Does what your kids eat have anything to do with whether or not they come down with a cold or the flu? It may seem to you that one infection follows another, no matter what they eat, especially during cold and flu season.
While it may not be a fail-safe way to prevent colds and flu, offering your children a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help. So can fortified cereals and juices. These foods are all excellent sources of vitamins and minerals that can help strengthen your child's overall well-being and enhance their ability to fight off viruses like cold and flu.
While all vitamins and minerals are important, here are four that should be on your child's menu every day during cold and flu season:
- Vitamin C, found in strawberries, oranges, potatoes, bell peppers, and raw leafy vegetables
- Vitamin E, found in milk, sunflower, corn and soybean oils, and avocados
- Beta carotene, found in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, cantaloupe and winter squash
- Zinc, found in meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, dairy products, dry beans, nuts and grains
If your child does come down with a cold or flu, be sure to offer plenty of extra fluids and light, easy-to-digest foods such as clear soups, toast, and crackers. You may have heard the old adage, "starve a cold and feed a fever." In fact, neither is true. Increase fluids -- water, juice, and soup -- and feed your child enough to satisfy his appetite. If a sore throat is making swallowing difficult, treat him to easy-to-swallow foods such as applesauce, pudding, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, yogurt, and frozen juice popsicles.
Don't force your child to eat when she is recovering from cold or flu. Children who have been sick or had a fever often don't want to eat much -- even as they begin to feel better. If you press your child to eat too much too soon, you may dampen her appetite.
Your child has not forgotten how to eat. Recovering from cold or flu, her body is warning her that she's not ready to go back to her old habits. So give it a few days. Most children's appetites come back with a bang. They'll eat everything in sight for days or even weeks following cold or flu. If your child is over three, she may even demand the specific foods her body craves. Peanut butter and jelly, anyone?