NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — The cold and flu season is officially upon us, which means healthy habits are key to warding off germs, and that’s especially true for vulnerable children.

A few steps we can take to support our immune systems include thorough hand washing, adequate sleep, and physical exercise, but the food we eat can significantly help, or hurt our immune systems as well.

Rachel Iverson is a local dietician who emphasizes the importance of consuming a variety of nutrients that will support immune function.

She explained that a variety of proteins supports white and red blood cells, which fight off viruses and help tissue production, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, preferably in the form of food, are important as well.

And while it may be difficult if you have a picky child, Iverson has a suggestion to get you started.

“One way I like to get fruits and veggies in for kiddos is I like to put them in a smoothie. This is a chocolate strawberry smoothie with a little bit of flax, so we have omega 3 content which helps to reduce inflammation. We have chocolate FairLife milk which is a very good source of high-quality, bioavailable protein. We have strawberries for antioxidant and vitamin C, and then we have peanut butter for taste and a bit more protein and fat, and then I add spinach to this because it blends in very very well,” said Iverson.

Iverson says vitamins are good for those who don’t get adequate nutrition from food, but she warns to be careful and not to consume vitamins that contain over 80% of daily nutrients because that too can be bad.

Another way to increase nutrients is to leave the skin on vegetables like potatoes, and fruits such as pears and apples.