It’s around this time of year that the ‘daycare hack’ re-emerges. You know the one: it’s a gluggly, coarse wheeze that rides around the back of your child’s throat and nose and seems embedded from May to September.
While a certain amount of sickness is inevitable, your children’s health can be assisted with some special attention to their diet throughout the winter months. Here’s how to keep kids strong and the wheeze at bay this chilly season.
HEALTHY LUNCHBOX TREATS: Luckily winter is orange season. So fill kids’ lunchboxes with freshly cut orange pieces, a rich source of vitamin C, and a well known flu-fighting essential. Mandarins are in season now too and they are a less-messy lunchbox option. Also pop in some kiwi fruit and some raw snow peas and celery sticks too.
INCLUDE EXTRA VEGIES AT DINNER TIME: Over cooking vegetables zaps their essential nutrients and vitamin C. So cook them as quickly as possible. Try microwaving or lightly steaming small bite-size florets of broccoli and cauliflower until just tender and squeeze over a little lemon juice. Cheese sauce works wonders here too. Combine some butter, flour, low-fat milk and cheese in a pan to make the sauce. Then drizzle it over cooked vegies and the kids will gobble it up.
MAKE THEM SOUP: Soups are a great way to give kids a winter health boost. Flu-fighting antioxidants such as beta-carotene (found in carrots) and lycopene (in tomatoes and red capsicum) actually increase with cooking. Blitzing these and other vegetables into wintery soups can encourage kids to eat ingredients they would normally steer clear of. Even unpopular pulses like chickpeas can be added to soups. If you’re nervous your children won’t eat soup, try serving it with crunchy croutons. To do this, cut a breadstick into cubes, toss it in oil, garlic and Italian herbs. Then bake in an oven at 200C until golden. Toss some croutons in a bowl, ladle over your soup and scatter more on top. The kids will head straight for the croutons. And before you know it the bowl will be empty.
ONE-POT WONDERS: Winter stews and casseroles are a fantastic way to add a wide variety of vegetables to kids’ meals. Try cooking them a chilli con carne recipe, but leave out the hot ingredients (such as chilli powder, tobasco and cayenne) and add extra vegetables like carrot, eggplant and green capsicum. The flavor will still be delicious and you can easily modify each serve to suit different family members. Also, top their meals with fresh garnishes including diced tomatoes, avocado, cheese and crushed-up corn chips (for a treat). They are a magic wand that make entire dinners disappear.
FISH PIE HEAVEN: Vitamin D is plentiful from sunlight in the summer but you may need to top up levels nutritionally in the darker months. Vitamin D is found in oily fish, dairy products and eggs. To give kids a dose of Vitamin D at dinner, combine all these ingredients into a fish pie. Chop hard boiled eggs and mix through a salmon mornay then top with a layer of mashed potato. Add extra veggies to the mash by mixing through cauliflower, parsnip and turnips too.