Tips for Eating Well During Cold and Flu Season
By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD
Eating a healthy diet is one of the most important aspects of preventing and recovering from sickness.
However, most people turn to the flu vaccine and over-the-counter medications as the first line of defense in preventing and treating cold and flu symptoms. While these are important factors in staying healthy, fueling your body with nutritious foods should not be overlooked.
A balanced diet based on whole foods can strengthen your immune system, which in turn can help you recover from sicknesses more quickly and even prevent you from getting sick in the first place.
To boost your immunity and stay healthy during this year’s cold and flu season, follow these tips!
Get a variety of vitamins and minerals from whole foods. It might be convenient to pop vitamin C pills or take a zinc supplement to prevent sickness, but the best way to get vitamins and minerals is from real foods. Eating an abundance of colorful fruits and vegetables will supply you with all of the important nutrients you need to strengthen your immune system.
Incorporate lean proteins into your meals. Lean proteins that are rich in zinc can help your body produce the white blood cells it needs to fight infection. Good sources of zinc include turkey, shellfish, legumes, pumpkin seeds, and most nuts. Make sure you include a protein source at each meal to reap the benefits!
Stay hydrated! While it’s always important to stay hydrated, it becomes even more vital during cold and flu season. If your fluid intake is lacking, make it a goal to get in at least 64 ounces (8 cups) of water a day. You can also incorporate naturally flavored sparkling waters, smoothies, and low-fat milk to meet your fluid needs. And don’t forget about hydrating foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
Decrease your intake of processed foods. Eating highly processed foods may increase inflammation and stress levels in your body, preventing your immune system from functioning at its best. If you rely on processed foods for their convenience, look for healthy “fast” foods like bagged salads, pre-sliced veggies, fruit cups in water or their own juice, frozen produce, and pre-cooked whole grains.
Exercise and break a sweat! Regular physical activity promotes a healthy body and strong immune system. If you are struggling with staying motivated to exercise during the colder months, try switching up your routine to include new workout classes, at-home workout videos, or even indoor walking at tracks and malls.
Note from Healthy for Life Meals: Want to stay healthy during cold and flu season? Our meals are loaded with fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to keep your immune system strong! Get started with one our menus today so that you can fuel your body and avoid getting sick.