Two Tips to Optimize your Family’s Health during Cold and Flu Season

Cold and flu season has been a doozy this year! Anyone feeling sick of being sick? As a Certified Health Coach, Culinary Nutritionist, and mom of 2 girls, here is how my family is tackling cold and flu season.

Tip 1: Focus on increasing your family’s plant consumption.

Did you know that 70 % of our immune system is 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” (also known as probiotics) by feeding them well, they proliferate and they release postbiotics.  Postbiotics have many benefits including helping to strengthen our immune system (1). The American Gut project recommends for optimal health to aim for 30 different plants species each week (2).  This in turn will help optimize your immune health making it easier to fight off infection when you and your family do get sick, shortening the lengthen of time and 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 eats in 1 week.  You may be surprised.  Then see if you can add a few different plant species the following week, continuing to build until you reach or surpass 30!  If your family likes apples, think about getting a couple different varieties. That counts as two different specifies.  If you family likes peppers, think about buying the rainbow colored variety pack with red, orange, yellow, and green peppers that is 4 different plant species.  If your family loves peanuts, try to add cashews, and almonds into the mix.  You can see how quickly you can increase the variety if your diet.

Looking for plant rich meals? Check out Veggie Packed Meat Sauce, Veggie Packed Meatballs, and Sweet Potato Quiche.

Tip 2: Reduce your family’s sugar consumption.

Easier said than done, I know. But it is important and here is why. The “bad” bacteria in our gut love to eat sugar.  The more sugar the “bad” bacteria eat the more they proliferate and an imbalance in the gut is created.  Sugar also lowers our immune system (3). When we are exposed to so many germs (hello, school) it is important to focus on supporting our immune system.

Start by taking inventory and figure out how much sugar your family is eating on average. 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 so that is 24 grams of added sugar. It is recommended that 0 to 2  year olds have zero added sugar.  Once you have an idea of the amount of sugar you can adjust as needed by making simple swaps. Bread for example, can have a surprisingly high amount of sugar. I have seen some bread containing 5 grams of sugar per slice and if you have a sandwich that is 10 grams of sugar or 2.5 teaspoons just in the bread alone. Thankfully there are better options out there with little to no sugar. I like Base Culture Bread for a 0 sugar option.

Want help with ways to increase your family’s plant consumption while decreasing their sugar consumption?

I’d LOVE to help you! If you’d like to tackle your pantry in 2023, swapping out the highly processed foods with lots of add sugar, I’d love to help empower you with knowledge and confidence.  I provide pantry makeovers as well as trips to the grocery store where we read labels, learn what to look for, and I provide clean swaps with little to no added sugar that still taste delicious and help support your family’s overall health.  

If you’d like help with ways to add more plants into your family’s diet and reduce the sugar, I’m so excited to be offering a Cook and Learn.  I will prepare a 4 course meal, with over 30 different plants, that everyone will enjoy while learning how to optimize your family’s health and take on cold and flu season!  The meal will be gluten free and focus on nutrient dense, all organic ingredients this will nourish your bodies and optimize your immune systems.  

Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy new year full of delicious and nutritious, real food!

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