Immune-system-boosting foods, including dark leafy greens, fruit and nuts
COVID-19 Fitness & Nutrition

Strengthening Your Immune System With Healthy Foods

By on 04/17/2020

This is a challenging time for all of us who are confined to our homes during the coronavirus outbreak. The sudden change in lifestyle can completely throw off our regular habits, which includes what we eat.  

Our food choices can play an important role in how we feel during this stressful time – both physically and mentally.  Many people turn to comfort foods and sweets when stressed, which is not the best time to do so. 

Megan V. Carrier
Megan V. Carrier

Instead, it’s a good idea to eat foods that will help support our immune system, says Megan V. Carrier, MS, RD, LDN, a dietitian with the Einstein Healthcare Network.

A strong immune system will help us stay healthy.

One suggestion is to keep healthy snacks – baby carrots, unsalted almonds or walnuts, or apples – in bowls on your kitchen counter, Carrier says. That makes it easy to reach for something healthy, rather than chips or sweets.

Building Immunity

Here are some other tips from Carrier about foods that help support our immune system:

  • Include a vegetable, especially dark leafy greens, twice a day.  Peas, corn and potatoes don’t count.
  • Stick with unsweetened beverages like water, flavored water and unsweetened tea.
  • Include lean meats like fish, chicken and eggs, as well as plant-based proteins like nuts, seeds and beans.
  • Choose fruit for snacks.
  • Include whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal and whole wheat bread, but make it the smallest part of your meal.

A Healthy Pantry

Carrier says these strategies can help you eat healthy from your pantry and freezer:

  • Fresh, frozen and canned foods are all options for long-term food preparation. Rinse canned foods to wash away excess salt.  Blanch fresh vegetables and freeze for use at a later time.
  • Make meals in batches (crock pot meals, stews, soups), then divide and freeze.  
  • Make a meat and grain that can be used in multiple dishes (such as chicken for tacos and chicken salad, quinoa for dinner and a grain with your salad.) 
  • Make your own trail mix by dividing bulk foods like nuts, seeds, and fruit into bags with the correct portion sizes, and place in the refrigerator or cabinet.  Have kids help out as a fun family activity.
  • Make meal preparation and cooking a family event, so everyone is involved.  Give tasks to children that are age appropriate (for example, washing vegetables, cutting, picking the vegetable for dinner).
  • For more fun family and kid ideas, visit www.eatright.org.

No to Junk, Yes to Exercise

Here are some foods to avoid to protect your immune system:

  • Fried and greasy foods
  • Junk food and sweets
  • Sweet drinks (soda, juice, sports drinks)

Carrier also offers some tips to curb boredom:

  • Get outside and go for a walk every day. The fresh air is good for you, and exercise supports your immune system.
  • If you’re bored, take your family outside.  Come up with a family game, walk the dog or play hide and seek. 
  • Find activities and gym classes online.  Since gyms are closed, some are offering free online classes. Try to do a workout each day.
  • Do exercises that don’t require a class such as jumping jacks, lunges or jogging in place.  Used canned goods or full water bottles for weight exercises. Exercise in short bursts, and repeat two or three times a day.
  • Read a book, work on a household project, or organize a closet or bookshelf.

To reduce stress levels, Carrier says, it also helps to:

  • Take a few minutes each day to meditate or do deep breathing exercises.
  • Practice good sleep habits.
  • Stay socially connected with friends and family through text, video chats or phone calls.

While we’re stuck at home waiting for the coronavirus to clear, it’s a good time to develop healthy habits that we can maintain long after the pandemic.

Megan Carrier is available for nutrition consultation visits through telehealth. For an appointment, call 267-704-9257 .

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Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness. The Einstein Healthcare Network "Terms of Use" apply to all content on this blog.