7 Superfoods for a healthy winter

After the wet monsoon, it’s time to welcome the winter with its pleasant mornings (especially for Mumbaikars who only see heat, humidity and rains for the rest of the year) and cool breeze. However, the cold season brings with it, its maladies too. Adults and children alike suffer from cold, cough, sore throat and flu.

Here is my basket of 7 superfoods that will keep you relatively sickness free throughout the winter months.

superfoods winter

  1. Tulsi (Holy Basil): This humble plant that is more or less found in every Indian home is a mine full of benefits. It builds immunity and keeps colds, coughs and fevers away. Have 5-6 leaves daily, however, do not chew the leaves (as it erodes the tooth enamel), just keep it at the back of your mouth and slowly exert pressure with your gums to release its juices. For small kids who don’t want to chew, boil tulsi leaves in water, and give them this herbal tea. Tulsi is also a great remedy for asthma that flares up in winter months.
  1. Turmeric: Indians make a liberal use of turmeric or haldi in their cooking. However, in the winter, you get fresh turmeric roots which should be used to the maximum. Apart from keeping away viral infections, turmeric helps in relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis that flares up in winter. An interesting way of including fresh turmeric in your diet is to make a pickle out of it. Buy mango ginger (curcuma amada) and fresh turmeric roots, wash them, peel them, finely slice them, add sliced green chillies, lemon juice and salt. Mix it well and store it in a container. Have a little every day with your meals.
  1. Amla (Indian Gooseberry): Come winter and the markets are awash with these pale green fruits. Don’t be fooled by its unattractive colour, this humble gooseberry packs quite a healthy punch. Amla translates to ‘nectar of life’. It is a super fruit, no idea why it isn’t getting the due that it deserves! Rich in vitamin C (it has eight times more vitamin C than an orange), it helps fight the common cold, boosts metabolism, builds immunity and relieves arthritis-related joint aches. Also, it improves the quality of hair and skin, and the eyesight. Make sure it is a part of your and your child’s daily diet. Either include it in your vegetable/fruit juice, make murabba or pickle it in salt and turmeric water.
  1. Cinnamon: Do you know cinnamon is the favourite spice for fall and winter baking? Also, it’s not a coincidence that cinnamon sticks are used in mulled wine or cider. Apart from its sweet taste and woody smell, cinnamon has a host of benefits. Firstly, it keeps you warm in the winter months. Cinnamon treats cold and cough, settles your stomach and boosts your metabolism. This spice is clearly a winner! Soak a cinnamon stick in hot water, and sip it when it’s comfortably warm.
  1. Ginger: Cold, dark winters often lead to indulgence in rich, heavy foods. Ginger eases digestion and helps to expel gas from the digestive tract. It is a time proven remedy for wintertime sniffles, runny noses and chest congestion. It helps reduce joint pains and swelling. No wonder, Indians love their ginger tea. However, include ginger in your child’s diet by adding grated ginger to his meals, baking gingerbread cookies or making fresh ginger pickle (use of new ginger roots is advisable for this pickle).
  1. Garlic: Call it an herb, a spice or a vegetable, the truth is, this pungent smelling root is extremely versatile in treating many illnesses. In the winter months, it’s a great food to boost your immune system and keep cold and flu away. It maintains healthy lungs and stomach, and reduces inflammation associated with various forms of arthritis. Garlic bulbs are available all the year round, however, in winter, you get fresh garlic, which looks like a slimmer version of spring onions. Finely chop them and use them generously in your dals, subjis and chutneys.
  1. Ghee: Don’t make that face yet! Ghee is a fat-soluble food that is rich in vitamin A, D, E and K. It helps in digestion. Having a teaspoon of ghee daily prevents dryness of the skin in the winter months, and keeps it moisturized. It provides the desired lubrication to the joints and keep them healthy. Apply ghee on kids’ rotis or pour a dollop of ghee on their rice, khichdis and dals. Or as our mommies do, make gaund and besan ka laddoos, or gajar ka halwa that make a good use of ghee.

With these commonly available foods, you can make sure that your winter is sickness-free. Enjoy the winter!!

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Virus in the air!

In monsoon, it not only rains water but rains illnesses too. I am sure most mothers would agree to me. It’s been hell of a season this time. Though my daughter till date has escaped with only cold and cough a couple of times, her other friends and schoolmates have not been that lucky. Every day I hear one or the other child falling prey to the viruses.

tulsi - home remedy for virus

Though it’s the end of the rainy season, the viruses are still lurking in the air and attacking little helpless kids with low immunity. Yes, mothers its your child’s low immunity that makes him or her an easy target for the cold and infections. If your child regularly eats out, drink un-boiled or un-filtered water, eats a lot of junk food, drinks soda or packaged juices with food colours, etc, she may be prone to infections.

Just imagine that we had never heard of Hand, Foot and Mouth viral infection or dengue while growing up. Had you seen a child taking nebuliser regularly in your childhood days?

No, never. Then why is it that doctors today recommend nebulisers to kids?

I am a big believer of kitchen remedies and hence prefer giving things from the kitchen to my daughter than medicines. I regularly give her Tulsi (Holy Basil) water while my cooking involves asafoetida, ajwain and jeera for her good digestion.

Through a What’sApp message, I got some tips on improving your child’s immunity. It’s recommended by Dhvani Shah, Child nutritionist & author. Though I haven’t verified the source, she has spoken nothing that we don’t already know about. It’s just that most of us have forgotten to practise it.

Sharing with you Dhvani’s list of immune boosting food for your child

  • Jeera (caraway seeds), lemon, mint, turmeric, ajwain, tulsi, ginger, garlic
  • Green leafy vegetables especially methi (fenugreek), spring onion leaves & spinach
  • Tomatoes, beetroot, orange and pumpkin
  • Grapes, berries, plums, prunes and citrus fruits like orange, sweet lime, kiwi
  • Yoghurt, sprouts

yogurt - natural remedy for virus

Why use food and not medicine to boost the immune responses?

Food is the simplest drug available to man-kind without a prescription. Food can act as an antibiotic, anti-bacterial, anti- infective agent that keeps your child disease-free.
Unlike vaccinations and medicines, food is the best immunity food for kids. When given natural forms of immunity foods, the body accepts it as a part of its own and uses it to the optimum. On the other hand, medicines and vaccines are foreign substances to the body and make the body’s natural immunity weaker, making your child more susceptible to infections in the long run.

HOME REMEDIES

FOR COLD – 1 tsp ginger juice + 1 pinch turmeric + 1/2 tsp honey at bedtime
FOR COUGH – 1/2 tsp turmeric powder + 1/2 tsp candy sugar (mishri) powder
FOR FEVER – pumpkin soup

FOR DIGESTION – 1 tsp ajwain + 1 pinch of salt

Don’t keep your child indoors in the fear that she will get an infection. Remember, a child will never build her natural immunity if she is confined to the safety of his home. The more a child is let out in the open, exposed to the natural weather, fed with a variety of foods; the more she will be grow to be a stronger individual.

Lastly, if your child is suffering from any kind of infection; whether severe cold and cough, Hand food mouth infection or conjunctivitis (pink eye), please refrain from sending her/him to the school/playground till the doctor suggests. It helps in containing the disease.

Hope Dhvani’s tips help you and your child.

How to keep your child healthy this monsoon?

I love rains. Well, initially at least. After being tortured by scorching heat and unrelenting humidity for 4 months, who wouldn’t welcome those cold drops of water falling from the heaven, the scent of the earth and the clean and green surroundings? But much as I appreciate the cooler climes, I also know that monsoon is the harbinger of many illnesses and health problems.

Let’s see the most common health problems and how to keep your child healthy this monsoon:

Digestion: Because of near-absence of sunlight, our digestive system is at the weakest during the rainy season. No wonder people observe fast for these four months. Much as we feel like having fried pakodas, vada pavs and chaat, it’s like an open invitation to health problems.

How to keep your child healthy this monsoon?

  • Add ginger, asafoetida and ajwain (Oregano) to your regular cooking. Not only they power appetite but also aid digestion.
  • Cut ginger into julienne. Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and finely cut green chillies. Now shake well and put it in the refrigerator. Eat a little along with meals.
  • Boil ajwain leaves in water. Only a couple of leaves are enough. Tip: Bring an ajwain plant. Ajwain is very easy to plant and grows tremendously fast.
  • Add asafoetida in all dals and legumes.
  • Give your child a bowl of yogurt every day.
  • Avoid rich, fried and spicy food.
  • Avoid green, leafy vegetables or wash them thoroughly before use.

Cold and cough: An adventurous shower in the rains might lead to cold and cough in your kids. It’s a sign of weak immunity.

  • Tulsi (Holy Basil) is your saviour. Boil tulsi leaves in water and give this water daily to your child. If you suffer from low immunity, then it might be a good idea for you to have it too. But remember, you can’t build immunity in a day. It’s a long process. So start now.

How to keep your child healthy this monsoon?

Worms: A child can get infected by worms in any season but in the monsoon, there are heightened chances of getting infected with tapeworms, roundworms and pinworms.

  • Asking your child to maintain proper hygiene is a big step towards fighting worms.
  • Always wear shoes whenever the child steps out of home.
  • Wash their hands and feet every time they come home.
  • Avoid uncooked food from outside; especially fruits, salads, juices and street food.
  • Boil neem leaves in water. Now bathe your child with this water a couple of times in the week.
  • If your child is complaining of tummy ache or vomiting, you’d better rush to a doctor.
  • Ask your doctor for de-worming your child.

I now realize that these tips are not for kids alone. Even adults can benefit from it.

Do you have more tips that can benefit all of us? Please share.

Starting Solids At 6 Months

I had read on a baby site that when your infant starts eyeing other people’s food or stops drooling (which means she has learnt to swallow), you must be reassured that your infant is ready for solids. Believe me, waking up in the middle of the nights 2-3 times for breastfeeding had me completely drained. So I was more than ready to see these tell-tale signs in my daughter.

But of course, ever a cautious mom, I first needed my daughter’s paediatrician’s go-ahead. I asked him, “When can I introduce solids to my baby?”

“The day she turns 6 months old. Not before that.”

What? Another few weeks of this nightmare. I thought.

I patiently ticked the days off on the big calendar till it showed me 21st February 2012. It was a big day for both me and my daughter.

I prepared rice kheer as it is the tradition to sweeten the child’s mouth first so that she always tastes sweet success in life.And then I gave her her first solid food, well it wasn’t actually a solid solid but a vegetable soup. But it was enough for her. A few spoonfuls of carrot-spinach soup once a day to start with. Though she made a face initially but soon she lapped it up.

starting solids

Aanya looking at her soup suspiciously

Once a day soup diet continued for one week. I tried my best to bring variation in her soup regime (though people advised me that an infant doesn’t have much taste for anything except milk). So I would give her carrots, spinach, peas, capsicum, broccoli, tomato and avoided cauliflower and cabbage initially as they cause gas and indigestion.

starting solids

loved it after the initial hesitation

In the second week, along with 1 meal of soup, I also added another meal of a fruit – finely mashed papaya, grated apple and pear, mango pulp. As per the doctor’s advice, I hadn’t given banana to my daughter till she turned 1 as there is family history of asthma. And thereafter, I continued giving her banana only when I had made sure that the fruit doesn’t give her a cold.

Okay, so 2 meals taken care of. But it still hadn’t made much of a dent in my breastfeeding schedule. In the third week, I actually started with the solids.

I gave her a home-made cerelac mixture of cereals, millets and pulses.

Soak 100 gms of whole wheat, rice, nachni (ragi) and split moong dal separately for a few hours. Drain the water and dry them out in the sun. When dry, roast them individually in a pan. Now grind them in a mixture. Pass them through a sieve. Lastly combine the different powders and store it in an air-tight container. Twice a day, give 1 or 2 spoonfuls of this mixture by adding boiled water or your expressed milk.

You can also introduce boiled water at 6 months. Give a sip of water after each meal and slowly increase her water intake. I started giving her boiled water with Tulsi leaves which continues till date.

Lastly, whatever you do, don’t add salt or sugar in your baby’s diet till 1 year and more if you can avoid.

These 4 meals in a day finally managed to ease some pressure off my breastfeeding regime. But you know what; carrying soups, mashed fruits and different kinds of meals every time I was travelling was no mean task. I am the first one to admit, I somehow yearned for the good old days when all I needed was a stole/cover and some privacy to feed my little baby.

What was your experience when you started solids for your baby? Do you have a story to share?