COLUMN: Dietitian has tips for staying healthy during flu season


Local Dietitian Outlines Three Myths and Provides Three Tips to Help You Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Every fall, I’m asked about the role nutrition plays in staying healthy and avoiding the dreaded colds and flu. While a nutrient-dense diet is an important way to boost your immunity, there are also misconceptions and old adages that have been debunked.

With flu season just around the corner, here are three common myths to know, along with my top three tips for getting healthier this fall.

Myth 1
Vitamin supplements will give me all the nutrients I need.

Don’t just rely on taking vitamin tablets and supplements, they can’t completely replace the nutritional value of whole foods. You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy, balanced diet. Try mixing a kiwi or an orange into your next smoothie. Not only do they taste delicious, but you will also increase your vitamin C levels naturally and increase your fiber intake.

If you think you are lacking in a certain vitamin, talk to your doctor or dietitian first before taking a supplement.

Myth 2
Only certain nutrients support the immune system.

While vitamin C and zinc are often touted as the most important nutrients during cold and flu season, they’re not the only ones your body needs to function at its best.

Make sure you get all the nutrients you need by eating a variety of different foods such as leafy greens (B vitamins), beans and legumes (protein, zinc, and fiber), nuts, and seeds (vitamin E) and probiotic foods such as kimchi or kefir, which contain good bacteria that your body needs.

Myth 3
Healthy people do not need a flu shot.

While maintaining a healthy diet is a great way to give yourself the nutrients your body needs, unfortunately even the healthiest people can still get the flu. The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get your flu shot every year.

In fact, between 70 and 90 percent of influenza cases can be prevented with vaccination. Be sure to get your flu shot at your local Zehrs pharmacy when it becomes available to reduce your risk of getting the flu.

Tip 1
Stay hydrated to stay healthy.

We are often told to drink plenty of water in the summer, but this is just as important in the fall and winter. Humans are over 50% water, so staying hydrated is essential to help your blood transport essential nutrients to your organs and muscles, while flushing toxins from your body.

Water isn’t always the most appealing choice, especially for children, so try infusing your water with fresh fruits and vegetables. My favorite refreshing, vitamin-packed combo is strawberry, basil, and lemon.

Tip 2
Eat a variety of different whole foods.

There isn’t a single miracle food that can protect you from the flu. Instead, focus on a variety of fresh, whole foods to maximize the different nutrients and vitamins your body receives.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods, and protein foods. Avoid overly processed, refined and sugary foods, which have very little nutritional value. Try eating the rainbow with your kids by challenging them to incorporate as many colorful whole foods as possible on their plates.

Tip 3
Get enough sleep.

Sleeping gives our bodies time to recover and regenerate. So when we don’t get enough rest, our immune system suffers. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. A good way to unwind is to have an herbal tea, such as chamomile or mint, and avoid screen time before bed.

As a Local Registered Dietitian at Zehrs in Orillia, I’m here to meet your individual nutritional needs this fall and make your trips to the grocery store less daunting. I virtually provide personalized, one-on-one nutrition services to help you plan, purchase, and cook quick, nutritious meals the whole family will enjoy. To learn more, visit

Brittany McMullan is a registered dietitian at Zehrs Orillia.


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