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Feeding Your Family During Lockdown

Sarah Almond Bushell MPhil, BSc (Hons) RD, MBDA
A Registered Dietitian & Children’s Nutritionist

FEEDING YOUR FAMILY DURING LOCKDOWN

Sarah Almond Bushell, our children’s nutritional expert, answers your most common questions and advises how your family can maintain a healthy diet during the lockdown period. 


Q: What are the best immunity boosting foods for children?


During these unsettling times, I’ve seen a lot of discussion about food to guard against coronavirus. Not a lot of it is true, so firstly lets dispel some myths and give only the facts.

Myths:

Vitamin C

Back in the 1970’s twice Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling said that vitamin C was an immune-boosting nutrient that would cure all ailments and ever since people have been taking it to ward off colds and viruses. The problem is this is not quite true. Vitamin C is important for a healthy immune system but so are a lot of other factors, so eating oranges, drinking juice or taking vitamin C tablets won't ward off the Coronavirus nor the common cold. And taking too much vitamin C can cause diarrhoea.

Drinking water every 15 minutes
A Japanese doctor advised this tactic to ‘flush out’ the virus. The social media post went viral but unfortunately, you can't flush out a virus. Drinking water is good for hydration and one of the factors that will help keep your immune system function well, but it isn’t the quick-win social media would have you think.

Supplements
There's no evidence that zinc, vitamin E, green tea, selenium, echinacea or any other concoction is going to help boost your immune system. Save your money!

Garlic
Garlic has antimicrobial properties but there is no evidence that it can protect you from getting coronavirus or even a common cold. Continue to eat garlic as part of your normal diet. 

Facts:

As boring as it might sound, a healthy varied diet with at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day is your best form of defence. Eat a rainbow of colours, that way you will get a range of nutrients as it's the variety that keeps our immune systems working well. 


There are no guarantees, but we do know that certain key nutrients are essential for looking after the immune system:

 

  • Pumpkin or butternut squash contain beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A
  • Green veggies, such as kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach. These contain vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and several B vitamins
  • Carrots contain both beta carotene and vitamin C
  • Onions, leeks and garlic contain a prebiotic. This is the food that the friendly bacteria probiotics thrive on in your digestive system. It is thought that a healthy digestive system can boost the immune system
  • Nuts, like cashew and almond butter, or ground nuts. These contain iron and zinc, as well as vitamin E, B vitamins selenium and copper
  • Mushrooms of any variety. These are rich in copper and plant phytochemicals

All of these are plant foods and it’s the way that plants are ‘packaged’ that help our immune system work best.

 

Top tips:

  • Wash loose fruit and vegetables in running water before you eat them
  • Keep food surfaces clean and disinfected
  • Encourage your children to wash their hands with soap (while singing happy birthday twice) before every meal and snack
  • Avoid panic or worry talk as anxiety can affect children's appetites and eating less isn't good for keeping their immune system in tip-top condition


Q: What are the best meals and snacks to help children stay focussed during home schooling?


Breakfast

Start the day with a balanced breakfast. Protein and slow release carbs provide sustainable energy. Ideas for a healthy breakfast include:

  • Scrambled eggs on toast with reduced sugar and salt baked beans
  • Porridge made with milk and a handful of berries
  • Sourdough or seeded toast with peanut butter and a sliced banana
  • Overnight oats with Greek yoghurt and fruit
  • Boiled eggs and soldiers with veggies on the side

The combination of protein together with slow release carbs avoid the mid-morning slump. If your child eats breakfast cereal, particularly the sweetened ones, you may see the opposite. In this case, they’ll get a sugar high followed by a crashing low and the inevitable hunger that follows. This is not good for concentration.


Snacks

Schedule in a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Again, it’s good if these can be made up of slow release carbs. For example:

  • A small pot of houmous with veggie sticks
  • Banana bread and glass of milk 
  • A piece of fruit with yoghurt
  • Crumpet & topped with avocado
  • Half a hot cross bun but olive based spread or soft cheese like Philadelphia
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Homemade fruit smoothie ice lolly

Lunch

Keep lunch light, as children aren’t currently exercising as much as they would be at school, so they aren’t getting the opportunity to burn off the energy. 


Give chocolate bars, biscuits, dried fruit bars and packets of crisps a miss. Lunches that are too heavy can give them that post prandial slump, where they’d rather dose than concentrate on schoolwork. Ideas include:


  • Lentil and veggie soup with a bread roll – wholemeal or seeded is best
  • Couscous salad with chopped up cucumber, cherry tomatoes, spring onion, raisins, olives, and left-over cold meat like chicken breast or ham
  • Sandwiches, ideally made with granary or seeded bread for slower release carbs and a protein-based filling like, tuna, chicken, ham, nut butter, houmous or cheese. Serve with salad or fruit on the side and a yoghurt

Dinner

Dinners are a great opportunity for families to reconnect, especially if you’ve been working from home, so use it as an opportunity to get together around the table. 


Again, something light is best as we are just not able to burn of the same levels of energy as we would have prior to the lockdown. Good examples of balanced light meals are:

  • Roast chicken, new potatoes and salad
  • Stir fry strips of beef with veggies and noodles
  • Salmon fajitas
  • Omelette with salad
  • Jacket potato with baked beans


Q: What store cupboard staples still have good nutritional value to keep children healthy when fresh food isn’t available?


These are my recommended store cupboard essentials. They are great because they:

  • Last a long time
  • Are cheap
  • Help you create balanced meals
  • Are an easy nutritional upgrade to meals
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