Boosting your immunity by eating better is the ideal way to stay healthy this winter, but is it even possible? Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, organs, and the substances they make (like anti-bodies) that help the body fight off infections and diseases. When germs such as bacteria and viruses invade the body, they attack and multiply, and your immune system has to rise up like an army to fight them off. So strengthening your immunity is the goal, especially right now as we head into cold and flu season and the coronavirus is not going away.

The immune system is precisely that—a system. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. (If the immune system is too strong, it actually works against you by attacking healthy cells, which is what happens with auto-immune diseases.) So, your goal is to keep your immune system strong and in balance. Healthy habits such as exercising, getting enough sleep, de-stressing, and eating a nutrient-rich diet, along with not smoking, managing your weight, and regularly washing your hands can all help your immune system operate at its optimal level!

What to Eat to Stay Healthy: A 3-Day Immune Strengthening Meal Plan

Consuming nutrient-rich foods means eating a diet full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other plant foods, which act together to perform hundreds of functions in the body. Think of them as the behind-the-scenes crew of a concert or sporting event, you don’t always see them, but without them, the show wouldn’t go on.

So how can you ensure you are getting enough nutrients to power up this army of immune workers? Instead of reaching for a bottle of supplements, simply a variety of nutrient-rich, colorful foods to get your daily dose of ammo. This 3-Day Immune-Strengthening Meal Plan can provide you with foods and nutrients to help maximize your immunity and strengthen your immune system this fall and winter!

Day 1 of Your Immune-Strengthening Meal Plan

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Breakfast: Oatmeal Lentil Blueberry Bake

The food — Blueberries The nutrients — Vitamin C and flavonoids

Why they work to strengthen Immunity — Berries are a great source of flavonoids which are highly effective antioxidants and blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all the popular fruits and vegetables.

Servings per Recipe: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups soy milk
  • 1-1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cups blueberries, frozen or fresh
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut, unsweetened, shredded
  • 1/4 cup red lentils
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu, pureed
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F degrees.
  2. In an 8-inch square (or similar-sized) baking dish, mix together the oats, lentils, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Evenly distribute berries and coconut on top of the mixture.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk, maple syrup, silken tofu, vegan butter and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the oats and give it a gentle stir to distribute everything evenly.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and the oats have set. Serve warm.
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Snack: Orange and Kiwi Soy Yogurt Parfait

The food — Orange and kiwi  The nutrients — Vitamin C

Why they work to strengthen Immunity — Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, as well as having positive effects on skin health and immune function. Oranges and kiwi contain vitamin C and one medium kiwi packs 71 mg vitamin C, which is almost 100% of your daily value need!

Servings per Recipe: 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 6 oz soy yogurt
  • 1/4 cup liwi, chopped
  • 1/4 cup orange segments, diced

Instructions

  1. Place yogurt in a bowl.
  2. Top with orange and kiwi.
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Lunch: Avocado Toast Sprinkled with Hemp Hearts

The food — Hemp Hearts  The nutrients — Omega-3 fatty acids

Why they work to strengthen Immunity — Hemp seeds contain 12 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per serving, which can help improve heart health risk factors like increase good HDL cholesterol and decrease triglycerides.

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Snack: Mini Red Bell Peppers and Hummus

The food — Red bell peppers The nutrients — Antioxidant carotenoids

Why they work to strengthen immunity — Rich in various antioxidants, especially carotenoids like capsanthin and quercetin. Capsanthin is a powerful antioxidant responsible for its brilliant red color. Quercetin is a polyphenol antioxidant that may be beneficial for preventing certain chronic conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.

Dinner: Sweet and Savory Tofu-Farro Salad

The food — Dried cherries and spinach  The nutrients — Vitamin C and antioxidant anthocyanins

Why they work to strengthen immunity — Tart cherries contain anthocyanins, a strong antioxidant which may help ease the pain of arthritis and osteoarthritis and may reduce inflammation, muscle damage and muscle soreness following bouts of exercise. Spinach is a great green source of vitamin C.

Servings per Recipe: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cups tofu
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 cup whole kernel corn
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • To taste, salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook the tofu to your preference.
  2. In a medium saucepot, cook farro and corn according to package. Let cool.
  3. In a large bowl, add farro, dried cranberries, parsley, pecans, spinach and corn together. Toss until well-combined.
  4. Drizzle rice wine vinegar and stir until well combined.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Top with tofu.

Day 2 of Your Immune-Strengthening Meal Plan

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Breakfast: Pomegranate Chia Seed Pudding (recipe)

The food — Pomegranate juice and omega-3 fatty acids The nutrients — Antioxidant anthocyanin

Why they work to strengthen immunityPomegranate juice is high in the antioxidant anthocyanin and an in vitro study at UCLA showed that on average, pomegranate juice has a greater antioxidant capacity than green tea, red wine and grape juice. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation.

Servings per Recipe: 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1/2 scoop vegan protein powder
  • 10 oz 100% Pomegranate juice
  • 4 tbsps chia seeds

Instructions

  1. In a blender, place protein powder and pomegranate juice. Shake well. Blend until well combined.
  2. In a container with a lid (like a mason jar), pour shake mixture.
  3. Add chia seeds and put lid on. Secure tightly.
  4. Shake jar/container to mix the shake and chia seeds until well combined.
  5. Leave in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. Enjoy as pudding in the morning.

Snack: Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Energy Bites (recipe)

The food — Dark chocolate  The nutrients — Polyphenols, flavonols and catechins

Why they work to strengthen immunityDark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants like polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others. They can help the body combat inflammation by reducing free radical damage.

Servings per Recipe: 20 balls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup plant-based protein powder (chocolate or vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter (can also use almond butter)
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (ideally 70% cocoa or more)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the peanut butter and maple syrup and stir together until well combined.
  3. Stir in the protein powder.
  4. Add oats and mix until a dough forms. Add water one tablespoon at a time, as needed.
  5. Stir in dark chocolate chips.
  6. After everything is thoroughly combined, roll the dough into 20 small balls and place on the cookie sheet.
  7. Refrigerate for approximately 20-30 minutes or until the bites harden.
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Lunch: Kale Waldorf Salad

The food — Walnuts, kale and dried cherries The nutrients — Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, antioxidant anthocyanin

Why they work to strengthen ImmunityTart cherries contain anthocyanins, a strong antioxidant and also are a good source of vitamin C, so double goodness. Kale also provides antioxidant vitamin C and walnuts’ omega-3 fatty acid content that can help reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokine.

Servings per Recipe: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups raw kale, chopped
  • 1 fuji apple, diced
  • 1 granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, light
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • To taste, salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. On a cutting board, chop kale, apples and walnuts. Then slice the celery.
  2. In a small bowl, add Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar and maple syrup and stir until well combined to make the vinaigrette.
  3. In a medium bowl, add all vegetables and fruit and toss. Drizzle vinaigrette and toss until well combined.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste.
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Snack: Apple and Walnuts

The food — Walnuts  The nutrients — Omega-3 fatty acids

Why they work to strengthen immunityWalnuts’ omega-3 fatty acid content can help reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokine

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Dinner: Margarita Cauliflower Crust Pizza (pre-made or homemade)

The food — Tomatoes The nutrients — Vitamin C and lycopene

Why they work to strengthen Immunity — Contains the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene. Lycopene is a plant compound found in the highest concentrations in the skin of the tomato and more available to the body when cooked. It’s been shown to potentially help prevent certain cancers. Plus, a medium tomato packs 28% of your RDI for vitamin C.

Day 3 of Your Immune-Strengthening Meal Plan

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Breakfast: Strawberry Smoothie

The food — Strawberries  The nutrients — Vitamin C

Why they work to strengthen immunityStrawberries contain more than 25 anthocyanins, which is an antioxidant that aids in heart health. Plus, a number of studies suggest that berries may help prevent several types of cancer through their ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation.

Servings per Recipe: 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups strawberries, frozen
  • 8 oz soy milk
  • 4 oz soy yogurt, plain or vanilla

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
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Snack: Dried Cherries and Roasted Chickpeas (pre-made or homemade)

The food — Cherries  The nutrientsVitamin C and antioxidant anthocyanin

Why they work to strengthen immunity — Cherries are high in the antioxidant anthocyanins, which give tart cherries their bold red color and sweet/sour taste. It’s thought the cherries might aid in restful sleep as they are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Your body repairs and recovers at night making this essential for immune health.

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Lunch: Nourish Bowl

The foodSpinach and sweet potatoes The nutrients — Vitamin C and beta-carotene

Why they work to strengthen immunity —Sweet potatoes pack beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, a strong antioxidant that helps fight free radical damage in the body.

Servings per Recipe: 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, roasted
  • 1/2 cup sweet potatoes, cubed, roasted
  • 1/4 cup red cabbage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrots, shredded
  • To taste, balsamic vinaigrette or Dijon mustard

Instructions

  1. Place spinach in a bowl.
  2. Place ingredients, in small piles, on spinach (think Cobb salad).
  3. Drizzle with dressing of choice.
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Snack: Kale Chips and Almonds

The food — Kale The nutrients — Vitamin C

Why they work to strengthen immunity — Kale is high in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that has positive effects on skin health and immune function. It’s vital for collagen synthesis, connective tissue, bones, teeth, and small blood vessels and is an antioxidant that helps the body buffer and eliminates free radicals that can cause damage to cells.

Servings per Recipe: 6 servings 

Ingredients

  • 6 cups. bunches kale
  • 2 tablespoon vegan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • To taste, lemon juice
  • To taste, kosher salt and pepper
  • To taste, seasonings of choice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F degrees.
  2. Prepare the kale by tearing the leaves off the thick stems into bite-size pieces. Spread out onto the baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and/or lemon juice
  4. Sprinkle with vegan cheese and/or your seasonings of choice and a sprinkle of kosher salt.
  5. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until edges are brown and kale is crispy when moved in pan.

It’s best to eat kale chips immediately after baking, but if you do have leftovers or decide to save them, put them in a container covered with a paper towel. Storing them in a Ziploc bag or an airtight container will cause them to wilt.

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Dinner: Stir Fry with Tofu, Bell Peppers and Soybeans

The food — Bell peppers, broccoli and soybeans  The nutrients — Vitamin C, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids

Why they work to strengthen immunity — Red bell peppers are high in beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A in the body, a strong antioxidant. They also have almost three times the vitamin C as an orange and broccoli tops the charts of green veggies with its vitamin C content.

Servings per Recipe: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup soybeans (edamame), cooked
  • 1 cup tofu, cooked to liking
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • To taste, salt and pepper
  • To taste, seasonings

Instructions

  1. Cook rice according to package.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil on medium. Add bell peppers and broccoli and cook until desired tenderness.
  3. Add in soybeans and brown rice and stir until heated and well combined.
  4. Stir in soy sauce, seasonings and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Remove from heat, top with cooked tofu, and serve.