Children’s health is always a top priority for parents, and never more so than during a pandemic like Covid-19. Unfortunately, there is no specific medicine or treatment to cure this virus, yet. And, while bacteria can be killed by antibiotics, viruses have to be fought by the body’s immunity. “In order to build and strengthen children’s immunity, it is important that parents ensure that their child follows a healthy diet and increase their intake of fruits and vegetable in addition to protein sources,” says Dr Dana Al Hamwi, Clinical Dietician, India Gate, KRBL Ltd. “This will not only help prevent them from catching the virus but, in case they are infected, it will also help their body fight the virus and recover faster. Their small bodies require essential nutrients and antioxidants to boost their immunity and therefore a healthy immune-boosting diet is crucial.”

Here, Dr Dana Al Hamwi, Clinical Dietician, India Gate, KRBL Ltd shares dietary tips that parents can follow to strengthen and build their child’s immunity.

1. Give your little one a tablespoon of olive oil every morning. Olive oil is very useful in providing the body with healthy Omega 9, essential fatty acids as well as Vitamin E to boost body immunity, and there are multiple studies that have found that the polyphrenols in olive oil can combat chronic inflammatory stress. While having it in its raw form may be difficult for children you can add it to their breakfast. Try giving them an egg fried in olive oil or add it to their pancake mix or baked beans.

2. Make yogurt or preferably kefir a part of your child’s diet. The probiotics in yogurt and kefir will enhance their digestive system and body immunity. Add a teaspoon of Manuka honey and a little bit of cinnamon and turmeric for more benefits.

3. Along with fresh fruits and vegetables it is essential to add seeds to your child’s meal. A glass of warm water along with soaked chia seeds is ideal in the morning. These tiny black seeds are excellent for your child as they are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fibre. Besides boosting body immunity the essential fats in chia seeds help with brain development, eyesight and concentration. You can add chia seeds to their milk or even make them a delicious chia pudding for breakfast. Kids as young as one year can be given chia seeds soaked in water with their meals, but it is best to consult your pediatrician before you start.

4. Similarly, flax seed is another essential inclusion that should be made to your child’s diet. In order to get the required nutrition, your child needs to consume a variety of food each day. But given that the eating habits of kids can be quite tricky, this is usually a tough feat, leading them to fall short of many nutritional element that might be vital to them. Flaxseeds can help keep their nutrition balance appropriate. You can include flax seeds in your little one’s diet as soon as they are ready to start digesting solids. Add it to their porridge or garnish their purees them. If your child is teething then you can also add them to your homemade biscuits.

5. Include food rich in zinc to your child’s diet as zinc helps boost body immunity and also produces antibodies to fight against viruses. Milk, beans and whole grains such as sprouted brown rice are good sources of zinc.

6. Snack on fruits high in Vitamin C as this is extremely essential especially when your child’s body is coping with a viral attack. Fruits like oranges, lemon, strawberries and green leafy veggies are a good source of Vitamin C. I also recommend 3 dates every day and a handful of nuts. You can also prepare healthy snack bars by mixing dates with peanut butter and chia seeds or making snack balls by mixing oats with quinoa, and chocolate.

7. Vegetable broth soup with veggies such as broccoli, celery, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, onion and garlic helps improve the body defenses against viral infections. Serve it with basmati rice, legumes or sprouted brown rice. Sprouted Brown Rice has a high nutrition quotient value, is easy to cook and sweeter in taste. It also has phytochemicals (Ferulic acid, Phytic acids and Inositols) present in increased due to controlled germination process. Make sure to add turmeric to all dishes while cooking as it has anti-inflammatory properties.

8. Ensure you maintain good protein levels in your child. Include quinoa to your child’s diet, especially if they are vegetarians or vegans. Quinoa is one of the best sources of plant protein, which is extremely essential to build their immunity. It is also a great gluten free substitute for wheat. Have it as a main meal or add it to desserts.  

9. Encourage your child to exercise regularly as it boosts immunity and strengthens the body. A good idea would be to plan for some indoor fun family activities which includes movement and exercise. Also ensure your child get adequate sleep as lack of sleep makes the body more susceptible to illnesses.

10. For infants, breastfeeding is very important to boost your baby’s body immunity against viral infections, hence it is advisable to exclusively breastfeed for at least six months.

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