Disclaimer: This post is sponsered by 'Doctors to You', but all opinions are my own.
Spring is here in WA. We are just over a week in and although the mornings and evenings are still pretty cold, the days are filled with sunshine. Around lunchtime is perfect, the sun is high, the air is warm and the breeze lightly rustles the trees. You can enjoy fresh salads and cold wine and forget about winter. That is until the spring coughs and colds hit! Then you want to crank the heating up and spend the day snuggled on the sofa with the doona.
The 'bug' is doing the rounds at school, so I am sure it is only a matter of time before the boys fall sick. But until they do I am feeding them up on nutritious foods that will ensure that if they do succumb they will recover quickly.
Now we all know that I am not a über health nut and I cannot stand exclusion diets. Seriously tell me I can't eat something and that is all I want, all day every day. I don't really eat McDonalds but if you told me I could never eat a Big Mac again then I would drive past the drive-thru every day in a state of turmoil. I know, I'm bonkers 😉 So you won't find this list full of weird and wonderful foods or a list of things you can't eat! I am not a qualified nutritionist these are just the foods that I ensure are in my diet to make sure I am the healthiest, coffee drinking, pasta eating, cheese nibbling Mum I can be! 😉
A year ago I had a bit of a healthy scare, I was showering one evening and a handful of hair fell out, not a few strands but a full fistful. I can tell you I was pretty freaked! Over the next few days more and more fell out. The doctor checked my thyroid function but that was all pretty normal, so he thought it might be a form of alopecia, which is an autoimmune disease. Whilst researching and reading everything I could I did quite a bit of reading on immune systems and foods that can help boost your bodies natural immunity. Luckily my hair slowly grew back. It is much thicker now and a slightly different colour, but it is growing well. Most days I have crazy all over the place hair!!!
Whilst I am not prepared to give up any of my favourite foods I do try to balance everything we eat. Eating the rainbow and trying to get something green on the plate are phrases my boys know well. So today I have teamed up with 'Doctor to you' to bring you a list of food ideas that can help boost your immune system and keep you healthier this spring. But if the dreaded flu (or anything else) does get you, Doctor to you provide an after hours service with doctors that come to your home. They bulk bill (if you are a medicare cardholder) and are open every day of the year. Middle of the night, Sundays, public holidays these guys can get a doctor to you. They are located all over Australia and are adding new areas all the time. Check out their website for more information: http://doctortoyou.com.au
There are plenty of foods on this list that you will probably eat on a regular basis. Like I said it isn't weird or wonderful but I have added some ideas for boosting your intake of these foods. They are mostly aimed at adding them to the kids diet but hey it works for everybody. Also check out the bottom of the post for my rainbow prawn salad recipe. A delicious, crunchy, fresh salad that is full of flavour and immune boosting ingredients.
Citrus fruit - Packed full of vitamin C these bad boys not only boost your immune system but they can keep it running the way it should. Oranges, mandarins, grapefruits, lemons, limes are all amazing sources of vitamin C and antioxidants. One orange provides a child with all the vitamin C they need in a day!!!! I tend to cut the boys oranges into segments for them as I find they eat more of it that way. A little note, this is okay for kids but don't try it for grown men or you get texts that say "Is this for half time at a football match 😉 x?" followed by a picture of his cut up orange. I know....ungrateful.....he had to buy his own lunch yesterday!
To increase your citrus fruit intake:
- Squeeze some lemon juice over a grilled steak and roasted broccoli. This is an immune boosting fest!!! The vitamin C not only boosts your immune system but it aids the absorption of iron which again helps keep you healthy!
- Roast some chicken thighs and before you serve, squeeze over a few orange segments. Sweet, delicious and perfect for the kids! (For adults add some chillies to spice it up: and chillies are great for your health!)
- Add some slices of lime and sprigs of mint to your bottle of water for the day. You'll feel dead fancy (well I know I do) drinking your flavoured water as you do the school run.....oh yes we can look like a celebratory Mummy....even when really we have pulled our posh cardi over our snot covered tee-shirt. Shush I won't tell if you don't 😉
Red Capsicum - Again packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, these also help to reduce inflammation and I read that they can regulate blood flow to the scalp which can help with strong hair growth. My boys eat sticks of capsicum as though they were lollies! Now I am not complaining, and I always make sure I have a stash of them in the fridge. We sometimes have orange or yellow, but red is their favourite and everyone avoids the green ones in our house!
To increase your Capsicum intake:
- Serve capsicum batons as an after school snack. Especially if you are going to serve a carbohydrate heavy main meal. This not only helps to boost the kids immune system, it fills their tummies which can the prevent the onslaught of the witching hour and helps prevent you reaching for a stress relieving wine whilst you get dinner ready! And it fills you up so you can have a little less pasta with dinner. (or just as much.... I will never judge a pasta eater!!!!)
- Chop capsicum up, mix it with grated cheese, some spring onion and a touch of mayo as a great sandwich filling.
- Roast red, yellow and orange capsicum chunks with your chicken to make a simple supper that you can serve with wraps or over couscous. Left overs are great cold for lunch!
Broccoli - Another veg that is packed with vitamins. Vitamin A, C and E along with selenium and plenty of fibre. Raw broccoli is amazing, but it is just too hard to get the kids to eat it raw! Many vitamins are water soluble so avoid boiling broccoli. Steam or roast it to keep as many vitamins as you can.
To increase your Broccoli intake:
- Serve raw spears of broccolini with hummus or white bean dip.
- Roast broccoli florets and serve them with anything. My favourite is tossed in sesame oil with some soba noodles.
- Grate broccoli stems into your macaroni cheese sauce.
- Grate broccoli stems into salads.
- If you are really brave you can add it to smoothies - be warned my kids can taste it! But yours might not be so picky 😉
Mushrooms - These fun guys (sorry couldn't help myself!!!) are amazing! They are high in protein, packed with vitamins and have something called beta-glucan in, which helps your white blood cells with their infection fighting. They are also high in polysaccharide which boosts the cells that respond rapidly to foreign invaders in the body.
To increase your mushroom intake:
- Add chopped mushrooms to any sauce that contains tomatoes. You won't notice them (and due to the tomatoes they won't affect the colour) honestly I even add them to my pizza sauce and the kids don't know 😉
- Add chopped mushrooms to your meatball or burger mix. They add moisture, flavour and again the kids don't notice them.
- If you aren't trying to hide them, then they are great served raw in salads.
- Add them to hot and cold sandwiches. (Ham mushroom and cheese toasties were the late night snack of so many study sessions at uni!)
- Roast portabello or field mushrooms with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of thyme. Serve them along side your steak. Or as an alternative for your vegetarian friends.
Garlic - This is a great food to have on the list as you can add it to everything. Well maybe not chocolate cake, but the number of dishes is very very long! Garlic is amazing for boosting your immune system due to it's high allicin content. This is an immune system superstar! It wards off infection, fights existing infection and seems to reduce inflammation as well.
To increase your garlic intake:
- Add it to every sauce, soup or casserole you make.
- Add raw garlic to your salad dressing, mayonnaise and dips.
- Roast whole heads of garlic to make the sweetest garlic spread you can imagine.
- Mix it with lemon juice (bonus citrus!!!) and marinade chicken, beef or lamb with it.
Turmeric - As well as staining fingers, clothing, countertops and wooden spoons a wonderful shade of yellow, turmeric has some pretty amazing immune boosting qualities. It is an anti-inflammatory and contain curcumin which actually fights flu and colds.
To increase your turmeric intake:
- Add a generous pinch of turmeric to your chicken/vegetable stock before using in any recipe.
- Rub turmeric, salt and a pinch of sugar into chicken thighs before you roast them. My boys love this with yellow rice (see next tip)! It is also great eaten cold in wraps.
- Add turmeric to the water you cook your pasta or rice in.
- Add a pinch of turmeric to your yoghurt based dressings or dips.
- For the strong people amongst you, I have read you can add it to coffee.....I am not convinced on this one. But maybe you could start drinking turmeric spiked espressos every morning?
Beef - Rich in iron and zinc, beef can help your body to control inflammation as well as boosting the white blood cells ability to fight infection. It is also a valuable source of selenium which helps repair cells. When eating beef (and other foods high in iron) try ensure you have a vitamin C rich food with them. This will aid the bodies absorption of the iron. Some health organisations suggest eating only lean beef. But if you are fighting a cold I think a thick rich beef stew made with slow cooked secondary beef cuts (not the ones trimmed of all fat!!!) takes some beating!
The tips below are designed for increasing children's intake of beef. I don't need to tell you to cook yourself a steak 😉 although if you do, add a squeeze of lemon juice to up your vitamin C and absorb iron!
To increase your beef intake:
- Make your own meatballs with either home ground or shop bought mince. Add some pureed garlic, onion and mushrooms, some seasonings and cook up a big tray. Serve them for dinner and add them cold to lunch boxes.
- Make homemade burgers, you know what is in them and you can get the kids involved with dinner. Mine will eat far more if they have made it themselves. For added cuteness and eatability make mini sliders.
- Serve your mini sliders as nibbles on Grand final weekend!
- After roasting a beef joint for the weekend, serve cold cuts with chips on a Monday and shred any remaining meat for tacos!
- Put it on the barbie! If it is has been cooked outside it seems to disappear far faster!
- Offer the kids the chance to eat a steak cooked rare or medium rare. You never know they might enjoy it more that way. And if you are confident with the quality try them with carpaccio or Italian carne cruda. Don't worry you don't have to do it often or tell anyone that you fed the kids fillet steak! But both of those dishes do make a little bit of steak go a long way. And they have lemon juice in them so added vitamin C and iron absorption !! Kids are funny creatures, you never know what they will decide to enjoy 😉 Raw steak could be their thing.....Then some days they will decide they don't like beef in any form and try and pick every last bit of it out of a spaghetti bolognese! Man that was a fun dinner time. Luckily red wine is good for you so it all ended well, for me at least 😉 (When they say that they mean a whole bottle right???!!!!)
Cinnamon - I was amazed when I read about the properties of cinnamon. It is full of good stuff! And here was I thinking it was just nice in apple pie! It is antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal. So not only does it boost your immune system it actually helps to fight the nasties that are attacking you in the first place! So now you can eat apple pie guilt free! (
Kidding - Not kidding)
To increase your cinnamon intake:
- Mix it with your morning coffee. For a kid version add it to warm, honey sweetened milk or chocolate milk.
- Sprinkles cinnamon on honey drizzled porridge for breakfast.
- Mix it through cream cheese, making a great dip for fruit pieces. (or pretzels 😳 )
- Sprinkle cinnamon over root vegetables before roasting them.
- Add cinnamon to your meatballs for a slight moroccan edge.
Yoghurt - Full of protein and probiotics, yoghurt is a super food when it comes to stopping blocked noses and sore throats. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is a great source of calcium. Make sure you buy live yoghurt and avoid the ones with added sugars.
To increase your yoghurt intake:
- Make your own breakfast yoghurts with fresh fruit and honey.
- Use yoghurt as a base for marinades.
- Make yoghurt based dips for your salads, sandwiches and for dipping your fries into. Get some garlic into your dips and you are doubling up on the boosting properties 🙂 Triple if you add turmeric!!!!
- Spoon yoghurt over frozen berries for an instant dessert.
- Mix fruit and honey through your yoghurt and then freeze in popsicle moulds for homemade frozen yoghurt treats.
Sweet Potato - a rich source of beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is vital for skin health, which plays a major role in preventing viruses and infections getting into our body. Also rich in beta-carotene are carrots, spinach and cantaloupe melons.
To increase your intake of sweet potatoes:
- As an alternative to white potatoes try making chips with sweet potato. They cook far quicker and taste delicious.
- Mash sweet potatoes with normal potatoes for a multi coloured and delicious mash. (Perfect for serving with a warming beef stew!)
- Sprinkle sweet potato slices with chilli flakes, salt and pepper before roasting in a hot oven. Perfect for serving along side roasts.
- Use cooled cooked sweet potato as a spread for toast. Sprinkled with a touch of parmesan and then grilled it is delicious!
- Pureed sweet potato makes a wonderful addition to pasta sauces and lasagne.
- Mix pureed sweet potato with some ground cumin, ground coriander, some grated garlic (immune boosting extra ) and a touch of salt for a simple boosting dip. If it is too thick then thin with yoghurt.
There are so many foods that can boost your immune system, but if you are already sick then try out my chicken broth, chicken soup and ginger tea. All warming ways to boost your immune system and give you a foodie hug when you are feeling under the weather. And don't forget that 'Doctors for you' are available out of hours, weekends and public holidays. There are doctors available 365 days a year!
Here's to a healthy and sun filled spring. And to start it off I am sharing my Rainbow Prawn Salad with Lemon and Yoghurt dressing. Can you spot all the immune boosting ingredients that I have packed into this colourful lunch?
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Rainbow Prawn Salad
- 20 large raw shelled prawns
- 2 tsp olive oil
- ½ iceberg lettuce
- handful of spinach
- 200 g cherry tomatoes - I used orange ones but standard red ones are fine
- 1 red capsicum
- 2 Lebanese cucumbers
- 1 can whole kernel sweetcorn
- ¼ red cabbage
- 150 g brown mushrooms
For the dressing
- 125 ml natural yoghurt
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove
- salt and pepper
- De-vein the prawns.
- Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the oil and cook the prawns for a couple of minutes a side until just cooked. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Shred the iceberg lettuce and add to a large bowl.
- Mix through the spinach leaves.
- Slice the cherry tomatoes in half.
- Dice the capsicum and cucumbers.
- Drain the sweetcorn well.
- Shred the red cabbage and finely slice the mushrooms.
- Arrange your veg on top of the lettuce
- Pile the cooked prawns on top and drizzle with the yoghurt dressing.
To make the dressing
- Combine the yoghurt with the water and lemon juice.
- Grate over the garlic and then season with salt and white pepper.