5 Immune-Boosting Baby Foods
Colds, flu, and stomach bugs are no fun for anyone, of course, but these chilly-season illnesses can be especially challenging (or even a bit scary) when they infiltrate your family’s tiniest tykes. Parents, siblings, and caregivers can help prevent spreading sickness to babies by getting a flu shot (babies can get the vaccine, too, after six months), frequently washing their hands, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and distancing themselves from little ones if they do get sick.
If your baby is eating solid foods, you can also support her good health by dishing up tasty foods that boost her immunity.* Add these five ingredients into your family’s meal rotation and help everyone keep those bad bugs at bay!
1. Whole-Fat Plain Yogurt
Plain yogurt is a great way to get probiotics, the good bacteria that help your baby fend off harmful bacteria in the digestive system, promote overall immunity, and ease side effects if she ends up needing antibiotics. (Look for products labeled with a “Live & Active Cultures” seal from the National Yogurt Association.) Yogurt is also a good source of the immunity-boosting crusader vitamin D and protein, which helps grow, maintain, and repair every single cell in the body, including infection-fighting white blood cells.
You can serve yogurt by itself (but don’t use sweetened varieties) or stir it into fruit or veggie purées as a healthy way to balance the tartness.
2. Sweet Potatoes
These in-season yellow-orange tubers are packed with beta carotene—our bodies convert this nutrient into vitamin A, which is essential for healthy immune system function. Carrots, squash, pumpkins, mangoes, and dark, leafy greens are other good sources of beta-carotene.
Find out how to prepare your sweet potatoes with our easy guide.
This deliciously creamy fruit is a good source of both vitamin E (a potent antioxidant) and vitamin B6, which helps build the cells of the immune system and increase immune response. The omega-3 fatty acids in avocados also help the body better absorb immune-boosting nutrients, so including it in baby’s dinner will make the most of all the healthful ingredients that go in his mouth.
Purée or mash avocado well before serving. If baby is around 10 months old, you could also try the Spunky Coconut’s simple DIY avocado-pear ice pops—they might even help with teething!
4. Brown Rice
These nutritious little grains are packed with the essential minerals magnesium (a macromineral—you need a lot of it) and selenium (a micromineral—you need it, but not a ton), which both enhance immunity and bolster resistance to viral infections.
Purée cooked brown rice with meats, veggies, or fruits—brown rice blended with roasted bananas, a dash of cinnamon, and a little water is so good we would eat it! It’s also delish mashed up with stewed dried fruits.
Whether fresh or frozen (winter is coming), blueberries are a super source of multiple antioxidants (especially the flavonoid compound, anthocyanins), which can help fight off all sorts of illnesses. Blueberries are also a good source of vitamin C—and while research has found that vitamin C actually does little to prevent colds, it may help ease symptoms if your child is already sick.
Whole blueberries are a choking hazard, but you can blend these sweet-tart beauties up alone (if sweet enough) or mix them with apples, bananas, pears, yogurt, oatmeal, or beef for a heartier baby-friendly meal.
* Check with your doctor before serving any new foods to your baby: Most little ones take their first bites around six months, but regardless of age, he should be able to sit in a high chair and have good head control. The standard advice is to start with single-ingredient purées—wait three days before introducing another food to confirm your baby isn’t experiencing an allergic reaction such as rash, diarrhea, or vomiting. Never add salt or sweeteners.