Can elderberry fight colds and flu?

If you’ve tried a lot of different cold and flu remedies, elderberry is one of the ingredients that you’ve probably come across. This herbal remedy has a long history of being used for medicinal purposes and is very anti-inflammatory. Elderberries contain more flavonoids than blueberries, cranberries and goji berries and this has a lot to do with their immune boosting powers.

 

According to research, it may be a good choice for treating colds and flu. So much so that it can potentially help symptoms on their way in just a couple of days.

 

Elderberry has been commonly studied as a cold and flu remedy and the results have been super promising. It seems that elderberry has powerful effects for immunity, which is great news if you’re suffering from flu. Two studies confirmed that it can halve the average length of a flu bout and start to tackle symptoms in 48 hours. This is more likely if elderberry extract is taken within 48 hours of flu symptoms coming on.

 

A 2016 study looking at colds picked up during air travel found that elderberry extract can cut the length of a cold and make symptoms less severe. There was one catch though … elderberry was taken for up to 10 days before getting on a plane and for up to 5 days after arriving at the destination. Elderberry didn’t stop a cold from occurring but it did reduce the length of time that it lasted for. For most people, their cold was 2 days shorter and symptoms were milder.

 

If you’re eating elderberries, don’t eat the raw seeds. These can potentially make you sick. Fresh or dried elderberries are great choices.

 

Pre made elderberry syrups are readily available but you could try making your own version. Dried elderberries are perfect for this as they have a pretty good shelf life. You can just grab a handful when cold or flu strikes. Team dried elderberries with ginger, cinnamon and cloves for a super effective immunity boosting syrup. Simmer the ingredients in water for around 30 minutes, mash up the elderberries, strain out the liquid and leave to cool. Once it’s at room temperature, put it in the refrigerator, it’ll last for a couple of months.

Elderberry is great for kids as its nice and sweet and can be added to other herbs in a herbal tincture to make the taste more palatable for kids. I recommend taking elderberry with echinacea on a daily basis over winter, when kids are more susceptible to illness (like when they are around sick kids at daycare) and before going on planes and travelling. Contact me if you would like to book in a one on one consult or would like to order an elderberry tincture for your child (postage can be arranged Australia wide).

How to stop your child getting sick?

If your littles ones are prone to getting sick a lot, you’re probably desperate for ways to help them to fight back. Not least because they’ll often spread it around the rest of the family too!

Kids tend to fall ill pretty often as their immune systems haven’t been exposed to all of the nasty germs that they’ll come into contact with. That doesn’t mean that you can’t improve their immunity and make them a bit less likely to get sick so often. Here are some tips to boost your family’s immunity.

Serve Up Immunity Boosting Foods

Lots of fruits and vegetables are great for boosting immunity, especially ones that contain vitamin C. This is one of the nutrients that isn’t stored in the body so you need to be consuming it every day for the best benefits.

Citrus fruits are a great choice so make sure that your family are eating plenty of oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. Capsicums are also a good source of vitamin C (especially the red variety) and actually contain more than citrus fruits! Kiwi and papaya also contain vitamin C.

Iron is another nutrient to pay close attention to. Stock up on spinach, legumes, quinoa, dates, dried apricots and pumpkin seeds to keep your family’s iron intake up. Combining iron with vitamin C helps it to be absorbed more easily. Have a glass of orange juice or lemon water or squeeze some lemon or lime on your meal.

Zinc is also an underrated mineral for immunity. You can find zinc in pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, oats. and tofu.

Avoid sugars, additives and preservatives that can weaken a child’s immune system.

Breastfeed for as long as possible as breastmilk contains antibodies, anti-viruses, anti-parasites and anti-allergies, along with all its other nutrients and benefits. You can also offer expressed milk to older children or add to their meals when they are ill.

Other foods and drinks that can improve your family’s immunity include:

  • Garlic has been used to treat infections for thousands of years

  • Ginger is anti inflammatory and can help to fight a sore throat and ease nausea

  • Spinach and broccoli, which both contain lots of antioxidants

  • “Live” coconut yogurt may be able to protect against illness by improving gut health and making your immune system stronger

  • Almonds contain vitamin E, which is a hugely underrated nutrient for keeping the immune system healthy. It’s recommended to avoid whole nuts until at least 3, you can grind them up and add to their meals or smoothies for under 3’s

  • Green tea is packed with a EGCG, a powerful antioxidant that has been linked to better immunity

  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi can increase your gut microbiome, a healthy gut = a healthy mind and body

Vitamin D

Sufficient levels of vitamin D is important to ensure our bodies function properly as well as enhancing our immune function.

Mushrooms are a great plant based source of vitamin D and many studies have found regular consumption to increase immunity. Medicinal mushroom elixirs like reishi and cacao are an easy way to include these in your child’s daily diet, Airlie loves mushroom teas.

Adequate intake of vitamin D is unlikely to be achieved through dietary means, adequate sunlight exposure is important and in some cases a supplement may be required. Infants need to be exposed for 2 hours a week if just their face is exposed or 30 minutes a week with just a nappy on (Specker et al 1985). It’s important for them to have sunlight exposure without sunscreen, avoiding the hottest times of the day. In winter 2-3 hrs a week is needed.

Hand Washing is Vital

A lot of the time, sickness happens because germs on the hands have been transferred to the eyes, mouth or nose. This is why it’s so important to wash your hands regularly and make sure that your family do too, especially before eating. I also wash our hands after being at the park, being outside and getting home after being out. Hand hygiene is one of the best things you can do for reducing illness, especially if it’s done in the right way.

If your little ones are at daycare, you’ll want to know that this also extends to the staff too as they can inadvertently pass on germs too, especially when they’re changing diapers and dealing with runny noses!

For those times when it’s just not practical or possible to keep hands clean, carrying hand sanitiser is a must! It’s super convenient for killing germs while you’re out and about and you can get alcohol free types if you’re worried that it will lead to dry hands. Being exposed to different bacteria is also important to increase our resistance to harmful bugs so it’s also important not to go overboard on the hand sanitiser.

Practice Good Hygiene in General

It’s also helpful to teach children how to demonstrate good hygiene in general. This includes not sharing food, drinks, utensils and other items that can make it easier for germs to be passed around.

Another tip involves making sure that your little ones know the importance of using tissues to wipe runny eyes or noses, rather than their hands. And teach them to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeve. This makes it a lot less likely that they’ll transfer germs from their hands to these areas. Just make sure it’s always a clean tissue!

Wipe Down Surfaces Regularly

Surfaces can be a breeding ground for germs so it makes sense to wipe them down regularly with a natural antibacterial cleaner. The same goes for anything that your child is likely to come into contact with such as toys, television remotes, light switches and door handles.

When one of the family is sick, you’re probably going to want to wipe down everything they touch to reduce the chance that anyone else will get ill from touching the same things.

When choosing an antibacterial cleaner I recommend avoiding those supermarket brand cleaners that contain all those weird names you can’t pronounce. Most are toxic and bad for our health and the environment. You can easily make up a household cleaner with white vinegar and essential oils, I also add a touch of castile soap or natural hand wash.


Wash Bedding and Blankets When Someone is Sick

Next time any member of the family gets sick, make sure that you wash their bedding as soon as they’re better so they don’t get reinfected. Don’t forget about comfort blankets and towels too. These can harbor germs long after the original sickness has been and gone and they can make other members of the family sick too.

Summary
I hope these simple tips help you and your family stay healthy and well this winter.

Here is a summary of my tips to stop your child getting sick:

  • Serve up immunity boosting foods with vitamin C, iron and zinc. Include garlic, ginger, green tea, live coconut yoghurt, almonds and fermented foods. Avoid sugars, additives and preservatives.

  • Vitamin D with adequate sunshine and mushrooms.

  • Regular hand washing, especially before eating.

  • Practice good hygiene by not sharing food and drinks, using tissues and teaching kids to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeve.

  • Wipe down surfaces regularly using natural antibacterial spray.

  • Wash bedding and blankets when someone is sick.

How to get your child to eat more veggies?

As a mum I know how challenging it can be at times to get your child to eat veggies. Here are some of my tips to make it easier to increase the veggies in your child’s diet.

Sauce

It’s easy to sneak all kinds of veggies into a tomato sauce that you can use in pasta or rice dishes or even on pizza. You can use anything from mushrooms to broccoli, carrots or spinach. Blending them first will make sure they don’t get spotted even by really picky eaters! Tomato isn’t your only option though. You can also use cauliflower or red capsicums as a based. Check out my recipe page for some ides. If you freeze sauce in portions you will have some on hand when you need it.

Pizza

Pizzas have lots of possibilities for including veggies. There’s the toppings (obviously), the sauce (that you froze earlier) AND the base! You can even include veggies in the base, cauliflower makes a great base. I love this recipe from Minimalist Baker for a cauliflower pizza crust. Or you could even make a base from sweet potato and add some garlic, carrot and zucchini.

Tofu

Veggies can easily be blended into tofu to make quiche, omelettes or slice. Pretty much anything goes with this one but a few options include spinach, tomato, zucchini, capsicums/bell peppers, onions, fresh herbs and spinach. You can even grate some carrot into the mixture or use pureed sweet potato or squash. 

Sweets

This is one sneaky trick that kids will never see coming! Hiding veggies in sweet treats such as cookies, muffins and brownies. To really hide the evidence, blitz the veggies in a food processor so that there are no visible signs of anything healthy. Great choices include carrot, sweet potato, squash, zucchini and even spinach. And don’t worry that it’ll be off putting or unappetising as it won’t change the taste at all. I like to keep some snacks in the freezer so I have something on hand for a quick snack or breakfast.

Smoothies

Green smoothies are one of my favourite ways to sneak more vegetables into your child's diet. Just grab some fruit (e.g. bananas, oranges, berries, avocado) + veggies (e.g. kale, baby spinach, cucumber, carrot, beetroot) + liquid (e.g. orange juice, water, plant based milk, coconut water) + nutrient boosters (e.g. hemp seeds, spirulina, nuts and seeds) blend it all together and share it with your child.  I try to include a green smoothie every day.

Noodles

Make veggies the star of the meal by using them as the noodles. Zucchini and carrots work great as noodles, just use a spiraliser or grater to make into thin noodle strips.

Grating

You can grate veggies and add them to your meal. Carrot or zucchini can be hidden in most dishes and your child won’t even know.

Bite Size Portions

Using veggies in a meal and making it into bite size portions seems to make them more enjoyable for kids. Check out one of my daughters favourites, my Spirulina and Pea Fritters.

Nutrient Boosters

Another easy way to include more veggies is by adding Spirulina powder into your child’s diet. I like to add a teaspoon to our smoothies, water or orange juice and Airlie loves it!

Snack on Veggies

Veggies make a great snack and are a great alternative to crackers and a healthier option. Raw zucchini, cucumber, red capsicum/pepper and carrots (steamed, not raw for children under 3) or baked potato or sweet potato chips are great for dipping. You can even add some veggies to your dip, beetroot and sweet potato hummus are delicious!

Pre-packaged Options

As much as I prefer nutritious home cooked food, I’m a busy mum too and I like to have snacks when we are out and about. Macro Lentil Bite chips from Woolworths are a good option as they contain carrot, beetroot or pumpkin with lentils.

How to Get Your Picky Eater to Be Less Fussy 

Have you got a child that is very fussy with what they eat? Picky eating can take a few different forms and some kids will only take a couple of bites before putting their fork down while others won’t try anything other than one or two of their favourite foods or they’ll change their mind a lot about what they actually want to eat. 

Whichever forms they take, picky eaters can make mealtimes a big source of frustration for everyone and it can also be worrying from a health and nutrition point of view. You might think that there’s nothing you can do to tip the balance back in your favour. Wrong! Here are a few tips to start winning power battles with a fussy eater. 


Go for Small Portions

It might seem like common sense to only offer small portions but it’s easy to dish up more than your child will realistically eat and this can put them off certain foods altogether. It’s often better to underestimate how much your child will eat on a first serving and have them asking for a second helping. 


Small portions can also work well for introducing new foods. If you’re struggling to get a picky eater to put some foods anywhere near their mouth, try giving them a really tiny piece to begin with. 


If you can tempt them to try it, half the battle is won already! In the early days, you might need to try a little bribery by following it up with something they do like eating or making it more fun by turning it into a game. 


If it works, you can gradually increase the amount of food you give them and at the same time, reduce how much of the reward food they’re getting afterwards.

Take it slowly

Don't’ feel discouraged if you don’t get anywhere on the first attempt … or even the first few tries. It will often be the case that kids need to try something over 10 times before they cave in and allow themselves to give it a go. Keep at it and you might well get some success! 

It won’t necessarily be like this for every food that you try though. Experts suggest that getting them to try a new food for the first time is a major breakthrough and in theory, it should get easier to persuade them to have a go with new foods after this. 

Don’t force the issue

Tempting as it may be to tell your child that they have to clear their plate regardless of what’s on it, it’s likely to build a negative association with mealtimes that can make them even less likely to broaden their food tastes. 

If you’ve been begging your child to eat different foods, they’re more likely to resist your pleas. 

Team up new foods with old favourites

Whenever you try to introduce new foods to your family’s diet, it can be more successful to do this alongside foods that they already enjoy eating. 

For vegetables, this might involve making sure that there is a delicious and kid friendly sauce to disguise the true taste. Cheese sauces made from cauliflower or cashews go really well with broccoli, for example. If your kid will happily eat mac ‘n’ cheese or pizza, look for ways to include more veggies in them. If you know that just the sight of veggies will mean an instant refusal, try blending them and then hiding them in sauces so that your child is oblivious to their presence. 

Go easy on the snacks

If your child snacks a lot during the day, they’re not likely to be all that hungry when it comes to mealtimes. And if they’re not really hungry, they’re a lot less likely to want to try anything new. A lot of parents don’t realise that their child’s appetite may not be as big as they think so snacks can make a bit difference.

Sitting them down for breakfast, lunch and dinner can be enough to stop them getting hungry and with just one snack in the middle to keep them going. They’re a lot more likely to feel hungry for these meals and they may be more inclined to improve their eating habits. 

Drinks might seem like a safe option but it’s also been shown that drinking a lot can also fill them up and make mealtimes more of a battle. Ideally, you want to strike a good balance between keeping them hydrated without affecting their appetite for meals. 

Making Veggies Fun for Kids

Hands up if you’re fighting a constant battle to get your kids to eat their veggies? Most parents feel like this is a fight that you’re always destined to lose but with a few tricks, you can start to make veggies seem a much more exciting prospect. Sounds too good to be true, right? Not necessarily! Here are 5 ways to make eating veggies a whole lot more fun and appetising for kids! 

Get them involved in food preparation

Kids will often be a lot more interested in their food if they’re involved in preparing it. This can start with helping you to choose the right ingredients and working out what to make with them. Try taking them with you when you go food shopping and introduce them to the various greens that might end up on their plate to pique their interest. 

Letting them have their say in what’s going to be dished up can mean that they’re more enthusiastic about what they’re eating, especially if you can bring them round to the idea that greens are something to be enjoyed and not hated.

Most kids will feel a lot more positive about the food they’re eating if they have been involved in its journey onto their plate, especially if you also try out some of the other tricks for learning to love their greens. 

If you have the outside space, you can even take things up a notch by actually growing your own veggies in a mini veggie garden so that your little ones can see their food coming to life. Nurturing veggies and helping them to make it onto your family’s plates can be really powerful for changing how they see their greens 


Make vegetables part of every meal

Instead of serving plain vegetables as a side dish and hoping that it will be well received, try mixing veggies into meals whenever possible. Some kids will never embrace the idea of plain veg but there’s many more ways to include them in meals!

One way to make greens more a staple in your family’s life is to make them a key part of as many meals as you can get away with. Stir fries, casseroles, soups and pasta dishes are all perfect for this but if you get really creative, you can even find ways to add greens to kid friendly foods such as pizza (here’s the secret - blend up some spinach and spread it on a pizza base before you load it up with tomato!). 

If kids can get used to the idea that veggies are an important part of a meal that they enjoy eating, it can make them a lot more open to eating them. Sauces are an easy way to disguise the true taste of greens such as broccoli. Whip up a cashew cheese based sauce and you may find that you get a lot less resistance!


Make the benefits more interesting 

Tapping into your family’s pain points can make greens more appealing. Just saying “it’s healthy” and leaving it at that probably won’t be too effective. Most of us thought we were untouchable in our younger days and your kids may well think the same. But telling them that eating their greens could help them to get stronger or give them super shiny hair could do the trick. 

It’s all about working out what your kids might wish they could achieve and persuading them that eating their greens is a great way to get there. All of a sudden, greens will now seem like something really cool that can be their friend and not the enemy. 


Sneak them in

If you still don’t get anywhere with making them seem more appealing, you may need to get really sneaky and challenge yourself to find creative ways to hide them in meals! 

There’s a lot you can do to sneak them into meals that you might think they could have any place in. Using spinach as an extra healthy pizza sauce is just one example and you can also blend greens into tomato sauces in general and add to lasagna or lentil spaghetti bolognese, for example. And think of it this way: eating their greens is always going to be fun if they don’t even know that they’re there!

Be a role model

Children look to their parents as role models, they want to do what we are doing. Set an example for them by showing them that you enjoy eating healthy food and eating vegetables. Over emphasising how delicious they are can help too.

My 'Travel First Aid Kit'

You might be interested in the things that I take with me in my travel first aid kit when I travel with my daughter Airlie. Everything listed below is vegan friendly. Keep in mind this list doesn't include my daily supplements which I will take with me also. 

Hopefully, we don’t need to use all these things whilst I travel, but I just like to have things on-hand and ready just in case. That way I can take something immediately as needed and I know have natural products and avoid harsh drugs that may have unwanted side effects.

1.       Probiotics (shelf stable) that contain Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) - e.g. Herbs of Gold Probiotic & SB.

SB has been found to prevent travellers diarrhoea.

TIP: I recommend speaking to your naturopath or the person in health store to make sure that the product is Vegan. I have chosen shelf stable probiotics as most strains of probiotics require refrigeration which isn’t practical whilst travelling. 

         

2.       Herbal tonics to improve immune system, antiviral, antibacterial - e.g. Elderberry and Echinacea

As a naturopath and herbalist, we use herbal tonics everyday. Herbal tonics are a potent selection of herbs known to deeply restore, tone, and invigorate multiple body systems. A herbal tonic is a solution or preparation of one or many herbs known to holistically promote health, and be a medicinal source to the mind, body, and spirit.

3.       Sodium Ascorbate (gentle vitamin C for high doses) - e.g. OxyMin Sodium Ascorbate

Sodium ascorbate is a non-acidic highly soluble form of Vitamin C that is gentle on the stomach as it delivers Ascorbic Acid that has been neutralized with Sodium. Vitamin C has several health benefit and can fight of infection and illness.
 

TIP: Sodium Ascorbate can be taken in higher doses compared to your normal Vitamin C.

4.      Colloidal Silver

Colloidal Silver is an antibacterial liquid. It was traditionally used before any antibiotics. It can help solve day-to-day health issues like tonsillitis. I now travel with this all the time to improve my immune system and fight off infection.

5.       Activated Charcoal Powder - e.g. Honest to Goodness Activated Charcoal Powder

Activated Charcoal Powder is made from coconut husks and helps relieve stomach upsets and diarrhoea. I have chosen this powder to avoid animal products as most Charcoal capsules or tablets contain lactose.

N.B. This product is not recommended for children.

6.       Homeopathic First Aid Kit - e.g. Martin & Pleasance Homeopathic First Aid Kit

Homeopathic remedies are considered extremely safe and are great for kids! The remedies have many uses and is good for stomach upset and a whole range of other things.

Edit - I have updated this post to remove any items that I found were not essential.

Dairy and plant-based milks

Lots of parents ask, “When should I transition my child to cow’s milk?”.

Especially if your child is breastfed, there is no reason to transition a child who is drinking human milk that is designed for human babies onto cow’s milk that is designed for a baby cow.

Even if your child isn’t breastfed, there is no reason to transition them to cow’s milk.

Cow’s milk is designed to grow a 65-pound calf into a 700-pound cow as rapidly as possible. It’s just not designed for humans and it’s too strong for us. Which is why it’s been linked to many medical conditions including asthma, acne, type 1 diabetes in children and even cancer so there are many health reasons to avoid cow’s milk.

Finding a plant based alternative is the easy part. There are so many options. If you go to your supermarket, there’s every option from oat milk, rice milk, hemp milk, soy milk, macadamia milk, almond milk, etc.

The hard part is deciding which one to drink. Now, I recommend that you look at the ingredients to have a look at what’s in there. Try to avoid any preservatives, additives, numbers or anything that you don’t really understand what the word means. Also, I suggest avoiding any added sweeteners as many plant based milks do have added sweeteners especially if you are looking at giving it to our children. It is like giving our kids soft drink, they don’t need those sugars. So, I go for the ones that say “unsweetened”.

I prefer soy milk especially for our younger children who need to get as many nutrients as possible. Soy milk does have higher nutrient profile which is why I use and recommend soy milk.

I know people are concerned about soy milk and I do have some information on my website in the resources section about soy. There had been NO studies which have shown that whole soybeans have any negative impact on our health. It’s when it comes to the isolated soy protein that we are starting to have the health issues. So just keep an eye on the label. You will see isolated soy protein labelled, so just avoid that. Look for anything that has whole soy bean preferably organic, check the other ingredients in there.

I also suggest milk fortified with calcium. We all know that dairy is recommended for calcium for our bones. We definitely need our calcium but fortunately dairy is not the only source of calcium and it’s not even the best source of calcium. There are many plant based alternatives that you can use to get your calcium like soy beans, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, whole green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, etc. But I do recommend drinking a milk that  is fortified with calcium, just making sure that we are getting all the calcium that we need especially when it comes to our young children.

You can find plant based milks in your supermarket. In the long-life section or in the fridge section. I do use and quite like Vitasoy. I drink the unsweetened protein plus because as mentioned it’s not sweetened, and it’s made from whole organic soy beans

If you got any questions, I’d love to hear from you.

The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

The main plan of a plant-based diet is to eat a variation of different types and colours of foods, which contain all the essential nutrients. This variation can provide you with most of your daily nutrient needs, and be of enormous benefit to your general health. The health benefits of a plant-based diet are supported by scientific research.