Immune Boosting Foods for Back to School Health
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As parents you often wonder, what can we do to keep our children healthy? Are there ways to boost the immune system and ward off seasonal colds, flu, or other illnesses? The answer is definitely yes!
Tips for keeping your children healthy include make sure they get enough sleep, keep them active after school and on weekends, help them to manage stress, make sure your children are up to date on available vaccines, and don’t forget the simple things, like hand washing, covering your coughs and sneezes, and staying away from others who are sick.
The number one way to keep your children strong and healthy is through a healthy diet. Certain foods have the exact nutrients that can help your kids’ immune systems be as strong as possible, so when they are exposed to the “inevitable” germs, their systems are ready to fight! Here are some foods and recipes you can use to keep your children healthy this school year.
Almonds are packed with vitamin E and manganese, a strong immune-boosting pair that both enhance natural killer cell activity. Almonds are great by themselves as a snack, or can be used in a lot of fun recipes.
Tropical Almond Bark
- 1 package (10-12 ounces) white baking chips
- 4 teaspoons shortening
- 2 to 4 drops green food coloring, optional
- ½ cup sweetened coconut, toasted
- ½ cup chopped almonds, toasted, toasting optional
- 4 teaspoons grated lime zest
- Line a 9-in. square baking pan with foil; set aside. In a microwave, melt chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Stir in food coloring if desired. Stir in the coconut, almonds and lime zest. Spread into prepared pan. Chill until firm, 10-15 minutes.
- Break into small pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Yields 16 servings.
Berries are full of antioxidants which hep your body fight numerous stress factors. There are lots of berries to choose from, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, and blackberries. Frozen or fresh will both work.
Mixed Berry Oatmeal Bars
- 16 ounces frozen berry medley (or the equivalent of fresh mixed berries, strawberries, blueberries, strawberries)
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ¾ cup oat flour (make this by grinding ¼ cup of oats in a blender until it reaches the consistency of flour)
- ½ cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Juice and zest of ½ a lemon
- Partially defrost the berries at room temperature in a large bowl for about an hour, if using frozen. Meanwhile, make the oat flour if you haven’t already.
Preheat the oven to 375. Line an 8×8 inch square pan with parchment paper in two directions, so all sides are covered. Leave excess parchment paper so you have handles for removing the bars.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, oat flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in the microwave in a small dish. Pour the butter into the oat mixture and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Remove a heaping ½ cup of the oat mixture and reserve it for the top.
- Press the oat mixture into the prepared pan. Press it firmly and evenly to make the crust.
- Next, drain the juice from the berries. Gently stir the cornstarch, lemon zest and lemon juice into the berries. Pour the berry mixture evenly over the crust.
- Sprinkle the reserved ½ cup of oat mixture on top of the berries.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bars are bubbling and the top is golden brown. Let cool completely before slicing into squares and serving.
Yields 9 small bars.
The probiotics in yogurt stimulate your immune system. Be sure to use a low-sugar or no sugar added yogurt, as the sugar might counteract the benefits of the yogurt.
Yogurt Strawberry Banana Smoothies
- 3 cups water
- 3 ripe bananas
- 3 cups frozen strawberries
- 1½ cup Greek yogurt, or no sugar added plain yogurt
- 1½ cups ice
- Place the liquid and the yogurt in the blender. Then top with the fruit. Blend until smooth.
- Add ice if you need it to make it thicker or colder. Blend again. Add more ice if you want your smoothie thicker or add more water if you want your smoothie thinner.
Yields 6 servings.
**Any of your favorite fruits can be used in this recipe
Salmon is super rich in omega 3 fats, these fats are essential for developing brains, and they also reduce inflammation, which increases airflow and protects the lungs from colds and respiratory infections. Some current research suggests that these fatty acids may also boost your immune system by enhancing the function of immune cells.
Kid Friendly Salmon Nuggets
- 2 cans wild caught Alaskan salmon
- 1 cup almond meal/ flour or bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Oil for frying
- If you are using salmon with the skin and bones, mash them together well with a fork in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the oil) and mix it together well.
- Cover a large skillet with a thin layer of oil and heat it over medium heat. To make patties, use about ¼-⅓ cup of the salmon mixture and form it into a patty shape.
- To make nuggets, use about 1 tablespoon. Cook the cakes/nuggets in the oil, about 5 minutes per side for the cakes, a little less for the nuggets, until they are golden brown. Serve and enjoy!
Yields 8 servings.
Research tells us that when a person is low in vitamin D, they are more susceptible to illness.
Eggs are one of the only foods with naturally occurring vitamin D. They also include a number of other immune-booting nutrients, such as B vitamins and selenium.
Hard boiled eggs are always an easy egg fix and kids usually enjoy them. But there are loads of fun kid friendly recipes for getting an egg a day!!
Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse; it has a number of immune system boosters, including vitamins C, A, and E as well as a number of antioxidants.
Broccoli is the most nutritious when eaten raw, cut it up and serve with a great ranch dip.
Get your eggs and broccoli all at once in this very easy recipe!
Quick Broccoli and Red Pepper Egg Bake
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ onion, chopped
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 cup broccoli, chopped
- 6-8 large eggs
- ½ cup crumbled feta; you may substitute any other favorite cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oven-proof skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add onion, and cook until it begins to soften, 4-5 minutes. Add red pepper and broccoli. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Crack eggs into a small bowl and whisk. Pour egg mixture over vegetables. Sprinkle feta on top. Remove from heat.
- Place skillet in the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes (or until done). Slice and enjoy!
Just like Pop Eye, spinach will keep you strong and growing. It is full of many of the vitamins and minerals that boost our immune system, vitamins A, E, C, and K, folate, manganese, selenium, and iron. Spinach is a great bang for your buck!
Cheddar Spinach Muffins
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ½ cup full cream milk
- ½ teaspoon garlic, minced, optional for kids especially
- 1½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1½ cups plain flour
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1½ cup fresh spinach, finely chopped
- If needed, wash the Spinach Leaves and place on a tea towel or paper towel to remove the extra water.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease a muffin pan with oil or butter.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add the sour cream, olive oil, full-cream milk, and minced garlic. Stir until combined. Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese.
- Add the Plain Flour, Baking Powder, Salt, Pepper, Ground Cumin. Whisk until combined.
- Add the finely chopped Spinach and fold in with a spatula.
Optional: Sprinkle some extra shredded cheddar over the muffins for more cheesiness!
- Pour the muffin batter into a Muffin pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Yields 12 muffins.
Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which have shown to increase the number of white blood cells and increase the activity of killer cells. They are also a great source of vitamin C.
Basic Baked Sweet Potatoes
- 4 sweet potatoes, medium size, long and thin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Set aside.
- Wash and thoroughly dry sweet potatoes. Poke several holes in each potato with a fork – I do 8 pokes.
- Drizzle sweet potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle on salt. Gently rub the olive oil and salt onto sweet potato skin making sure to cover the entire potato.
- Place sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until the potatoes easily yield to an inserted fork or knife.
- Let cool for five minutes before splitting open and topping with your favorite toppings.
Serving your children a variety of seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds, to boost their immune systems. Eating a variety of seeds will give you vitamin E, zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids, all contributors to a healthy immune system.
Here is a great recipe for healthy seeds and oats.
Apple Baked Oats with Caramel Sauce
For the Apple Baked Oats
- ⅓ cup almond milk
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ medium banana
- ½ teaspoon maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed
- ¼ cup chopped fresh apple
For the Caramel Sauce, optional
- ½ tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- ½ -1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Then, chop the apple into small, ¼-½ inch squares. Set aside. Combine all the baked oat ingredients, except the apple, into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until cooked through. Let cool.
- In a microwave-safe dish, combine all the caramel ingredients and heat for 10-20 seconds. Whisk until smooth. Add the caramel on top of the oats and enjoy!
Yields 1 serving.
Oats contain beta-glucans, a component of fiber that activates killer cells. These are the cells that fight bacteria, viruses, and other intruders in our bodies.