I'm A Dietitian. Here Are 6 Tips For Stopping Kids From Getting Sick This Winter

*Adds all of these to shopping basket*
Ekaterina Goncharova via Getty Images

Sickness season is in full swing – and while there’s often no foolproof way to prevent illness full stop, there are definitely things we can be doing to help reduce our kids’ chances of becoming sick a gazillion times a month.

According to a survey conducted by Petits Filous, half of parents (51%) say their biggest worry this time of year is trying to battle work commitments when illness strikes.

Almost one third (30%) said their kids pick up an average of 2.5 illnesses per month during autumn. In all honesty, we’re surprised it’s not more.

With a whole host of bugs doing the rounds at the moment – from Covid-19 and flu to RSV and hand, foot and mouth – dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton has shared her top food picks for parents who want to give their child’s immunity a boost.

1. Taste the rainbow

Fruit and vegetables are rich in vitamins A and C so prioritise that all-important five-a-day. And no, it doesn’t mean buying in all the berries under the sun and bankrupting yourself.

“Remember, all types count towards this goal including dried fruit, frozen or tinned veg, baked beans and one daily glass of 100% fruit juice,” Dr Ruxton added.

2. Vital vitamins

The dietitian wants parents to also focus on fortified foods, such as yoghurts and fromage frais. “Vitamin D deficiency is very common in the UK due to our diets, lifestyle, and weather so it’s estimated that 16% of children in the UK are deficient in vitamin D,” she said.

It’s recommended that all children aged one to four should take a daily vitamin D supplement (10 micrograms of the stuff) throughout the year as it can be hard to make all the vitamin D we need from sunlight and diet alone.

3. Sunny side up

Eggs are a great source of folate and B12; vitamins recognised to support immunity, added Dr Ruxton.

“Try something different to boiled or fried eggs by making a Spanish-type omelette and adding ingredients such as peppers, potatoes and peas,” she suggested.

“Or homemade pancakes with bananas are another great way to include eggs in your child’s diet.”

4. Smart snacking

While it’s all too easy to pass a biscuit or packet of carrot puffs to your child when they’re pining for a snack, the dietitian urges parents to “make snacks count”.

Instead of offering empty calories from sugary sweets and crisps, she advises creating a “picky platter” of peppers, unsalted nuts (crushed or flaked if under the age of five), dried apricots, easy peeler citrus fruits and carrot sticks.

5. Drink, drink, drink

Proper hydration is crucial for overall health. If your child is a little water-averse, Dr Ruxton advises to make ‘spa water’ by infusing it with slices of fruit like citrus, berries or cucumber.

“Kids can experiment with different fruit combinations to create their own flavoured water, helping to increase their water intake,” she added.

6. Vitamin sea

Fishy foods are a “goldmine” for the immunity nutrients zinc and selenium, added the dietitian.

“Try giving them a couple of servings of fish a week e.g., grilled salmon, tinned tuna or even fish fingers,” she advised.

Here’s to a (hopefully) healthier winter.