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Visit any drugstore and you will find rows of colorful bottles and jars loudly proclaiming their effectiveness in treating childhood illness.

These products can ease symptoms, but for some moms and dads, a more natural approach is warranted.

Sarah Vetter, nutritional health coach at Natural Grocers in Greeley, said preventing illness starts with boosting a child’s immune system.

And diet is a potent first line of defense.

She suggests some simple approaches that can be used at home, such as cooking with garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric and oregano. Fermented foods, including yogurt, Kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut, can help by providing beneficial bacteria to boost the body’s natural immunity to colds and flu.

“Making sure kiddos eat lots of colorful fruit and vegetables, like broccoli, strawberries and tomatoes is really important,” Vetter said. “You should aim to fill half of the plate with vegetables and fruit.”

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Those veggies and fruits contain nutrients and Vitamin C that help ward off illness, while fermented foods create microbial balance in the “gut,” which is the basis to the body’s immune system.

She suggests serving salmon and tuna to inject healthy fatty acids into a child’s diet. Vetter also strongly emphasizes that sugar should be avoided, for the most part, to keep a child’s body as healthy as possible. Fruit juices, for example, are often laden with sugar that can weaken the immune system.

Of course, even the healthiest of children will come home with the sniffles occasionally.

When they do, few foods are more comforting than a hot bowl of soup.

Bone broth is a nutrient-laden and flavorful option, Vetter said, noting that premade broths are available in grocery stores. Hot tea, such as ginger turmeric or chamomile flavored with honey can soothe throats.

Supplements can help, too. She recommends Elderberry Syrup or gummies at the onset of colds. Echinacea is an herbaceous plant that has been used for centuries to ramp up the immune system and reduce the duration of colds.

Beyond cooking, Vetter said the tried-and-true cod liver oil remains a healthy option, although Vetter admits most kids balk at the flavor. She suggests a bubblegum-flavored version, and some Gummies also are available. Those kids who won’t eat yogurt or fermented foods might benefit from a probiotic supplement, she said.

For parents seeking a reliable reference guide, Vetter recommends the book, “Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child,” by Janet Zand, Robert Rountree and Rachel Walton.

Parents have plenty of products and treatment options when it comes to caring for sick kids, but the nutritional coach said simple and time-honored methods may work best.

Vetter said, “Everyone says it, but it’s true: Drink plenty of water and get some rest.”

Sarah Vetter, the nutritional health coach at Natural Grocers in Greeley, offers free one-on-one coaching sessions to customers and even casual recommendations to shoppers. She also provides community classes. For information, email her at NHC.GR@Naturalgrocers.com. For general nutrition information, visit http://www.naturalgrocers.com.

Sarah Vetter, the nutritional health coach at Natural Grocers in Greeley, offers free one-on-one coaching sessions to customers and even casual recommendations to shoppers. She also provides community classes. For information, email her at NHC.GR@Naturalgrocers.com. For general nutrition information, visit http://www.naturalgrocers.com.