The first few years of a child’s life are very important to the development of their immune system. As your baby becomes a toddler, they – and you – will be out and about much more, going to creche or toddler groups, making new friends and playing outside – all of which means exposure to new kinds of germs.

This is perfectly natural and will help their immune system develop. As a parent, you can help support your toddler’s developing immune system by feeding them a healthy, balanced diet which includes foods that contain key nutrients such as iron and vitamins, as well as prebiotics.

 
Mother and Toddler

Iron

Iron is important for the formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells, which carry oxygen through the body, making it essential for healthy development. It can also affect the immune system, which in turn could reduce the resistance to infection. It can be surprisingly hard to ensure your toddler regularly gets enough iron – a recent Irish survey has shown that 1 in 4 one year old toddlers are not getting enough iron in their diet.
Good sources of iron include:

  • Liver
  • Meat (especially red meat)
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit such as dried apricots
  • Whole grains such as brown rice
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Soybean flour
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as watercress and curly kale
  • Aptamil Growing Up Milk

Zinc

Zinc can be found in all of the body’s tissue and it has a number of important functions. Not only does it aid the creation of new cells and the enzymes but it also helps our bodies to heal wounds. You can find zinc in a variety of toddler-friendly foods, such as:

  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Bread
  • Cereal products such as wheatgerm
  • Shellfish

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is not only important for healthy bones and teeth; it also plays a role in supporting your toddler’s immune system. Most of our vitamin D comes from sunlight on our skin, as the vitamin forms under the skin in reaction to UVB sunlight. However, with limited sunshine and use of high sun block, it can hard to meet the amount of vitamin D needed to carry out these important functions in the body.

As well as healthy bones, Vitamin D also plays a role in supporting your toddler’s immune system

Sources of vitamin D include:

However, as vitamin D levels are lower in dietary foods, it could be advisable to discuss with your healthcare professional if vitamin D supplements are required.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps protect cells and keeps your toddler healthy, and it’s needed by white blood cells to fight infection. It also helps their body absorb iron. It’s a good idea to include the following vitamin C-rich foods in your toddler’s diet:

  • Oranges
    Getting enough vitamin C, oranges
  • Berries
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sweet potatoes

Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps support your toddler’s immune system against infection because it is involved in the generation of antibody responses and the function of immune cells. It helps to maintain your toddler’s healthy skin. Your toddler can get vitamin A from:
Dairy such as cheese, milk and yogurt

  • Eggs
  • Oily fish (such as mackerel)
  • Fortified margarine

While a healthy, varied diet containing a wide range of these foods should give your toddler’s immune system what it needs, it can be difficult to make sure your toddler is getting enough, especially if they’re going through a fussy phase.
If you’ve got any questions, the chances are that our team of experts have been there themselves, why not contact them today.