With cold and flu season in full swing, it’s time to give your immune system a boost to protect yourself from germs and viruses. Did you know, certain foods can naturally support and strengthen our immune response? Arm yourself this winter with these immune-boosting recipes and meal plan from nutritionist, Rob Hobson

Which foods are best for boosting immunity?

A healthy immune system can be achieved through simple lifestyle changes, including drinking plenty of water, reducing stress levels and getting enough sleep. There are also plenty of healthy foods and macronutrients that can naturally support the immune system and strengthen your immune response. This includes:

  • Mushrooms: these are packed with vitamin D, which can help with the prevention and management of respiratory infections.
  • Salmon: similar to mushrooms, salmon is a great source of vitamin D
  • Fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds and pulses: getting enough fibre into your diet is essential for keeping your gut microbiome (the main educators of the immune system!) functioning optimally. The easiest way to achieve this is to eat a diverse range of plant-based foods. Aim for 30g fibre every day.
  • Probiotic foods: as previously mentioned, your gut health is intrinsically linked to your immune system. Try adding probiotic foods with ‘live bacteria’ to your diet. These will help to restore and replenish the good bacteria in your gut, to keep it working at its best.

With this in mind, read on for a 7-day immune-boosting meal plan from nutritionist, Rob Hobson…

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7-day immune-boosting meal plan (with recipes!)

These recipes incorporate fresh, healthy and delicious ingredients to give your immune system a helping hand this winter…

Immune-boosting recipes – MONDAY (Day 1)

Breakfast: Mushrooms on toast

Sauté mixed mushrooms in olive oil with tarragon and serve on top of wholegrain toast.

Lunch: Falafel in wholemeal pitta

Combine chopped cucumber, tomatoes, red onion and parsley, then add to a pitta bread with houmous and falafel.

Dinner: Chickpea and sweetcorn burger

Serves 4

Ingredients for the burgers:

  • 400g chickpeas, canned, drained and rinsed
  • 340g sweetcorn, canned and drained
  • Half of a red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp cumin, ground
  • Half a lemon, zested
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 vegan burger buns, halved
  • 1 bag of prepared green salad, washed

Ingredients for the salsa:

  • 2 avocados, ripe
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • ½ red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 handful of coriander, fresh and finely chopped

Method:

  1. Place the burger ingredients into a food processor, minus the buns and salad. Pulse until coarse and add a little water if it appears too dense.
  2. Divide the mixture into 4 equal-sized pieces. Shape into burger patties then place in the fridge for 40 mins or until firm.
  3. To prepare the salsa, cut the avocados in half and remove the stones. Scoop out the flesh into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the lime juice and salt, mash with a fork to a smooth consistency, then add the onion, tomatoes and coriander and combine well. Set aside.
  4. Set a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a splash of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the patties to the pan and cook for five mins either side until golden and cooked through.
  5. Serve the burgers in the buns with a large dollop of avocado salsa and a side of green salad.

Immune-boosting recipes – TUESDAY (Day 2)

Breakfast: Buckwheat granola with dried cherries and blueberries

Makes 6-8 portions

Ingredients:

  • 200g buckwheat
  • 160g almonds, whole
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 45g sesame seeds
  • 45g chia seeds
  • 100g cherries, dried
  • 100g blueberries, dried
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 25ml apple juice
  • 35g coconut oil, melted
  • Greek yoghurt and fresh blueberries, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C/gas 3. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Spread evenly over a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 45-50 mins or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before storing in jars or airtight containers.
  3. Serve with yoghurt and blueberries – or your choice of fruit.

Lunch: Quinoa and chicken salad

Blitz cashews, sunflower seeds, spinach, basil and olive oil in a blender, then mix with cooked quinoa, chicken and veggies.

Dinner: Stir-fried tofu

Stir fry tofu, chopped spring onions, broccoli, carrots, chilli, pakchoi, lime juice, soy sauce and coriander, and serve with brown rice or soba noodles.

Immune-boosting recipes – WEDNESDAY (Day 3)

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and mushrooms

Add scrambled eggs to sliced, cooked mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Serve with wholegrain toast.

Lunch: Harissa chicken wrap

Spread harissa paste and probiotic yoghurt over a wholemeal wrap and fill with sliced red onions, chopped olives, cucumber, red peppers and chicken breast.

Dinner: Halloumi and watercress salad

Mix watercress, carrot and blood orange segments with a blood orange, honey and mustard dressing. Top with grilled halloumi.

Immune-boosting recipes – THURSDAY (Day 4)

Breakfast: Porridge with fruit and nuts

Make porridge using oats and milk (dairy or alternative). Top with sliced pears and chopped walnuts.

Lunch: Baked sweet potato with tuna and beans

Top a baked sweet potato with canned tuna, chopped kidney beans, yoghurt, spring onions, coriander, chilli and lime juice.

Dinner: Quorn and apricot tagine

Cook minced Quorn with cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, preserved lemons, dried apricots, chickpeas and peppers. Serve with couscous.

Immune-boosting recipes – FRIDAY (Day 5)

Breakfast: Probiotic yoghurt with berries and seeds

Top probiotic yoghurt with berries, nuts, toasted seeds and buckwheat.

Lunch: Baked fish tacos with avocado & charred sweetcorn salsa

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cod fillet, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 100g oats
  • ½ tsp paprika, plus a pinch
  • Half a tsp cumin, ground
  • ½ tsp oregano, ground
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 sweetcorn cobs
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 160g sour cream
  • 1 tbsp chipotle paste
  • ½ head of red cabbage
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Coriander leaves, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 6. Place the oats, paprika, cumin, oregano and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blitz into a fine crumb. Tip the oat mixture onto a plate and coat the cod pieces with the crumb, one by one.
  2. Cook the crumbed cod in the oven for 7-10 mins, or until cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, boil the sweetcorn for 5 mins. Remove, pat dry with kitchen paper and then cook over a lit gas stove until the kernels are golden and toasted all over. No gas hob? A barbecue or blow torch will work just as well.
  4. Cut down the sides of the husks and place the kernels into a bowl, along with the avocado and the juice of1 lime. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, plus a pinch of paprika, before mixing everything together.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the red cabbage, the juice of 1 lime and a pinch of salt – the red cabbage will start to change colour. Mix the sour cream and chipotle paste together in a different bowl, too.
  6. To assemble, put some red cabbage and sweetcorn salsa onto a corn tortilla and top with some of the oat-crusted cod. Add a dash of the chipotle sour cream mixture, garnish with coriander leaves and a squeeze of lime.

Dinner: Beetroot and lentil salad

Combine roasted beetroot,carrots, potatoes and garlic with puy lentils and feta. Top with yoghurt and lime juice.

Immune-boosting recipes – SATURDAY (Day 6)

Breakfast: Smoked salmon plate

Serve smoked salmon with sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes and whole grain toast.

Lunch: Fruity couscous with halloumi

Combine couscous with olive oil, dried apricots and cranberries, mint and coriander, served with grilled halloumi.

Dinner: Garlic, chilli & ginger salmon with quinoa salad

Serves 4

Ingredients for the salmon:

  • 4 salmon fillets, boneless and skinless
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, grated with skin on
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Ingredients for the quinoa salad:

  • 200g quinoa
  • 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and diced
  • 8 radishes, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 cucumber, sliced lengthways, seeds removed and sliced diagonally
  • A handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 handful mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 100g pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2cm of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp honey

Method:

  1. Put the quinoa in a saucepan and cover with three times its volume of water. Place on a high heat and bring to the boil. Season with salt and boil for 6-8 mins until the quinoa is tender but not mushy. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water. Leave to drain thoroughly.
  2. Place salmon on a baking tray and preheat grill to medium.
  3. Combine the chilli, garlic, soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil in a small bowl and pour over the salmon. Place under the grill for 10-12 mins until cooked.
  4. While the salmon is cooking, combine the quinoa in a large bowl with the pepper, radish, cucumber, parsley, mint, sunflower and pomegranate seeds.
  5. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, ginger and honey in a bowl and then pour over the salad.
  6. Remove the salmon from the oven and serve with the quinoa.

Immune-boosting recipes – SUNDAY (Day 7)

Breakfast: Smoothie

Make a smoothie with frozen berries, oat milk, oats and probiotic yoghurt.

Lunch: Super greens soup

Blend watercress, spinach, cooked broccoli, cabbage and ginger. Serve with rye crispbreads.

Dinner: Indian-spiced chicken

Cook chicken in curry powder, cinnamon, garlic and yoghurt. Serve with spinach, mango chutney and brown rice.

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