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Achoo! Boost your little ones immunity by helping them love their veggies

Top tips provided by clinical nutritionist Eva Hill Hamilton

Coughs, sniffles and sneezes are those all too familiar sounds that remind us that colder weather is on the way. For little ones, it can mean days off nursery or school and missed activities, so helping your child be at their healthy best is understandably a top priority for parents.  

New research[i] by VIVIO® Junior reveals that 1 in 4 mums and dads believe their child’s diet has an impact on how susceptible they are to catching coughs and sniffles, with over 80% worrying their child doesn’t get all of the nutrients they need from their diet alone.

With over 70% of our immune cells living in our gut[ii], ensuring your little one eats a rainbow of fruit and vegetables is a great way to ‘feed’ the good bacteria living in your child’s gut and fend off those bugs and germs.

However, it’s no easy task for parents, and research shows that many mums and dads feel frustrated when their child won’t eat the foods they’ve cooked, and nine in 10 worry about their child’s overall health due to them being picky.

Luckily, VIVIO® Junior’s Eva Hill Hamilton is here with her top tips for looking after your little ones health this winter and ensuring fuss-free mealtimes:

  1. Be curious: There’s often a reason why a child becomes fussy with foods, for instance they might see a grown-up or child at school refusing foods and start to do the same, or if it’s accompanied with poor appetite, then it could be digestive problems which can result in nutrient deficiencies. Zinc and B vitamins are vital for good digestive health, so ensuring your little one gets plenty of foods rich in wholegrains, nuts, seeds, spinach and fish as part of a varied diet can make a big difference.
  1. Keep it real: It sounds silly but the foods we feed our children should resemble ‘real food’ as much as possible, as opposed to pre-packaged, processed foods that are less likely to contain the vitamins and minerals a child needs to stay healthy. Encourage your child to help you prepare fruits and veggies to spark their interest and build their confidence when it comes to new foods or foods they tend to refuse. Whizzing up chickpeas to make your own hummus for dipping veggie sticks can take minutes, or mashing-up your child’s favourite fruits with Greek yoghurt to make your own yummy yoghurt are both great ways to cram in healthy fruits and vegetables.
  1. Fuel their health and take care of coughs: Multivitamins are beneficial all year round, especially for youngsters who are picky when it comes to fresh foods and vegetables. VIVIO® Junior Multivitamin is perfect for children from 12 months onwards, just one dose a day covers a wide range of well absorbable nutrients and contributes to their wellbeing. If your child is struck down with a winter cough, look out for natural remedies that soothe the symptoms without suppressing it, like VIVIO® Junior Cough Syrup, as coughs are a natural defense mechanism to clear and protect the body.
  1. Don’t forget protein: We tend to focus a lot on fruits and vegetables when it comes to our children’s wellbeing, and forget healthy proteins like cubes of chicken, beans and lentils, and seeds and nuts which are packed with immune-boosting nutrients like omega 3s, iron, vitamin D and selenium. Ensuring your child has a serving of protein with every meal and snack is key to supporting healthy growth and development.
  1. Keep calm and carry on! Family life can be hectic at times, so it’s understandable to want to make the foods you know your child will eat at mealtimes, however persisting and not getting too worried when your little one refuses food is key to helping them overcome picky eating. Adding pressure when it comes to trying foods can usually backfire, so avoid saying things like ‘just one more bite’, or ‘eat up it’s getting cold’. Instead, if your little one refuses food, calmly take it away and offer it later when they get hungry.
  1. Viva variety: When it comes to our children’s gut flora (the tiny microbes responsible for supporting our gut health), ensuring we don’t give the same foods over and over is key to helping us digest the foods we eat and increase the variety of flora in our gut. Pasta is a popular choice for lots of little ones, so offering different types such as pasta made from beans and lentils, or spelt pasta which contains more nutrients, are both great ways to include more diverse foods in our children’s diet.
  1. Offer plenty of water (just not with meals): Water is key to helping your child stay hydrated, but giving them lots of liquids at meal times can trick their tummy in to thinking it’s full so it takes longer for your little one to eat and can cause them to lose their appetite. Offer a drink of water with a splash of lemon or orange juice in 30 minutes before their meal to help get their digestion going instead. This also supports better digestion as their digestive enzymes aren’t being diluted by lots of liquids.
  1. Support their immunity with a protein-packed smoothie! Get your little one involved in blending-up this delicious smoothie crammed with gut healthy ingredients, essential fats and Vitamin C. Recipe serves 2 children:

Recipe Ingredients

– 1 slice of fresh pineapple, peeled and chopped (include the hard middle part!)

– ½ ripe avocado (try Strong Roots frozen ones from supermarkets)

– 200ml coconut milk (from a carton, not tinned)

– 1 tsp vanilla extract

– 2 tbsp plain unflavoured whey protein powder

– A live bacteria supplement

*Always speak to your child’s GP if you are worried about your child’s health, nutrition or fussy eating.

[i] Research conducted on 1,000 parents by OnePoll on behalf of VIVIO® Junior in September 2022


Q&A on Baby and Children’s Health

Paediatric Nurse Lynda Quigley joined Pharmacist Laura Dowling on a live Q&A where they answered questions from their audience on baby and children’s health.

Q1. My two-month-old is really gassy and burpee. What would you recommend to help with her digestion?

Nurse Lynda Styler: Firstly, make sure you wind your baby regularly when you are feeding them, whether breast or bottle. Often, we don’t know that, especially if it’s your first baby. When you think about it logically, you’re not going to drink a bottle of fizzy water in one go because you’re going to fill up on air and you are going to have to burp. It’s the exact same for a baby. Try moderate your feeding – How many mls are you giving them?  Stop to see if they are ok with that amount but make them burp before they start off again.

Pharmacist Laura Dowling: A windy baby that won’t stop feeding can get a bit gassy as well because they are gulping down air, so it’s really important to wind them properly. I used to get into the bath with my baby and feed them in there because the water would help to relax them. And then obviously a live bacteria supplement can help with gassy tummies too, if people need it.

A lot of people have come into the pharmacy with their upset babies and told me they find sometimes giving live bacteria supplements can make a difference.

Q2. What are the benefits of giving a baby a live bacteria supplement?

Pharmacist Laura Dowling: Live bacteria are good for your gut health and digestion. If babies are born by C section, sometimes they don’t get all the good bacteria that they would if born by the vaginal canal so it can help support them this way. It can help with digestive issues such as windiness, gas, constipation etc.

Nurse Lynda Styler: If they do suffer from constipation, especially when they’re moving into the toddler stage where they’re starting on solids, try give them lots of water to help break down that food and reduce the constipation issues.

Q3. I am a first-time Mom due in three months. Any tips on how to develop a baby’s immune system. I keep I keep hearing the first thousand days are crucial.

Nurse Lynda Styler: Firstly, mind yourself and make sure to get plenty of sleep before the baby arrives.

Pharmacist Laura Dowling: That’s so important. We can have that burst of energy in our last trimester where we want to do everything, we are nesting and we want everything to be perfect for the baby and all too often we forget about ourselves.

It’s really important that mum’s get enough sleep, eat good foods and get a little bit of exercise and fresh air as that’s all going to benefit your own immune system. And by default, your little baby’s immune system as well.

Nurse Lynda Styler: We have all learned over the last couple of years that clean hands do save lives so when the baby does come along don’t be afraid to say to a visitor would you mind washing your hands or use the hand gel. We need to get comfortable with that.

A little tip that I always give to a new parent is to make sure you have something belonging to your own household when any visitor wants to hold your baby. A face cloth or blanket over their shoulders. It will protect your baby’s face from encountering any environmental germs on a visitor’s clothes.

Pharmacist Laura Dowling: It is also really important if you don’t feel comfortable with someone holding, touching and kissing your baby then just say it to them. People should not hold it against you if you just want to protect your baby. You have to consider the risk of the cold sore virus through kissing the baby on the mouth. That can be detrimental to your baby’s health, catastrophic if the baby gets the cold sore virus, so just hold your ground and know that you’re doing the right thing for your baby.

Q4. Can I give two fussy eaters aged 9 & 6 years of age a multivitamin and a live bacteria supplement all year round or only seasonally?

Pharmacist Laura Dowling: Yes, you can give your child a multivitamin and a live bacteria supplement all year round. Vivio Junior does a nice multivitamin with 14 vitamins and minerals. It doesn’t replace a good diet but they can help supplement any fussy eater diets. Importantly, it is advisable to give vitamin D supplement to children, especially because of the lack of sunlight in Ireland.

The Vivio Junior Tummies has Vitamin D in it as well which helps support the immune system plus the live bacteria supports the digestive system.

Q5. My three-year-old has been wiped since having COVID twice. How can I help to build him back up again?

Pharmacist Laura Dowling: You can get long COVID with kids as well and some kids take longer to recover from COVID than others, just like adults. So it’s important they get as much rest as they can, good healthy meals, exercise if they are up for it, fresh air, sleep. If you are worried about your child and they’re not like hitting those milestones or they’re very lethargic go straight to the doctor.

Nurse Lynda Styler: Absolutely go with your gut, you know them best.

Q6: Can you give a probiotic after an antibiotic? 

Pharmacist Laura Dowling: That’s actually the time a lot of people do come in to buy live bacteria for their kids and certainly you can, because we all know the broad-spectrum antibiotics can kill both good and bad bacteria. This is why you can sometimes feel a little wiped out after them. So, in order to replenish that good bacteria that can be killed by the antibiotic, a supplementation with a live bacteria can help, as well as support the gut health.

Often there can be a little bit of disruption in their stools when people take an antibiotic, like diarrhoea or constipation. So a live bacteria can help regulate that too if necessary.