Feeding your child’s immunity

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4 tips to balance taste, convenience and health, by child nutrition specialist Verena Klanner

Nutrition affects your child in a variety of ways including IQ, learning, concentration, sleep, behavior and, of course, their immunity. I’m often asked by parents how to feed their children healthy foods, particularly if they are fussy eaters. We realise that parents are always in a never-ending battle between taste, convenience and health. Therefore, we have put together these four tips as an easy-to-remember ‘battle card’.

Life as a rainbow

Encourage little ones to enjoy the colours of the rainbow when it comes to fruit and vegetables. All fruit and vegetables offer different vitamins and minerals, so it is important that your child gets a good variety, in particular Vitamin C and carotenoids which are responsible for the red, yellow and orange hues in many fruit and veg. We know these phytonutrients have immune boosting qualities that help the body create more white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infections.

Whether they’re fresh, frozen, tinned or dried, aim to serve your child five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – try adding them into their main meals, puddings, snacks or smoothies.

Introduce new foods

Making sure your child gets the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day might seem a mammoth task, especially if your child is a fussy eater, but it’s easier than you think. Children eat with all five senses engaged and are more sensitive to smell, taste, texture and even to shape than we might think.

Food cut into shapes generates more of a positive response from kids compared to how we adults tend to consume our food. Introduce new foods, trying various shapes, smells and formats to test what works. Make a smoothie with banana and avocado, or freeze yogurt popsicles. Even adding berries to yogurt with organic honey can work wonders in balancing taste and health.

Kids are sweet enough

The gut is made up of trillions of good bacteria that help digest food, produce vitamins and protect it from germs and disease. When kids consume too much refined sugar, it can alter the delicate balance between the good and bad bacteria, weakening their immune system.

Even fruit juice is a culprit here, as most juices contain a high amount of refined sugars. It’s scary to think that a typical carton of fruit juice packs a whopping 22 grams of sugar – that’s a 7-10 year old’s entire recommended sugar allowance for the day! Kids are sweet enough and although I don’t believe in cutting out sugar entirely, moderation is key.

Superheroes need rocket fuel

Children are incredibly lucky to view themselves and the world around them through the eyes of their imagination, sometimes as superheroes, or as characters they want to grow up to be. My advice to parents is to play on that and serve your little superhero the ‘rocketfuel’ they need.

For instance, snacks such as carrot crackers contain real carrots! Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body which in turn promotes good vision, and is important for growth, development, and immune function. So, play the superhero game and tell your child that carrots will give them the superhero power they need to see into the future.

Verena Klanner is a registered nutritionist, specialising in paediatric nutrition. She believes that nutrition is fundamental to powering healthy, happy, growing humans. She also believes it’s essential to start healthy habits early on.

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