling symptoms that parents can try and prevent with nutrition.

Laager Tea4Kidz partner and specialist dietitian, Mbali Mapholi at Urbandietitian says: “The pandemic has caused many people to be unemployed, making food shopping an additional financial challenge. There is also an added pressure that comes with meeting nutritional needs for children to help support their immune systems during the winter season, and even more so with Covid-19 infections on the rise. It boils down to a varied diet of foods that offer nutrients to support your child’s immunity, gut health and mental health.”

Mapholi is offering affordable and sustainable nutritional tips to keep children healthy this winter and during the pandemic.

Choose a healthy beverage

Children are the biggest culprits when it comes to high consumption of sugar sweetened beverages. These drinks are poor in the essential nutrients needed in winter, which is when we lose a great deal of water due to respiratory fluid loss through breathing. Our bodies also work harder under the weight of extra clothing, and sweat evaporates quickly in cold, dry air. Keep this in mind for children, as children may not report thirst, but they may be easily dehydrated in winter. Fluids can be provided in the form of:

· Rooibos tea: This is a caffeine-free, sugar-free healthy drink that helps support good health. Rooibos also has a calming effect, making it the perfect drink during periods of anxiety.

· Milk: Either cow’s milk or nutrient-fortified, unsweetened plant-based milks are also packed with nutrients.

· Water: This is a good beverage for hydration, but it is important to remember it does not contain nutrients.

· Fruit juice: These are full of nutrients but need to be consumed in moderation, as they are concentrated with natural sugar which can be a problem.

Keep up fruit and vegetable intake

Vegetables and fruit, particularly seasonal, are packed with a variety of nutrients which offer what your child’s body needs. Purchasing, storing, and cooking fresh vegetables can be challenging in a lockdown, but wherever possible, it is important to ensure children are getting plenty of fruit and vegetables in their diet. Some options to consider are:

· Smoothies and home-made iced Laager Tea4Kidz Rooibos teas are a fun way to add more vegetables and fruits into a child’s diet.

· Frozen fruits and vegetables are a nutritious and affordable option which can be stored for longer.

· Use vegetables to cook large batches of soups, stews or other dishes that last longer. These can be frozen and then quickly reheated.

· Canned vegetables, such as tomatoes, tend to contain lower quantities of vitamins, but they are a great fall-back option when fresh produce or frozen vegetables are hard to come by.

Embrace whole grains

Legumes and whole grains are packed with essential nutrients for good health, including dietary fibre which is great for good gut health.

· Canned beans and chickpeas provide an abundance of nutrients, and can be stored for months or even years.

· Canned oily fish such as sardines, pilchards and salmon are rich in protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Use them in sandwiches, salads, or pasta dishes, or cooked as part of a warm meal for children. Omega-3 fats are also known to trigger the production of serotonin which helps ease anxiety.

· Plant sources of omega 3, such as flax seeds, can be added to smoothies, breads or even thrown into casseroles and other side dishes.

· Dried goods like beans, pulses, and grains - lentils, split peas, rice, and sorghum - are also nutritious, long-lasting options that are tasty, affordable, and filling. Sorghum cooked with milk or water is an excellent breakfast option with fresh fruit on the side. You can also blend up chickpeas with oil to make hummus for a dip or spread on bread.

Build up a stock of healthy snacks

Children often get hungry between meals, but try to avoid sweets or salty snacks. Rather choose nuts, cheese, yoghurt (preferably unsweetened), chopped or dried fruit, boiled eggs, or other locally-available healthy options. Remember a snack is a small nutritious meal that one can have between main meals, while a treat is a non-nutritious fun food that should only be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Limit highly-processed foods

While using fresh produce may not always be possible, try to limit the amount of highly-processed foods. Ready-to-eat meals, packaged snacks and desserts are often high in saturated fat, sugars and salt. These foods consumed in high quantities may negatively impact a child’s gut health, which in turn may affect their mental health. If you do purchase processed foods, check the label and try to choose healthier options.

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