nutrition prevention for colds + flu

Since I’ve gone back to work (just since late July), I have lost track of the number of times my family has gotten sick. My girls have both had fevers, ear infections, colds, more fevers with then vomiting and many trips to the doctor along the way. My husband got sick for a full week and then it took another week to recover. It’s a good thing that usually only one of them is sick at a time, but then they pass it to the next person and it seems like for 2+ months now someone is constantly sick. It makes for a worrisome and stressful few months.

I like to pride myself on not getting sick, but then of course, I came down with a cold a couple weeks ago. Oddly enough, I was meeting with a student the same afternoon regarding his hope and need to prevent catching anything this year- when I started experiencing symptoms.

It’s not uncommon that around this time every year I get asked, what can I do to prevent getting a cold or the flu? Since the chances of getting a cold or the flu when you become exposed is incredibly likely, everyone wants to do and know as much as they can to prevent altogether or lower their risk of getting ill.

I get the concern; I don’t want to miss work and then have to play catch up either. I don’t want my children not feeling well because as a parent you want nothing but for them to feel well again. And if the whole family gets it, gosh the amount of extra cleaning, laundry, and disinfecting that needs to be done can be overwhelming and exhausting.

We should note some differences between the “common” cold and the flu.

While both are caused by viruses that infect our respiratory cells and trigger a response (or fight) from our immune system, they are different types of viruses.  

According to the National Institute of Allergy & Infection Disease, there are approximately 200 different types of cold viruses, rhinovirus often being the most prevalent, and the peak season for contracting cold viruses is between April to May and again in September. Children in the U.S. tend to have 6-10 colds each year and teens & adults have 2-4 annually.

Flu virus, on the other hand, have 3 different types – influenza A, B & C. Influenza A is the one that causes most flu outbreaks each year which its peak season ranging from Dec-Feb but can last all the way until May. 

{myth buster: it’s a myth that cold weather or wet weather can get you sick. During these times, you are more likely to be ‘cooped up inside’ along with others and it’s easier for viruses to spread from one to another}

The flu virus has two different proteins on its surface which is what causes the virus to spread within your respiratory system and these proteins can change or adapt over time. When your body comes in contact with the adapted virus, it looks like a new invader that your immune system hasn’t seen before. So even if you had been vaccinated against the flu last year, you do not have antibodies built up to protect you from these new version of the flu virus. This is why we need a flu vaccine each year.

Speaking of the flu vaccine, every year we hear moans and groans about the need for the flu vaccine. It’s not only a matter of your protection but for everyone else’s, especially young children or older adults as each year the flu causes numerous hospitalizations and even deaths across the country.

The flu vaccine is essentially a prediction from the U.S. Public Health Advisory Committee regarding what the upcoming year’s flu virus will be. As there are different strains of flu you can imagine the difficulty in making this prediction especially knowing the virus is smart and can modify its structure over time.

The flu vaccine is an inactive, or non-living, version of the predicted virus, at least for the injection- meaning you cannot get sick from it. Your body can utilize this as an identifier and start to build antibodies to protect you from when and if you do come in contact with the virus. Those that receive the flu vaccine, again since it’s a prediction, may still contact the flu, but when/ if you do get it, it is likely not as severe and does not last as long.

In addition to getting the flu vaccine, the best way to prevent ‘catching’ a virus from the cold or flu is through frequent hand washing.

Both the cold viruses and the flu spread by contact with secretions that contain the virus (think doorknobs, faucets, toilet handles, and then touching your eyes, mouth, nose, are all pathways for the virus to enter your body). Therefore, in addition to getting the flu vaccine every year, frequent hand washing is the next best method to prevent getting sick, the more you wash your hands, the more likely you are cleaning them from potentially carry the virus around and getting yourself sick or spreading it to other surfaces and exposing others.  

Airborne transmission is also possible, think sneezing and coughing that expels droplets that you or someone else breathes in. I know it sounds disgusting, but it just helps illustrate how easily and almost secretly we are being exposed to these pathogens. 

Since our modern day medicine may not offer the best prevention at this time, we often look for additional or supplemental sources to help protect us.

{Always check with your provider before beginning any supplement regimen}.


Some evidence suggests taking garlic may help prevent colds or reduce the number of colds, however the research is limited to really recommend it. Garlic may have immune supporting properties, but it can interact with a variety of different medications.


Asian ginseng may have immune stimulant properties that may help prevent getting a cold, and even help boost the effectiveness of the flu vaccine by increasing antibody response. Taking 100 mg daily for 4 weeks prior to the vaccine & 8 weeks after may reduce the risk of getting sick.

American ginseng- and specifically an extract of it called Cold fX – taken 200 mg twice daily over 3-4 months may decrease the risk of getting multiple colds in one season and have reduced severity and duration.


While there’s some support that zinc prevents the rhinovirus from replicating in a lab, but there’s no evidence of zinc supplements actually preventing a cold.  Some initial research suggests taking zinc with selenium may improve response to the flu vaccine and reduce the chance of getting sick in the nutrition deficient elderly individuals, but this does not carry through for healthy adults with a sufficient diet. 

Vitamin C

Probably the most well-known, well- promoted (but misconceived) nutrient for preventing colds and flu. Vitamin C may be helpful with immune function by increasing some antibody activity, function, mobility, and production, but most studies do not conclude that vitamin C prevents colds, even with amounts of up to 1 gram per day. Unfortunately, even eating foods rich in vitamin C does not lessen your chances of getting colds or flu. 

Vitamin D

In 2017, some clinical research demonstrated a 12% reduction in respiratory tract infections in adults taking supplemental vitamin D. For individuals who had lower levels of vitamin D, the risk reduction was even great (42%). The exact recommended dose was not clear, but taking vitamin D daily or weekly seemed more effective than taking larger doses at a single time. The findings seemed to be supportive in younger populations as well. Children ages 1-16 had 40% less risk of infection. Additional studies with larger sample sizes are still needed.


Some of the newer, more promising, and safest use of supplements stems from research supporting beneficial bacteria called probiotics in preventing upper respiratory tract infections. Not all supplemental varieties of probiotics are the same – ranging from the amounts and types of various bacterial strains

Milk fortified with a few probiotic varieties (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG  or Culturelle Every Day Health,  Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis) reduced rates of respiratory tract infection in children in daycares.  The probiotics seem to simulate immunity, reducing symptoms and shortening its duration.

Bifidiobacterium is another strain that seems promising in additional age groups. College students seemed to benefit the most from a specific variety of 3 billion bacteria, bifidiobacterium bifidum, for 6 weeks reduced the number of students with cold and flu by 35%.

While we all have an interest in preventing the incidence and spread of colds and flu, the best prevention is biting the bullet and scheduling our annual flu vaccine. Daily and multiple, frequent hand washings as well as avoiding those who are ill as much as possible top the list as well for preventable measures.

If you’re looking for additional support that’s evidence-based, safe, and effective, Vitamin D and probiotics top my list for potential supplements. Despite the research suggesting that vitamin C containing foods (fruits and vegetables like citrus, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, peppers, greens, potatoes) does not support preventing colds and flu, it can’t hurt to add these other-wise nutrient rich foods into your diet. While your nutrition may not prevent you from getting colds and flu, it can help less the severity of your symptoms and shorten the length of the illness. 


Stay well!



Pumpkin Spice Applesauce

I’m learning the truth behind the saying that – one of life’s biggest stresses is changing jobs.

The adjustment to change, the newness, the constant mental workload-  I realized i needed to refill my cup – so to speak- and for me that meant I was in need of a family outing.

So last weekend, we went apple picking. 

Fruit picking wasn’t something we had done before as a family.

It wasn’t the most smooth experience at first- anyone else with have to overcome challenges with impatience, tempers, want-lists, passive aggressiveness- but I guess that’s par for the course for any young family, right – and I’m not even talking about the kids here… ?!?!

By the end of it though, it was a fun and memorable trip that everyone enjoyed- even the hubs said so. =)

When we got home, of course we had some apples to eat! 

It wasn’t on my plan for the day, but while my littlest was napping, I had a chance to make some homemade applesauce! I love it when I have random time that pops up for me to do something that I love, like cooking – it’s like it was meant to be- and I feel I don’t often get the chance to do things like this much these days. 

My oldest, who tends to silently protest weekend naps, even wanted to help a bit. We like to say that she’s still learning to like new (even though these really aren’t all that new to her) and different foods, so getting her in the kitchen is not only fun but also helpful for establishing open relationships with food down the road- hopefully. 

Here’s what we did for our easy & simple stove top applesauce –

Simply dice up the apples and place them in a large, deep pan. We used about 4 red (or Jonathan apples we picked that day) and 3-4 green (golden delicious) apples. 

Squeeze in the juice of a fresh orange (or lemon if that’s all you have) and n sprinkle on your spices. We used about 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and then tossed everything together. 

We simmered these on medium high heat, covered, for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. When they were soft enough, I pureed them with the immersion blender until I reached our desired thickness. 

To be honest I could eat the stewed, softened, and spiced apples as-is, but I knew the fam would more like them blended well. 

Serve this alongside some pork tenderloin medallions or stir it into your morning oatmeal. The stewed apples would have been great as a dessert for me, or even on top of some yogurt or dare I say it- ice cream! 

As with anything food or nutrition related, we need to be in tune with our likes and preferences- as well as our family’s- what may work or be liked by one person or family is not necessarily true with another. So while my family may be better off with pureed applesauce, your’s may benefit from the saute-style apples if it’s more versatile and usable throughout your menu.

I hope you’re enjoying the start of fall!



Greek Yogurt Citrus Bowl

The weekends always go by too fast. There’s too much on our plate- task wise- to get done in just two days #amIright?!? From meal planning & grocery shopping, any household tasks, spending quality time with loved ones, there may be little time left to enjoy the simple things. 

One little thing that got me excited was being able to open the windows and let in some cooler air! It’s something in New Orleans we really aren’t able to do, and if we are and have any cooler mornings it isn’t until late September or October- if we’re lucky. It’s something I really missed and am looking forward to this year being in St. Louis.

This weekend let in a glimpse that fall is just around the corner, and I’m so excited to enjoy it sooner and longer this year! 

Food can really nourish the soul and mirror the season of life we’re in at the moment. This yogurt bowl is hydrating and refreshing- reminding me that there’s still a few more hot, humid days on the horizon.

The citrus adds a brightness and freshness that is refreshing during warm summer days. It also provides vitamin C, that as seasons shift and flu season approaches, can add valuable nutrients to aid in keeping our immunity healthy. The probiotics in the Greek yogurt, too, help to boost our gut healthy- aiding in supporting our immune system. 

This is a go-to snack of mine for the taste but also the nutrition. The benefits found in Greek yogurt are numerous and can benefit us incorporating it multiple times a day. So sneak it in as you can, with breakfast, snacks, dessert, even a light lunch if you’re like me. The fruit topping is a fun way to add more fruit to your plate while also providing nutrients like hydration, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

What’s your favorite way to incorporate food that fits into a particular season of the year or your life?


family dinner dynamics

We’ve had a recent change of routines with me returning to work.

I had taken {a very blessed} 5 months off since we moved from NOLA to St. Louis.

This happens a lot in life – things change – and we need to allow ourselves some time to adjust. But instead we are self-critical, impatient, perfectionists and just want things to settle soon so we can get used to the new process. When I say “we” I’m really meaning ME.

I feel like we have been pretty successful about keeping the house picked up, staying on top of the dishes & laundry, even working in cleaning the house. Apparently, you can see that for me to function well I need to have an organized and cleanly home. Truth.

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But one area I feel the pressure to get better at is dinner time.

As a dietitian I know what the recommendations are. I know why MY recommendations are- if they happen to be any different than the standards. And when I don’t meet these, while I may have gotten over the momentary hyper-criticalness, I still have this goal in the back of my mind of where I still think we need to be.

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For example, there have been some dinners over the last couple weeks that have consisted of just pizza; once a homemade pizza and last night a frozen pizza. I have one girl that is in a phase of food selectivity and is “learning to try and like ‘new’ things.  So she gets a fruit & veggie combo that she will take a few bites of.  My little one eats anything- for the most part – so I can heat up some frozen veggies and she is good. Sometimes she doesn’t eat them, but that’s ok with me. {As long as she is offered it, she can choose how much to eat. But it is our job to offer a variety of nutrient-rich foods, and that is a big, heavy, burdensome load to carry. And sometimes I drop that ball. But I’m trying to practice grace for myself there.}

But when it comes to something for my husband and myself in terms of a veggie side, we had stuff for a salad in the fridge actually, but I never made it. And neither did he. So we skipped it. And that really bothers me because I know the value and importance of veggies, but for some reason we can’t get it together.

How do we fix it?

I don’t know. Everyone gets pizza and a salad, and that’s it?!?

Easier said than done.

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That’s the ultimate goal. Maybe one day. Maybe my girls are too little for that right now and I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and work towards contentment and satisfaction with the work in progress rather than the perfect goal in my head.

I share this because as a dietitian and a mom doesn’t mean I have it all worked out when it come to balanced family dinners. We all have phases of life where we have a nice routine going and then life happens and we have to reassess and make changes. The adjustment period can throw us off for longer than we wish. I think it’s an important reminder that we all need to evaluate our nutrition and see where we need some variety or make some amendments. Sometimes it happens naturally without our need to intervene, other times we have to make the push to challenge ourselves.

To get me back on track, I’m pulling up an “old” meal plan template. I’m going to see if it can work with our current life or if I can at least start with it and modify it.

What are your goal and strategies when life happens? Any family-friendly meals you go to for weeknight survival?

I think for any of us it’s important to highlight the positive points that arise from a situation. No matter what we feel that we ‘failed’ at, there’s likely some pros to the situation even though all we may be focusing on are the cons. So while we only had pizza for dinner and I’m feeling down about not having a vegetable in this scenario, the homemade pizza that Lillian is making in these photos, was eaten by everyone. That’s an accomplishment- everyone eating the exact same thing! And that’s not it, Lillian practically made this entire pizza herself! You can see her rolling out the dough, sprinkling on the corn meal, spreading the sauce, and she topped it off with cheese. What an accomplishment for a 4 year old, not only helping make dinner to nourish the whole family, but doing it almost fully by herself and loving every minute of it! I hope this is what I remember most and not that it wasn’t completely nutritionally sound all the time.



Green Tea Popsicles

One of the new things my 4 year old likes to help with these days is making iced tea. It’s fun to watch her select the tea, open each bag, and place them in our pitcher. I prep and pour in the piping hot water and then she eagerly stirs while the tea & water are steeping – while I’m also reminder her to be gentle so she doesn’t splash and burn herself. She’ll then sip the spoon and say, “Delicious!” One day this summer we even made sun tea as a “vintage” summer activity together.

I like to buy green tea varieties that have additional fruity flavors like passion fruit, peach, or white mangosteen. We love to get unsweet tea when we are at Panera (now St. Louis Bread Co for us) or McAlister’s so the whole goal is to bring these flavors and memories home with us. Not to mention green tea is packed with antioxidants, more so than black and herbal teas, which can benefit heart disease (and prevention) among many other chronic conditions.

During the recent summer heat wave we turned some simple brewed tea into popsicles and truly the hardest part of the whole process is answering the continuous, “Are the popsicles done yet?”

I’m questioning whether I can actually call this a recipe because it is as easy as brewing homemade tea. That process can be a little tricky to get the right boldness of flavor without being too bitter or too dilute. Depending on your size of pitcher at home, you may have to do some adjusting and personalizing.

It’d be great to add fresh, frozen, or dehydrated fruit in the steeping process to boost the flavor and antioxidants even further. I haven’t progressed to this yet with her, as she is still learning to try foods that she thinks she doesn’t like.

Green Tea Popsicles

Makes: about 8 cups of tea {only a portion is used for popsicles}


4 cups water

8 tea bags

4 cups ice


Bring 4 cups of water to a boil or heat in microwave for about 4 minutes.

Pour hot water over tea bags and allow to steep for about 3-5 minutes, until the water darkens from the tea leaves diffusing into the water. Discard the tea bags.

Carefully, add the ice to the hot tea mixture. Stir to combine and chill until needed.

Serve over ice or pour into popsicle mold/s {which will need time to freeze – approx 4 hours minimum}.

Even little sister gets in on the action

Enjoy on a hot summer day or night!



Basic Whole Grain Waffles & Pancakes

Each weekend I typically want something a bit different from my go-to weekly breakfasts.

Waffles + pancakes often pop into my head because they feel like a treat, like I’m back in college heading to brunch or it’s the early days in our relationship (mine and Andrew’s) and he’s courting me to brunch. That didn’t actually happen, so I don’t know why that that occurs.

Weekend breakfasts for us are a bit all over the place. Andrew has never been a big breakfast person and often skips it hence the pretending that I do where I wish he’d take me to brunch. And, I know, I know – he doesn’t listen about the importance of breakfast, I stopped trying years ago to lecture him! Lillian tends to want something easy like cereal and Savannah – Thank the LORD, at least temporarily, will eat whatever I’m eating.

I hadn’t made them in a few months, but this past weekend I was reminded of my love of waffles! I have a basic recipe that I use that I love. It’s 100% whole grains with the added benefits of protein from the Greek yogurt and extra fiber and nutrients from the fruit.

Basic Whole Grain Waffles and Pancakes

Makes 12-16 waffles or standard-sized pancakes


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

dash of cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

1/2 cup pureed fruit

1 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt

1 cup milk of choice

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the syrup:

1 tablespoon all fruit spread

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon syrup of choice


Preheat a non stick skillet to medium heat (If using a waffle iron, turn onto desired setting- I use #3 or #4 on mine).

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg). In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (fruit through vanilla).

Pour the wet into the dry and gently combine.

Spray heated pan or waffle iron with non-stick spray or use a small amount of oil or butter to grease the pan, if desired.

Pour desired amount of batter into prepared skillet. I usually use about 1/3 cup as my scoop.

For pancakes, when bubbles start to form (after a couple minutes), flip the pancakes and cook on the remaining side for about half the time. For the waffles, no need to do this step; the waffle iron does it for you, simply pop out when it beeps that they’re done! Pretty fool-proof for those like me who are afraid to under cook things- even pancakes!

Serve with warmed syrup by either combining the ingredients in a small stock pot and warming through or using the microwave in a microwave safe dish.

These waffles include my base recipe but I swapped in extra yogurt for the typical fruit ingredients as I had some of Lillian’s extra yogurt in the fridge, because you know this week her 4 year old self doesn’t like that particular kind anymore…

I typically leave the yogurt alone and adjust the fruit depending on what I have on hand or what time of year it is. If I have bananas going extra ripe, I’ll mash those up. If it’s fall, I’ll toss in some pumpkin or sweet potato puree. I usually have some flavor of unsweetened applesauce on hand that I can use too when needed. Baby food puree would work too.

I hope your weekend allows you some time to enjoy and do something you love. For me, that’s playing in the kitchen and with my girls. We’ll see what kind of recipe we come up with next time!






Meal Plan Template

Gosh it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post – my intentions just don’t meet my realistic time availability sometimes- and it’s really been a while since I’ve shared a meal plan!

So with the New Year, our focus on wellness goals, and all of us needing some ideas for meal planning, here is a new template I’m planning to use to help keep me out of the- I don’t know what to make or what I even want to eat this week- mindset.

A skillet meal is a 5 ingredient, relatively one-pan saute meal. Thinking my chicken sausage, pesto, pasta dish or shrimp, spinach & artichoke dish here.

The staple meal is a family favorite. tacos & spaghetti are our go-tos.

The sheet pan dinner is just that, everything on the sheet pan, especially lots of veggies + lean protein. As pictured above I have a pre-seasoned pork loin + brussels + broccoli.

Something grilled could be turkey burgers, lean sliders, grilled chicken turned into caesar salads or tex mex bowls, or it could be a sirloin steak with sides.

The soup or stew could be something like a chili or pot roast, something maybe in the slow cooker which is perfect for these chillier days. In the summer, I might change that part of the menu to be a lighter dish for the warmer weather.

If you’re deciding to do something similar- consider rearranging the days to fit your schedule. For example, if you need a middle-of-the week relief night, make that your night to go out. If you have a longer day or day that tends to be busier than others, make that the night that you have leftovers.

I may get to the point – or at least try it out- where on Sundays we sort of cook for most of the week. Thinking like make some type of soup or stew in the slow cooker, meanwhile put the sheet pan dinner together, and have the hubs grill some lean protein. So it’s sticking to the template but 3 of the meals are made in one day. We have a neighbor who shared this with us and while I’m not traditionally a fan of “meal prepping” and devoting hours and hours on Sunday Funday, it might be worth trying. They call it “movie day” where the kids pick out a movie and the adults cook together. I think if both of us do it together rather than one person taking the responsibility, it may be more feasible. That leaves only the skillet + staple meal to cook during the week and both of those are designed to be 20-30 minute one-pan type dishes.

Happy meal planning!