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Skincare for self-care

MANDI MAKES

Natural Living Made Simple

MANDI MAKES

Winter Wellness: Smart Meal Planning For Immune Boosting Meals

self-care challenge

Welcome back to our self-care challenge series! As winter rolls in, it's time to give our immune systems a little extra love. This week, we’re focusing on the benefits of planning meals that boost your immunity, helping you stay healthy and vibrant all season long.


What’s on the blog:


 


WHY OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM NEEDS A BOOST IN WINTER


Vitamin D

winter sun

Winter brings unique challenges for our immune systems, thanks to a mix of factors. As the temperatures drop, our desire to go outside generally drops with it! My oldest dog has definitely felt this and now runs away when it’s time for our walk around 6.30 am, can’t say I blame her 🤣 As a result, we get less sunlight and our vitamin D levels can drop, which is super important in keeping our immune response strong. Low vitamin D is linked to a higher risk of catching colds and respiratory infections.


Circulation

If you’re like me and you easily get cold hands and feet in winter, this one is for you! Cold weather can also affect our immune system by reducing circulation, making it harder for immune cells to reach where they’re needed. This brings in the importance of exercise and moving our bodies to help boost our circulation.


Indoor Heating

Ever wake up in the morning with a dry throat and nose? That’s all thanks to the dry indoor air that comes from our heating systems. Unless you are one of those people I am envious of that has a fireplace 😜 Plus, as we spend more time indoors, where germs spread easily, this dry indoor air can dry out our mucous membranes, which makes it tougher to fend off bugs.

 


 

HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM


So, what can we do to avoid these immune-reducing effects of winter? To keep our immune systems strong, focus on a few key areas.


1.     Eat a Balanced Diet: Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Focus on foods rich in vitamins C and D, zinc, and antioxidants, which are essential for immune health.

boost immunity

2.     Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. Proper hydration helps maintain mucous membranes, which act as a barrier against pathogens.


3.     Get Regular Exercise: Engage in moderate physical activity to boost circulation and promote the efficient functioning of your immune system.


4.     Manage Stress: Practice stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing. Chronic stress can weaken your immune response.


5.     Prioritise Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Good sleep is crucial for repairing and regenerating immune cells.


6.     Get Enough Sunlight: Spend time outdoors during daylight hours to boost vitamin D levels, essential for immune function.


7.     Include Probiotics: Incorporate yogurt or fermented foods to support gut health, which is closely linked to immune strength.


8.     Practice Good Hygiene: Regular hand washing and maintaining cleanliness can prevent the spread of germs and infections.


By incorporating these habits into your routine, you can help fortify your immune system and stay healthy throughout the winter months.


 

NAVIGATING SUPPLEMENTS FOR IMMUNE HEALTH


Supplements can be a helpful addition to your immune-boosting regimen, but it's important to approach them wisely. Here are some key points to consider:


 

Benefits of Supplements

supplements

1.     Nutrient Support: Supplements can fill nutritional gaps, especially in winter when it's harder to get enough vitamin D from sunlight.


2.     Convenience: They provide an easy way to ensure you’re getting essential nutrients like vitamins C, D, and zinc, which support immune function.


3.     Targeted Support: Certain supplements, like probiotics, can specifically target gut health, which is closely linked to overall immunity.


 

What to Watch For


supplements

1.     Quality Ingredients: Look for supplements made with high-quality, bioavailable ingredients. Avoid products with unnecessary fillers or additives.


2.     Reputable Brands: Choose brands that follow good manufacturing practices and have third-party testing for purity and potency.


3.     Dosage and Efficacy: Be wary of supplements that promise miraculous results or contain excessively high dosages, which can sometimes do more harm than good.


 

The Other Side: Research and Effectiveness


1.     Research Limitations: While some studies support the use of supplements for boosting immunity, others suggest they may not be effective for everyone. The efficacy can vary based on individual health status and dietary habits.


2.     Whole Foods First: Many health experts emphasise that a balanced diet rich in whole foods is the best way to obtain nutrients. Supplements should complement, not replace, a healthy diet.


Supplements can be beneficial for supporting immune health, but it's crucial to choose wisely and focus on quality. Always consult with a healthcare professional before adding new supplements to your routine, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.


 

SIMPLE TIPS FOR IMMUNE-BOOSTING MEAL PLANNING


fruits and vegetables
  1. Load Up on Fruits and Veggies: Go for a rainbow of prod uce packed with vitamins A, C, and E. These antioxidants are your immune system's best friends.

  2. Add Probiotics: Incorporate yoghurt or fermented foods to support gut health, which is crucial for immunity.

  3. Choose Whole Foods: Opt for whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes to provide essential nutrients.

  4. Plan Ahead: Dedicate a little time each week to plan meals. Pick simple, healthy recipes that include a variety of immune-boosting ingredients.

 

EASY, HEALTHY, IMMUNE-BOOSTING MEALS

It was hard for me to choose the recipes to include here because I have many favourites that are on rotation in my house. I might do a blog post dedicated just to healthy meal ideas. Let me know in the comments if that is something you would be interested it! So, here are just a few:


 

Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup


Ingredients:

sweet potato and lentil soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced

  • 2 teaspoons turmeric

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

  • 1 cup red lentils

  • 5 cups vegetable broth

  • 1 tin of coconut cream

  • Salt and pepper to taste


Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a pot, sauté onion, garlic, and ginger until fragrant.

  2. Add turmeric, sweet potatoes, lentils, and broth.

  3. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender. Blend for a creamy texture if desired.


 

Quinoa Salad with Citrus and Avocado


quinoa salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed

  • 2 cups water

  • 2 cups spinach

  • 2 oranges, peeled and segmented

  • 1 avocado, diced

  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • Salt and pepper to taste


Instructions:

  1. Cook quinoa in water, then let cool.

  2. Toss with spinach, oranges, avocado, and red onion.

  3. Drizzle with olive oil and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.


NB: I didn't have spinach on the day I made this to get a photo, so none is shown in the photo.


 

Miso Noodle Soup


This has been on regular rotation in my house over the past couple of months and it is a favourite. It is super quick, easy to make and delicious!


miso noodle soup

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger

  • 1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh garlic

  • 8 cups vegetable broth

  • 3 tbsp miso paste

  • 2 tbsp dried parsley

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

  • 2/4 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

  • 1 cup chopped green onions

  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms

  • Soba or ramen noodles, around 300g

  • 4 large silverbeet/chard leaves

  • 4 hard-boiled eggs (optional)


Instructions

  1. Add 1/2 cup of the broth to a large pot with the ginger and garlic over medium heat. Once it comes to a simmer cook for 5 minutes until softened.

  2. Meanwhile, add another 1/2 cup of the broth to a cup or small jug with the miso. Whisk until dissolved.

  3. Add the remaining broth to the pot with the other ingredients. Leave out 1/2 of the green onions. Stir well and simmer for about 5 minutes until green onions are soft.

  4. Add noodles and silverbeet/chard, and cook for a few minutes until softened. Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes before serving with a sprinkling of the remaining green onions and halved, hard-boiled eggs.


 

Slow Cooker Dahl


This is a favourite weekend meal when I have time to prep dinner in the morning. It makes the house smell amazing and is always a crowd-pleaser if you have guests. I usually make my homemade tortillas/flatbread to go with it. It does have a long ingredient list and includes several spices that you may not have on hand, which made me second guess including this recipe here, but it is definitely worth adding these ingredients to your pantry and having this recipe on rotation during the winter!


dahl recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed

  • 3 cups vegetable stock

  • 400g tinned diced tomatoes

  • 1 can coconut cream

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric

  • 3 green cardamon pods (split open and seeds removed)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds

  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

  • Honey to taste


Method

  1. Heat a small frypan over medium heat. Add the cumin, mustard, fennel, coriander and fenugreek seeds. Shake or stir frequently. When they smell fragrant, remove and set aside to cool.

  2. Heat oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.

  3. Add turmeric, toasted seeds and salt for another minute.

  4. Place onions and spices into the slow cooker, along with rinsed lentils and the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine.

  5. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, or low for 6-8 hours.


 

THE ULTIMATE 'FLU BOMB' RECIPE


One of my most-read blog posts is one of the best tips for boosting your immune system and helping to fight the onset of a cold or flu. I couldn't go past including this here in a blog post all about boosting the immune system. Any time my husband or I start feeling a bit run down or start getting cold and flu systems, this is our go-to remedy.


CLICK THE IMAGE FOR THE RECIPE.

flu bomb


 

THE FINAL WORD


Incorporating immune-boosting meals into your routine is a great way to support your body during the colder months. It’s an easy and delicious part of your self-care journey. So, let’s get cooking and keep our bodies strong and healthy this winter. You’ve got this!



 

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Hi, I'm Mandi. A former primary teacher, Lifestyle Medicine graduate and current Diploma in Natural Skincare student with a passion for natural living.

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