By Joel Feren

My 18-month-old daughter started childcare in January. But along with her new backpack, water bottle and comfort toys came a seemingly endless run of germs and illnesses in quick succession. It knocked my wife and me for six!

Yet, we know that we are not alone. It is so common for toddlers to get sick when they start childcare. It is common for little kids to get up to 12 infections a year. It’s just staggering!

But there is some good news – what our little ones eat, particularly for breakfast, can help ensure they have all the nutrients they need to support their immune system.

There are several vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that play a unique role in supporting our little ones’ immune systems. Regularly including them your child’s diet will help maintain their natural defences.

Think of these nutrients as members of a team – we need all the players to support her natural defenses. So what nutrients are they? Our star team is vitamin C, zinc, iron, prebiotics and probiotics.

Support your child’s immune system with a healthy breakfast.

Here are my top five, tried and tested, brekkies that I give my daughter to support her immune system and they’ll help ensure your child gets a good whack of these immune-supporting nutrients too.

A bowl of cereal – Ok, choice of cereal matters. Think wholegrains and loads of nutrients. Weet-Bix Little Kids Essentials contains nine essential vitamins and minerals. It’s high in iron and also provides folate and zinc. It also has three wholegrains for plenty of fibre, including prebiotic fibre for happy tummies. It’s a nutritional standout that gives nutrients that kids need for immune support.

Loaded cereal – Topping a wholegrain cereal with berries or kiwi fruit provides vitamin C at breakfast time. Vitamin C acts as a potent antioxidant. The amount of vitamin C that we need is relatively low. Little kids can meet their daily needs with a serve of berries to top their brekkie cereal. Kids can also have fun putting the berries on themselves.

Berries for breakfast provide a good source of vitamic C.

Peanut butter on wholegrain toast – It’s a delicious combination that provides prebiotics from a good-quality grainy bread, and zinc and iron from the nuts. Zinc is important mineral helps to activate our killer immune cells. These are the cells that lead the fight against pathogens. Zinc is found in animal-based foods, as well as plant-foods such as pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils and nuts. To round this brekkie out, and tick the list on all the immunity nutrients, add a snack of yoghurt and berries for probiotics and vitamin C.

Beans on toast – Both the beans and wholegrains provide iron, which is really important for little ones. Babies and toddlers need more iron at these key life stages, as they are growing rapidly. So, it’s important to give them a range of iron-rich foods. Other good sources include iron fortified breakfast cereals, legumes, nuts and of course, red meat. Iron moves oxygen around the body and supports the growth of lymphocytes – a white blood cell and one of the main cells of the immune system.

Making a mess is half the fun, right?

Berry smoothie – This is my go-to for chaotic mornings or those time they’re being teething, fussy or just not hungry first thing in the morning. I blend up berries, yoghurt, one Weet-Bix Little Kids Essential biscuit or some wholegrain cereal, milk and a little honey. You can even pop it in a sippy-cup for them to have in the car, if it’s a long drive to childcare. This smoothie has the key nutrients for immune support and probiotics from the yoghurt. Probiotics are great for good gut health – we now know up to 80 per cent of our immune system lives in our gut!

Joel Feren is the proud father of an 18-month-old daughter. Known as the Nutrition Guy, Joel is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, an Accredited Nutritionist and his food philosophy is that any dish can be made more nutritious by swapping to the right ingredients.