Shop these tasty, junk food alternatives that will help keep your kids healthy.
As your kids settle into the new school year, Covid-19 isn't the only consideration when it comes to viruses. Flu and cold seasons are right around the corner, plus being in more confined spaces can introduce other viruses, germs, and bacteria. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, when kids are close to each other, there is an increased risk of them spreading respiratory illnesses like the flu to each other.
Since they can't completely avoid getting sick, you can help your kids cut their chances of getting ill by having them eat nourishing foods that can help to boost their immunity. However, while you want to feed your kids healthy foods, the word " healthy" can mean different things depending on whom you ask, so it's best to think of food based on its nutritional value.
"I like to focus on the nutritional benefits that certain foods provide—some foods are more nutrient-dense than others, which means that we need to make sure that we include a variety of foods in our daily diet regimen to help boost our immune system," says Andrea Mathis, MA, RDN, LD, owner of Beautiful Eats & Things, and Little Eats & Things and author of The Complete Book of Smoothies.
This isn't just for the big meals for the day, such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner; this also holds true for snack time. "A satisfying, immune-supporting snack typically consists of a good source of protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, iron, and zinc," she says.
These naturally occur in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. "When offering snacks, be mindful of portion sizes and how many times those snacks are offered as snacking all day long can result in an excessive caloric intake and can cause kids to have a hard time figuring out when they're hungry or full," she says.
However, introducing new foods can be challenging; not all kids will warm up to the idea of eating green leafy veggies or even a crunchy apple. "Try pairing a new food with one of their favorite foods, which makes it less intimidating and a little bit more appealing," says Mathis.
"You can also try letting your kids help prepare their meals and snacks while incorporating a new food," she says. This can help your child feel more in control of what they are eating, which can make them more open to trying something new.
Here are Mathis' suggestions for snacks that can help to boost your child's immunity. While these aren’t groundbreaking, they are accessible and require minimal cooking, so you can stock up your pantry and easily integrate them into your everyday meals:
Hummus and veggies
Ithaca Hummus Squeeze Beet, Red Pepper, and Plain Hummus $3 for 3oz., ithacahummus.com
Hummus is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B-6, and healthy fats that you can just pair with veggies or toasted pita bread. These flavorful squeezable packs are perfect for on-the-go meals. Whether you're leaving soccer practice or adding it to their lunch box, they are easy to pack so you don't have to settle for boring, processed alternatives.
Peanut Butter and whole grain crackers
Justin’s Classic $6 and Honey Peanut Butter spread $7, amazon.com
Peanut butter is rich in vitamin E, which helps the body fight infection and tastes good with everything. Spread it on apple slices for a tart and crunchy treat. If you’re looking for a more textured brand, try Justin’s. It is made with dry roasted peanuts and a one-of-a-kind grind that you and your kiddos will love.
Guacamole and baked chips
Pitaya Foods Avocado Bite-Sized Pieces $8, pitayafoods.com
Avocados contain a great source of healthy fats, vitamin E, and folate, which help to support the immune system. If you’re sick of mushy or rock hard inedible avocados, Pitaya Foods offers frozen Organic Hass Avocado pieces that are perfectly ripe every time, making spoilage and food waste a thing of the past! You’ll love the convenience of customizable portions of ripe avocado for your morning smoothies, toast, guacamole, and so much more!
Almonds and Mixed Berries
Sweet Diane’s Blueberry Almond Granola $11, sweetdianes.com
Almonds contain a great source of protein and vitamin E, which helps boost the immune system. This granola is a mix of almonds and dried fruit and seeds for a kick of fiber. Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, are rich in antioxidants which have been shown to strengthen the immune system. Top off a bowl of cereal or oatmeal with them for a naturally occurring sweet taste.