NUTRIENTS ESSENTIAL FOR IMMUNITY
The following nutrients are considered essential for immunocompetence (a normal response to antigens). I’ve listed out a few food sources for these nutrients (because we all know kids don’t eat everything we serve them). For peace of mind, some of these nutrients are now added to common foods such as breads and cereals, BUT whole food sources are still our preference when you can.
I’ve added in the RDI for those interested but please don’t let the numbers scare or overwhelm you! Basically, if your little one is eating a variety of foods including some of the ones listed below it’s unlikely they are deficient. If you’re unsure, chat to your health care provider.
Vitamin A (RDI: 1-3y 300 µg/day, 4-8 400 µg/day)
- Orange and yellow skinned fruit/veg (sweet potato, carrots etc)
Real life way to add vitamin A: Baked sweet potato chips with dinner; steamed carrot with dinner or as a snack; scrambled egg.
Vitamin C (RDI: 1-8y 35mg/day)
Real life way to add vitamin C: Fruit and vegetable snack between meals.
Vitamin D (RDI: 5.0 µg/day)
- Sun exposure
- fatty fish like salmon
- egg yolk
Real life way to add vitamin D: milk fortified with vitamin D; a short sanity walk or outdoor play in morning or evening sun with arms exposed; Baked salmon with veggies and pasta.
Vitamin E (RDI: 1-3y 5 mg/day, 4-8y 6 mg/day)
- leafy greens
Real life way to add vitamin e: ABC (almond, brazil nut and cashew nut) spread on toast; Spinach in smoothie
B2 (riboflavin) (RDI: 1-3y 0.5 mg/day, 4-8y 0.6 mg/day)
- Dark chicken meat (thighs etc)
Real life way to add B2: chicken thigh casserole; almond butter on toast.
B6 (pyridoxine) (RDI: 1-3y 0.5 mg/day, 4-8y 0.6 mg/day)
Real life way to add B6: zucchini oats; chicken bolognese served with wholemeal pasta.
B12 (RDI: 1-3y 0.9 µg/day, 4-8y 1.2 µg/day)
- meat/animal products
- supplement if plant based
Available via animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs or supplement.
Folic acid (as folate RDI: 1-3y 150 µg/day, 4-8y 200 µg/day)
- leafy greens
- bread (fortified)
Real life way to add folate: Scrambled egg with chopped asparagus; 1-2 slices enriched bread, toasted with avocado.
Iron (RDI: 1-3y 9 mg/day, 4-8y 10mg/day)
- fortified cereals
Real life way to add iron: Adding generous amount of chopped spinach to pasta sauce and blending; lentil and turkey bolognese; pumpkin seed bliss balls; steamed broccoli with dinner.
Selenium (RDI: 1-3y 25 µg/day, 4-8y 30 µg/day)
- Brazil nuts (in a butter/ground for kids)
Real life way to add selenium: ABC spread on a piece of toast
Zinc (RDI: 1-3y 3 mg/day, 4-8y 4 mg/day)
Real life way to add zinc: A piece of toast with ABC spread and sprinkled with hemp seeds; Lentil and beef Bolognese
If you’re worried your little one might be lacking, a nutritional review is a great idea alongside our Meal Time Success programs (where we use evidence based practical tools to encourage kids from 6 months to 6+ years to eat a variety of foods). We encourage you to always be guided by your health care provider regarding supplements as some vitamins and minerals are toxic in high doses (or possibly a waste of money if your child is not deficient).
In terms of viruses: nutrition, adequate sleep, avoiding prolonged stress and hygiene are important. There is also some evidence to suggest zinc and vitamin C may reduce the severity and longevity of cold symptoms (something we personally supplement if our kids are unwell).
We love adding in immune-boosting smoothies at this time of the year (here’s our fav recipe):
Serves 2-3 kids or one adult, one child.
- 1 cup milk of choice (we use fortified oat, almond or rice milk)
- 1 handful baby spinach
- 1-2 handfuls berries
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp ABC spread (almond, brazil and cashew spread)
- we also add powered probiotics
Blend until smooth and creamy. Can also be served over cereal or frozen into ice blocks.
I know this is a big one but I hope it’s helpful and offers some peace of mind.
Krissy and the HNK Team.