For most parents, your child getting the flu is kind of your worst nightmare. The flu isn’t the death sentence that it once was — most of us catch it, treat it, and move on. But it’s nonetheless a difficult virus for kids to deal with. For that matter, a lot of parents find that the flu comes in many different forms. It can be difficult to know whether or not your child is going to get the type of flu that they can recover from in a few days, or one that could put them out of commission for weeks; although generally speaking, kids up to age five and adults over 65 are the most at risk for catching more severe cases of the flu. This is why, ideally, you’ll want your children to avoid the flu altogether. The best practice, of course, is to make sure that your kids get their flu shots well ahead of time. But sometimes, the flu can sneak up on you. For that matter, the flu shot doesn’t necessarily protect recipients from every strain of the flu. It can be hard to stay ahead of a flu epidemic. Unfortunately, elementary schools and daycare centers are breeding grounds for the flu, which is why children are often the first ones to catch it, even before snow plows roll in for the winter and flu season officially starts.
Chances are that if your children get sick with the flu, you’ll want to stay home from the office to take care of them. They’ll feel more comfortable with their parents around, and the flu isn’t the type of illness that a child can deal with on their own. With that being said, you’ll of course want to make an effort to help your child recover as soon as possible. One of the best ways you can do that is by making them healthy meals that are designed to help them get better. While healthy meals can’t cure the flu, certain food recipes can help treat its symptoms, and will at the very minimum help take your child’s mind off of how bad they’re feeling. Flu season may be tough to deal with, and you might as well prepare your menu in advance. So, whether you’re dealing with the old-fashioned flu or a strain that affects your children in other ways, you may want to look below to uncover some healthy meals that will help them fight through it a bit more easily.
This may seem obvious — but it does with good reason. Soups can come in the forms of heavy dinners or lighter, healthy meals. But they tend to be considered reliable standbys for those dealing with the flu. For one thing, they’re usually easier for the sick to consume, as they’re liquid-based. Fluid is exactly what you need to focus on when you’re sick with the flu, and soup has been known to clear up congestion. It’s also just soothing! Of course, it’s a good idea to focus on certain types of soups over others if you want to effectively help your children recover. Chicken noodle soup, as cliche as it may seem, really does aid in clearing up congestion. The chicken and vegetables bolster the immune system, which in turn will help make children fight off their illness. The heat of the broth opens up the nasal passages and cuts through the mucus that creates congestion. You may want to focus on incorporating vegetables with anti-inflammatory qualities, like cauliflower, butternut squash, and curry powder. But ultimately, you should keep in mind that the goal is to feed your child something that is easy for them to eat. If your kids have more adventurous palates, encourage them to pursue that — but flu season is not the time to push themselves. Is chicken soup not quite their style? Try something based in spinach. Egg drop soup is a fantastic base, which can be supported with vegetables like spinach, as well as a bit of cheese perhaps. Spinach and parmesan egg drop soup is one unique recipe that is light enough for your kids to easily eat but flavorful enough to keep it from being boring. After all, sick kids are still kids; and kids can be picky! Should you wish to focus entirely on vegetables and do without animal products like chicken or eggs entirely, look towards a carrot soup or something based on lentils.
2. Garlic Recipes
None of us love garlic breath, but it’s a surprisingly effective ingredient in healthy meals that can help beat the flu. And despite the issues that come with garlic, it is a delicious ingredient that most kids won’t turn their noses up at. Garlic, as an ingredient, is another food that is known to help boost the immune system and clear up congestion. Of course, you’ll want to avoid giving your children anything too heavy when they’re in the throes of the flu, but you could play with heavier recipes, many of which include garlic, when they’re starting to feel better. Of course, there are soups that you can throw garlic into — garlic soup is itself a healthy meal, though perhaps a bit out of the box for some kids. You may want to prepare chicken and rice for your child — why not up the garlic factor in the chicken? Of course, if you want to prepare a healthy meal that has a real effect, you shouldn’t just rely on garlic flavoring or garlic powder. Incorporate real cloves of garlic for real results. Don’t be surprised if you find it hard to resist chicken made with cloves of garlic. Setting some aside for yourself isn’t a bad idea; while providing home health care for your kids, you’ll probably run the risk of getting sick yourself. You should boost your immune system as much as you can beforehand.
3. Ginger Recipes
For some kids, ginger may be a run of the mill ingredient in most healthy meals, which they’re largely familiar with. For others, it might be a little new. However, if you have a child with the flu, you’ll want to consider ginger-based recipes. While you may not be surprised that soup and garlic aid in clearing congestion, many don’t know about the healing properties of ginger. Ginger has been known to lessen headaches and nausea, which aren’t always symptoms of the flu but can accompany some strains. Soups are almost always savory, and garlic is usually included in savory meals as well. But ginger can actually play into both dinner and dessert, which makes it a good ingredient to offer your kids. You may want to make your kids ginger muffins, which won’t be too difficult for them to keep down. On the other hand, ginger can also be included as a garnish or topping; a ginger glaze can be put over vegetables, and you can sprinkle ginger on top of milder meals. You could always try your hand at a natural ginger ale as well. Though many people think of ginger ale for the sick — the mass-produced ginger ale doesn’t have the healing qualities that natural ginger ale can offer, and certainly can’t substitute in for a healthy meal>
4. Natural Smoothies
A smoothie may not necessarily seem like a healthy meal; but in fact, many smoothie recipes can offer the same ingredients you’d find in a whole meal. If your child is dealing with a fever, you should look into making them colder foods. While there is a traditional idea of feeding a cold and starving a fever, the fact is that the flu can weaken your body. You may not feel like eating, but you should — and this is particularly true for children, who will already have a harder time fighting off the flu. A smoothie not only will help cool the body down — it’s also much easier for kids to keep eat and keep down if they’re nauseated. It’s also rather gentle and soothing for those with sore throats. But what should go into flu-fighting smoothies? Citrus and berries, ideally. Dairy generally should be avoided as much as possible by those dealing with the flu, so you should keep that a bit low in your smoothies. Build them up with oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. These fruits are anti-inflammatory, and furthermore are theorized to reduce fevers as well. Berries have been shown to include flavonoids as well, which are exactly the components in citrus fruits that aid in combatting the flu. You might as well make tumblers full of smoothies when your kids are sick with the flu. They’re easy standbys, and when you’re busy taking care of sick children you’ll want to spend as little time cooking as possible. If your kids don’t like smoothies, an alternative could be natural, fruit-based ice pops. Again, try to stay away from dairy, sugar, and other heavy ingredients. These could easily tip your healthy meals into the type of food that might drag your patients down.
5. Bland Meals
This may seem like a contradiction when you compare it to the soup and garlic recipes we mentioned above. But if your kids are dealing with nausea and diarrhea, the best types of healthy meals for their symptoms are often bland ones. Again, your child may not even want to look at food when they’re really sick. However, they need to keep their strength up, and this often involves bland foods that are easy to deal with. You may think of crackers and toast as the types of bland staples we tend to fall back on. But if you’d rather stick to something a bit more natural, think of starches. Rice and potatoes are easy bases for kids to eat when they’re sick. Bananas and applesauce are also reliable, as is oatmeal. If none of that is appealing to your child — or if they want to eat something even easier — look to watermelon. It may not seem like the type of food you should eat when you’re sick. But watermelon is rather bland and easy on the stomach, is a sweeter alternative to starches, and is, as the name suggests, very water-based. However you can get a kid who has the flu to intake fluid, you need to make it happen.
No matter how many healthy meals you feed your child, they can’t take the place of medicine. Have your child receive a flu shot as quickly as possible. If it’s too late, then make sure to supplement the meals you cook up with flu medication, and keep an eye on your child’s symptoms. If their fever spikes, don’t hesitate to go to an urgent care center. Keep an eye on things like excessive coughing, nausea, or diarrhea. But once you have your child’s symptoms under control and you can focus on recovery, don’t discount the importance of the food they eat. A healthy diet is the easiest way for a child to keep his or her strength up when they’re sick, and a great meal can help them feel better emotionally as well. Cooking can be good for you too. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed when your child is sick, try your best to stay calm. Stepping into the kitchen and cooking up a flu-fighting meal could be your first step to kick-starting a recovery!
AUTHOR: CAROLINE SIBLEY
Caroline is a freelance content creator and creative writer. VCUArts alum with a focus on the arts, travel, and culture.