At this time of year, I’m often asked the best way to keep kids strong and healthy through the winter months. As with most matters of health, there is no one quick fix but there are lots of simple winter health tips and small changes that we can make to help ourselves and our children and give us a welcome winter boost to everyone’s immune systems.
The winter months can be tough and leave us reaching for quick-fix cold and flu medicines or lozenges for our kids. It may mean also keeping your children off school for a few days (or weeks) as they are feeling so ‘icky’. Some of the medicines we might buy on auto-pilot often contain some additional weird and unwanted ingredients. And although they might create some instant relief, this is often short lived and can actually add to the pressure on the immune system.
But the great news is that there is a wealth of wonderful natural remedies that will not only give our little one’s instant relief, but also build their immune systems so that they are stronger and less vulnerable to winter bugs in the future. You will also find many of them are great tasting and very easy to give your kids, so that these might become a regular in your household.
Here are my top tips to super charge your families’ immune systems over the winter months, and to keep those snuffles, coughs and splutters at bay. You can keep them in your larder or fridge and use them as needed.
A great delicious way to help relieve a sore throat is freshly blended pineapple juice. It is super-delicious and easy to make, and much nicer tasting than lozenges or a throat spray. Pineapple juice has natural anti-inflammatory properties and will help soothe and ease the pain, the vitamin C will help keep the immune system in check. If your children do not like plain pineapple then blend with fresh orange or mango.
Packed full of vitamin c, iron, potassium, calcium and antioxidants this mighty “super food” is a powerful addition to adding to your kids’ morning smoothies or orange juice. Baobab tastes slightly like sherbet, so even the fussiest children will love the slightly tangy taste added to a tropical juices or smoothies. We love this Zingy Baobab Carrot Juice recipe for inspiration.
Manuka honey has antimicrobial properties which have significant potential therapeutic benefits. Enjoy the honey raw, as a natural sweetening ingredient in cooking or diluted in warm water or with fresh lemon juice.
Ginger is one of nature’s wonderful “super foods”. Full of nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins it is great at boosting immunity, reducing pain, and is also anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory. Simply squeeze a small piece of peeled fresh ginger (the size of your child’s thumb) together with a couple of apples, then get your kids to down the shot in one. You may want to “chase” the shot with more apple juice, but most kids just love the ginger kick.
Over the winter months add extra garlic to your cooking to benefit from its vast number of immune-boosting properties. Packed full of vitamins and antioxidants it is one cooking ingredient you want to embrace to help ward off coughs, colds and flu. Think garlicky hummus, chicken roasted with garlic, fish dishes or even packed into a tomato sauce. Garlic is the super ingredient that will not only pack that extra punch of flavor, but boost your immune system too.
Kefir is a bubbly, slightly sour yoghurt-type product you can buy or make. It is a great source of beneficial probiotic healthy bacteria’s, healthy yeast strains, protein, amino acids and a wide range of vitamins, including high levels of vitamin B12, calcium and magnesium. It is a fantastic source of nutrients to super charge the immune system, maintain strong bones and optimal gut health.
You can easily make your own kefir at home by culturing kefir grains or using a powdered kefir culture starting kit to create your own kefir yoghurt, water or milk. Simply take one cup of milk (you can use coconut milk, or almond too), and one teaspoon of active kefir grains and combine in a clean jar, cover the jar with cheesecloth or a paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Leave it to ferment for twelve to forty-eight hours at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and then strain through a plastic sieve. Enjoy as a milk drink on its own, or mix with smoothies or use as you would regularly use milk.
Packed full of antioxidants, flavonoids and vitamins, elderberry has been flagged by several research papers as an extremely effective anti-viral berry. We love the Pukka Elderberry Syrup as it also contains ginger and thyme.
Better still, you can find some elderberries in your local hedgerows which are conveniently in season in early winter. This is good old mother nature giving us a helping hand when we need it. It is easy to make, just put your elderberries in water. You need one part berries to three parts water and simply bring to the boil, then simmer for thirty minutes. You then strain the mixture through a sieve, and add natural raw honey to your preferred taste of sweetness. Keep in the fridge for up to a month. Take one to three teaspoons up to four times a day at first sign of a virus coming on, or take one to two teaspoons daily as a healthy tonic to ward off viruses and to boost your kids’ immune systems.