Best foods for your child’s immune system development
- Vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc and iron are key nutrients to help establish a strong immune system
- Offer your child a diverse range of foods to encourage a balanced diet
- Try to feed your little one a rainbow’s worth of colours
Nutrition in early life can influence the development of the immune system for years to come. An immune system that is functioning well means your little one will be less likely to develop allergies and more likely to fight off infections like the common cold. When it comes to establishing a robust and resilient immune system, the first years – starting right from pregnancy – are critical for its development.
What to look for
There are key nutrients that we know help in establishing a strong immune system in early childhood. Vitamin A, which helps maintain immune function and vitamin D, which is required for maintenance of the immune system. There’s also zinc and iron – if you’re deficient in zinc you can have impaired immune responses, while iron deficiency can impair your overall immunity.
Ensure a varied, balanced diet
When it comes to nutrition, especially that of your child, it can be easy to get too caught up in specifics. The best advice for supporting your child’s immunity isn’t to focus on specific nutrients, but rather to look at their overall dietary intake and strive for a diet that is varied and balanced. This is why it’s so important that we try to feed our children a variety of foods from each of the food groups, every day. The more variety in their diet, the better – even if it’s only in small amounts. Offering your child a broad array of foods is the ideal way to expand their palate and ensure they are exposed to a diverse range of nutrients they need for immunity, growth and energy.
Focus on healthy, nutrient-dense options
Prioritise foods that are nutrient-rich. We can look at the foods in 5 areas:
- A rainbow of different vegetables, plus legumes and lentils where possible
- Plenty of fruits (including the washed skin) in a variety of colours
- Breads and cereals, focusing on wholegrains, as well as rice, pasta, couscous and quinoa
- Quality meats – like chicken and beef – and meat alternatives, like tofu
- Dairy sources – milk, cheese and yoghurt – and dairy alternatives
Bridging the gap
You can do everything you can to give your little one the ‘perfect’ diet and on some days they’ll eat it and some they won’t. Sometimes they’ll decide they don’t like it, sometimes they’ll be sick. All of these factors can make it tough to feed them the necessary volume of different foods each day. If your little one doesn’t eat much, a toddler supplement like Aptamil Gold+ Toddler Milk with Pronutra Biotik is a great way to give them essential vitamins and minerals they need for growth and development (when consumed with a healthy, varied diet). It’s fortified with 16 vitamins and minerals needed for growing bodies. Essentially, it’s a way to bridge the gap between what toddlers need and what they’re actually getting through food.
Make food fun
To get more of these whole foods into your child’s diet, try making mealtimes a fun, family experience. Ask your children to help you choose and prepare the food they’ll be eating. For example, try making pizza or wraps together so your little one can choose what to put on theirs. You can also try prepping fresh fruit and vegetables – like carrots, cucumbers and apples in the morning and make them available to snack on throughout the day. Kids can eat these with cheese, hummus or a little peanut butter (as long as there are no allergies at play).