This article appeared for Paleo on the Go

We’re in the middle of cold and flu season and most of us would be willing to do anything to boost our immune system, and even more to boost those of our kids. If you’ve kids then you might feel that you live in a Petri dish – but you or your kids simply cannot get sick just by being in contact with someone who is (although that certainly doesn’t help). Only a sick body can get sick, so if you keep your child boosted and healthy they will have a much greater chance of dealing with the viruses and bacteria that they come in contact with. And prevention would be awesome but that was months ago! So how do we build immune function in our children and create the highest resistance to infection possible mid winter? Supplements? Foods?

 HOW TO BOOST YOUR KIDS IMMUNITY EVEN MID WINTER

We can boost our kids immunity even mid winter by activating their immune systems and encouraging resistance through a healthy diet, adequate sleep, maintaining exercise even in the winter, and using nutritional supplements. Simple right? But a lot of this advice is belly up to what we’ve been lead to believe!
Before we get started though, let’s go back to the first sentence: we’re in the middle of cold and flu season? Flu is not a season. It’s an inability to adapt due to increased sugar intake and stress combined with decreased sun exposure and water intake. And that’s exactly the steps we need to activate our kids immune systems and encourage resistance.
Sugar and stress: it’s all a mess
You could go as far as detoxing your little sugar monsters but really decreasing our kids’ sugar intake and stress can be as simple as transitioning them to a whole food diet. Note transitioning: not expecting your kids to eat like angels all the time but likewise not giving into eating sugary processed refined things most of the time either. Feeding kids as we currently do just isn’t good enough, in fact it’s stressful on their bodies.
Nutrient density in whole foods is made for winter! Think about the foods you feel like in winter: curries (think turmeric), casseroles (think slow cooked meats and sneaky veggies), soups (bone broths and more sneaky veggies) and ‘heavier’ breakfasts like pancakes. There’s a reason: your body knows what it needs. But just how much so in winter, what exactly is enough to boost immunity?
Veggies
– In winter, we should be focused on getting our kids to eat BUTTER with a side of broccoli instead of the other way around! Not only will this increase vitamin/mineral absorption from the veggies they actually do eat, it will provide the kind of fat soluble vitamins that help develop beautiful straight teeth, strong bodies and good dispositions.
– Butter and free range eggs (use organic sources) will help maintain necessary levels of vitamin A particularly. The beta-carotene form of vitamin A from vegetable sources is not absorbed as well as retinoid forms from animal sources and a supplement of beta-carotene will need at least 10 times the dose of beta-carotene compared to a retinoid vitamin A supplement (e.g. from fish oil). Combine the two and cook some colorful root veggies in duck lard. They’re great as is with a roast or steak, in salads, or blend with eggs and cacao for chocolate breakfast pancakes (maybe ease up on the garlic in the night before cooking if that’s your plan)
Meat
– Choosing grass fed pastured mess are the best for your child. And slow cooking not only saves you time but protects these precious proteins from high heat. try adding turmeric to curries for added anti inflammatory powers this winter alongside those preserved amino acids from slow cooked meats you’ve also had the time to sit down and relax or play with your kids instead of cooking that night!
Fruit
– Even tho it’s winter encourage kids to eat lots of fruits in season in winter. In fact they should be given as a child’s only source of sugar where possible and if not try sugar detoxing them this winter. A whole foods diet will provide the best support for maintaining healthy cellular function in kids. But this can be a challenge for many kids who crave foods that are processed and sweet and they sure have opportunities to eat these foods in their daily lives! But young kids will eat what’s offered so remember, processed and sweet can not offered!
Let kids be their own guide
– Sometimes we just don’t feel like a big meal, or a big meal of meat, or veggies for that matter. Let your kids be the guide to what they want – and true they will try and get away with what they can initially but everyone discovers what they want and chooses what they need in the end has happy consequences. This was actual results of a study!
– Kids’ favorite meals in winter can be the best opportunity to increase nutrient density for immune boosting. Try a chicken pot pie, paleo tarts, or plantain pancakes maybe with a big dollop of grass fed butter, maple syrup and cinnamon, the latter being a natural insulin moderator, which alongside the healthy fats in the butter, will slow down any sugar spike from that little bit of maple syrup.

VITAMIN D: FOOD OR SUN EXPOSURE  

Children need vitamin D for bone growth and development. So do babies developing in the womb. This is because vitamin D helps us absorb calcium. And while kids won’t get enough vitamin D from food alone, food with lots of vitamin D can add to the vitamin D your child gets from sunshine.
Vitamin D foods, not vitamin D added foods

Foods naturally containing vitamin D include fresh fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines), mushrooms, liver and egg yolks. However, foods that have vitamin D added to them are something to be avoided! These include margarine, some low-fat milk and dairy products. Even infant formula contains added vitamin D.

Be sun smart

Spending too long in the sun isn’t good for your skin, so it’s important to use sun protection. During summer, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, make sure your child stays safe in the sun with sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, clothing that keeps the sun off and access to plenty of shade.

In winter, none of us really get enough sunshine so try and get some on your face at least once a day. Consider vitamin D3 supplementation too, particularly in lower sunlight areas like Northern America.

Water intake: even more so in winter 
In summer we’re hot, we sweat, we get thirsty. Generally we drink to replace fluids in summer, even kids. But breathing in cold air in winter needs warming before being used in our lungs, which has a water cost that doesn’t even figure in the summer equation. Summer or winter (or spring or fall for that matter!) adults and kids should make sure they get enough water for normal body function.
– Get 1/2 your body weight in water a day with a pinch of salt in each glass
– Try making your own bone broth or purchase instead of coffee. It’s no wonder our body craves warm beverages and soups in winter and the nutrients of this giving drink will love you back.
– Limit coffee and tea, soda and juices. Water is water and none of these even come close to hydrating you, in fact they cost you in water with the sugars they contain which require insulin transport in your blood, done so in water!
– With babies and kids look at the amount of wet diapers or pee times. The yellower pee, the more dehydrated your little ones so get them to drink up
Adequate sleep (the forgotten stress even in kids)
Maintaining exercise even in the winter, and using nutritional supplements – or therapeutic levels of foods containing natural supplements – we know our bodies will over use in winter might seem obvious pointers for immune boosting throughout winter. But sleep or lack thereof can be just as important a stress removal. So just how do we help kids realize there’s times for running around like a mad person and other times for slowing down (apart from empathy and our own actions of course!).
– Start scheduling a regular wake-up time in school times. Everyone should wind down at night – maybe reading or chatting near bed with lights dimmed which is calming and sets the mind for sleep. Turn off electronic screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime. Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks, particularly in the second half of the day. Oh and just because I need it myself I’ll say it again, lead by example and you’ll only all benefit!

One final word: don’t worry if your kids get sick, only if they’re sick all the time. In fact be more concerned if they don’t get sick from time to time, but that’s a whole other article. This winter just remember, all stress summates: sugar, stress itself, lack of sleep, lack of water and sunlight to name a few. But these are also the areas we can all work on in winter to help boost our kids immunity. Nutrition is the key to good health. Most of the time we reach for vitamins and supplements in winter dreading what is to come, but research has particularly queried their absorption in kids. Nutrient dense whole foods, however, are something you can choose to immune boost your kids this ‘season’. Oh and of course a paleo meal service can provide your immune boosting food, ready made so you can relax and wind down to hibernate this winter like all the other animals in the animal kingdom.