Cold and flu season feels like a doozy this year!
As a Certified Health Coach, Culinary Nutritionist, and someone who at 43 years old has yet to have a dose of antibiotics (thanks to my mom) here are two big tips to focus on throughout cold and flu season. If you want a better understanding of how at 43, I haven’t had antibiotics and you want a good laugh feel free to check out Growing up Macrobiotic in the 80s.
Tip 1: Focus on plants.
It is important to focus on feeding your family nutrient dense foods, loaded with lots of plants. Did you know that 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. The “good” bacteria in our gut love to eat prebiotic fiber (veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and fruit). When we take care of our “good” bacteria, by feeding them well, they proliferate and they release postbiotics. Postbiotics have many benefits including helping to strengthen our immune system (1).
Focus on plant variety.
The American Gut Project recommends for optimal health to aim for a minimum of 30 different plants species each week (2). This in turn will help optimize our immune health making it easier to fight off infection, shortening the lengthen of time we are sick and reducing the severity.
Does the idea of 30 different species feel overwhelming to you? Start by keeping track of the number of whole food plants you and your family eat in 1 week. You may be surprised. See if you can add a few different plant species the following week, continuing to build until you reach 30! If your family likes apples, think about getting a couple different varieties. That counts as two different specifies. If you family likes carrots, think about buying the rainbow colored variety with orange purple and white carrots. There are 3 different plants. If your family loves peanuts, try adding cashews and almonds into the mix. You can see how quickly you can increase the variety if your diet.
Have a family-friendly plant point competition.
My family always loves a good friendly competition. We each keep track of our plant species consumption for 7 days. Each plant species is equal to 1 plant point. We then celebrate the winner by enjoying a fruit salad with a variety of fruit and color. We did this last January and plan on doing it again this month. This is a great tool to pull out of your toolbox on an annual or biannual basis to help recalibrate and build awareness. I find my kids and my clients to be highly motivated and eager to think about how to add more plants into the foods they already enjoy.
Looking for plant rich meals the whole family will enjoy?
Tip 2: Reduce your family’s sugar consumption.
The “bad” bacteria in our gut love to eat sugar. The more sugar the “bad” bacteria eat the more they proliferate causing and imbalance in our gut flora, thus inflammation (3). Sugar also lowers our immune system (4). The American Health Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for kids between 2 and 18 years old. Each teaspoon of sugar translates to 4 grams. That is 24 grams of added sugar. It is recommended that 0 to 2 year olds have zero added sugar.
As a mom of two school aged girls (8 and 10), I tend to be very cautious of our sugar consumption during cold and flu season. I recommend cutting the added sugar out completely when sickness strikes to help support healing.
Take inventory of your family’s sugar consumption
I recommend taking an inventory of how much added sugar your family consumes on average in one day. This is just an exercise to bring awareness NOT to bring guilt or shame. Unfortunately, added sugar sneaks into so many packaged foods. Think cereal, bread, nut butter, dressing, ketchup, yogurt, pasta sauce, etc. Once you have an awareness of how much sugar your family eats in a day, you can go from there and make adjustments as needed. Thankfully, there are so many great companies out there, that do make delicious foods with little to no added sugar. Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins and Spinach Chocolate Chip Muffins make a great swap for store bought. These muffins are made with a quarter cup of maple syrup and have added veggies to feed the good bacteria in our gut. I have even more tips about ways to reduce your family’s sugar intake, don’t worry!
Looking for support to help optimize your family’s health?
If you’d like to tackle your pantry in 2023, swapping out the highly processed, high sugar foods, I’d love to help support you in this journey by empowering you with knowledge and confidence. I offer pantry makeovers as well as trips to the grocery store where we read labels, learn what to look for, and provide clean swaps with little to no added sugar that still taste delicious and helps support your family’s overall health.
If you’d like help with ways to add more plants into your family’s diet while reducing the sugar, I’m so excited to be offering a Cook and Learn workshop. I will prepare a meal that everyone will be able to enjoy as well as provide information to help optimize your famiy’s health and take on cold and flu season every year! The meal will be gluten and dairy free. The focus will be on nutrient dense, whole food, all organic ingredients, to help nourish our bodies and optimize our immune system. Spaces are limited. Please sign up here if you want to take on cold and flu season. Feel free to reach out with any questions.