Eating For Immunity

How Can I Eat For Improved Immunity? [Podcast Episode #048]

It happens to even the best of us...

Life gets busy. Other "stuff" takes priority and a focus on your own health gets put on the back burner. ​Suddenly you just don't feel well. You're sick more often than normal and you can tell your body isn't functioning the way it should.

It's time to take a closer look at what you're eating. Can you make some small diet modifications in order to boost your immune system and regain optimal health? 

Episode Resources:

How Can I Eat For Improved Immunity? [Full Text]

Dave: Hey, thanks so much for joining me on this episode of the Make Your Body Work Podcast. As you know, the show is all about helping you live a healthier happier life. I just want to say thanks again for taking a few minutes of your day to invest in your own health. Today we're talking about a question that I think many of you are going to be able to relate to, I know I can. It's from Helena and she talks about living life in fast forward.

Let's hear exactly Helen wrote and she says,

"I call myself a recovering workaholic, but the truth is life has always been busy and I know I run my body down. I've never been someone who sleeps a lot, so I'm sure that's hurting my health as well. It's just hard to make changes after years of operating in fast forward. Over the last few years, I've noticed that I've been sick or just not feeling well way too frequently, it's a bit of a wake-up call. I know I need to make changes in life, or I'm sure I'll end up facing more severe health consequences later in life. I'm very willing to start with my diet. What sort of foods or meals can I eat that will support my body? Especially my immune system. Thank you."

I want to start by saying, Helena if you're listening, I know like I said there's many of us out there that struggle with this idea of life being in fast forward. There's so many things that we want to pursue, so many things that we're trying to squeeze in every single day. Sometimes it's easy for the very important thing, our own health, to be pushed down that priority list.

Then all of the sudden we realize maybe after years and years it's, "Oh jeez, where did all this weight come from?" Or, "Why am I always sick?" Or we had a real wake-up call and go to the doctor and find out that we're dealing with something more severe.

I just want to see kudos to you for taking a little pro-activity and saying, "Before something becomes even more severe in my life, I want to take charge and change things." Instead of giving you my opinion on what you should you I thought of bringing an amazing guest today.

She has been blogging about her own food travels for years. She's also a registered dietitian, so you know that she knows what she's talking about. Her name is Kath Younger. Just before getting to meet Kath I just want to say please listen to the practicality in Kath's message.

When I read Helena's original question I thought, "I'm going to get someone on the show who can talk about those specific foods and starting in this and stopping in that and give some really specific advice."

You'll hear when Kath and I begin this conversation talking about re-framing the way that we look at living life in a healthy way she does give very specific practical advice, but this is advice that everyone needs to hear.

It's not just people that are looking to boost their immunity or looking to recover from being a recovering workaholic as Helena put it. This is advice that everyone need to hear. I'm really excited to introduce to you Kath Younger.

Meet Kath Younger

Dave: Hey Kath, thanks so much for joining us in the show today.

Kath: Sure, thanks for having me on.

Dave: I was wondering if you could start by maybe telling the audience a little bit about what it is you do and why you and I got connected here.

Kath: Sure. I write the blog Kath Eats Real Food, which you can find at katheats dot com. I've been blogging for nine years I think it is since 2007. My blog used to be everything that I ate, every meal for five years. Then I had a baby and realized that was not a practical way to blog.

I switched to more topical-based blogging at that point. In the meantime, I had lost 30 pounds after graduating from college and wanted to get into nutrition, so I quit my job in public relations and went back to school to become a registered dietitian. I passed that exam in 2007.

I wanted to go into private practice, but at the time it made more sense for me to blog full time. I just worked at that and I guess in some ways I kind of am doing private practice. My blog has always been about how to eat real food. Most people can answer the question why should you eat real food or what should you eat.

Everyone knows that an apple is healthier than a Twinkie. Most people know that it's a health concern to want to put good nourishment into your body, but the whole how question is a little bit harder. When you're starving in a traffic jam and you're kind of weighing the contents of your fridge, how do you then get home and make something healthy? Or how do you make kale chips for an example.

I've always tried to lead by example and that includes living a life of moderation. I don't follow any strict diets. I don't really believe in diet rules. I think you got to eat what makes you feel good and what will treat your body well. My only food philosophy is just to focus on eating food in its most natural form, which is my definition of real food and so that's where we are today.

Dave: You're going hear me speak about where you're coming from and your philosophy there. I don't think the audience is going to be surprised maybe a bit where this conversation leads then because Helena, her question is she says basically her body is breaking down.

She says she feels like she's not well and she wants to change things and she's saying, "What can I do? What sort of food and what sort of meals can I do or can I eat that will support a better lifestyle?" When you read her question, what did you think right away?

Food Preparation

Kath: I think this kind of goes back to what I was saying. I think she probably already knows what to do. It's just a question of, "How can I weave these healthy habits into my already busy lifestyle?" Americans are so busy and we drive on coffee and sugar and fast food. We tend to choose what's easy. Eating a healthy diet is not hard and eating real food is not hard, but it does require a little bit of preparation.

I think she would probably, if I gave her a multiple choice of things that she could change to make her life better she would probably get a hundred percent. She would say sleep better, she would say eat less sugar, drink less coffee, practice mindfulness, work on stress really, all of these things.

Most people know what they need to's just a matter of doing it.

Click to Tweet

Really the bigger question is how does she do this? I think taking an hour of your weekend or whenever you have your freest time. Maybe that's a Monday morning, maybe work all weekend and you have offs in the mornings or something like that. Taking an hour to kind of stay in your week outs it's always recommended to ... I always say the first step of healthy living is to have a well-stocked refrigerator.

Like I was saying with the commute. If your commuting home and you get home and there's nothing fresh in your fridge, then your only option might be something canned in your pantry or your freezer or a takeout.

Whatever you can do on your freest day to stock the fridge and maybe prepare some foods, maybe that means you're cooking some quinoa that you can easily microwave to eat up on your busy nights. Maybe that means preparing, going ahead and pre-chopping some of your vegetables for a meal that you're actually going to cook.

Maybe you are baking humus or preparing overnight oats for your breakfasts. Some of those type of things that if you do them all together and you only have to wash your cutting board once instead of a hundred times during the week, you'll definitely be more efficient and save some time.

I think being prepared is the first step and looking at the ingredient list when you're on the go is another one. Obviously, you're not always going to be near your refrigerator. Maybe you travel for work or maybe you're just at the office and need to grab a snack. One of my favorite places to get a snack is the grocery store actually.

The first step of healthy living is to have a well-stocked refrigerator

Click to Tweet

You can always find yogurt, fresh fruits, lots of little prepared things, the salad bar there. If you need to get lunch on the go or a snack, if I'm travelling on a highway for example I will look for a grocery store for lunch rather than a fast food restaurant because the grocery store will often have better options. You're not always going to strike out and find a good salad bar, but a lot of times you do. That's one of my recommendations. Let me think what other things I had for her.

Dave: If I can just say something, I love your message of just the practicality of this because I think you're right on. Probably Helena and everyone else who's listening, they know in theory what to eat, but it is exactly like you said putting that into practice, particularly when we're busy, particularly when we're travelling. That's the challenging part.

Take The Time To Enjoy Your Meals

Kath: Right, exactly. Another thing is just taking time to enjoy your meals. So many people are eating while they drive or eating while they work. I realize that's not practical for everyone. I have a three-and-a-half-year-old and I really need to get a quiet meal at home even though I work from home.

Sometimes I do have to work through lunch. I realize that is a necessity for people, but the more you can take time to kind of check that, I feel like there are five or so blocks that is for feeling satisfied.

One of those is having a balance of protein, carbs and fat at every meal. Another one is using a fork and a bowl and just kind of sitting down a like having maybe usually ten minutes, but the more satisfied you feel after each meal physically and emotionally, the less tempted you'll be to hit the vending machine two hours later.

I think, again, a little bit of planning and just putting that mindfulness on your meals will go a long way as well to kind of prevent the cravings from happening later in the day. As I was saying, a good balance of protein, fat and carbs at each meal will keep your blood sugar most stable and it will prevent that dip that you get if you eat too much sugar. For example, a doughnut for breakfast you probably aren't going to feel hungry in an hour or two as your blood sugar rides that roller coaster.

Having something more like overnight oats for example, which is oats, milk and yogurt soaked overnight in the refrigerator. That has your whole grains, it has your protein, it has a little fat assuming that you're using maybe a full-fat or a medium-fat dairy.

It also requires no cooking, so you just combine those things in a jar or in a bowl in the refrigerator and you have no dishes to do. It's really kind of a no excuse breakfast. Everyone in the world can make this breakfast. You can put a little on the jar and take it with you on your commute. That is a breakfast that every person in America could make very easily.

Dave: I agree. Helena's question, because I think what you're saying is great on, I'm sure Helena if you're listening you'll agree that there are these practical things that you can do to help kind of kick-start your diet in the right track. Are there things Kath that you'd specifically recommend for someone like Helena?

She uses the term recovering workaholic and I also I also like the phrase she used later, she says she feels like after years of operating in fast forward she's having a tough time making some of these changes. Are there specific foods that you'd say someone like that would be best to focus on?

The Importance Of Breakfast

Kath: I don't know if there's like a specific food per se. I always believe that that meal should revolve around vegetables and fruits and fresh produce. I usually recommend salad at lunch instead of a sandwich or anything vegetable-based like a vegetable soup. I think also the breakfast like a king lunch, like a prince and then like a pauper.

Pyramid is kind of the reverse of what so many Americans do. So many people skip breakfast. They have lunch on the go, from the vending machine, fast food or whatever and then they have a huge dinner at night. Doing the reverse of that is something that will help keep your energy up throughout the day and prevent these like crashes and burns throughout the day when you just lose your energy and things.

Again, I think for her if she's really a recovering workaholic, she probably did do a lot of eating at her desk. Practicing the mindfulness, getting a couple of nice plates and a place mat and really sitting and kind of enjoying the meal is probably something that she would benefit from just having maybe spend a lot of time eating on the go.

Dave: I love what you said there about eating like a king, a prince and then a pauper. That upside-down, I guess the right-side up pyramid of front-loading your calories in the morning really makes sense, particularly for someone like her who you think about when is she going to need her biggest hulk of energy and it's going into her day when she's about to get fired up and go to work and need all that energy to be able to think clearly, of course it makes sense to have those calories in the morning.

Kath: Yeah, yeah, of course. So many people just have coffee for breakfast. Coffee does fill you up a little bit, but then I hear all the time, "I get home and I snack all evening." I tell people, "You're snacking all evening because you're hungry, because you didn't eat in the morning." I'm huge on being proactive and kind of preparing yourself, knowing your habits in advance. If you know you're an intense snacker, try eating more in the morning and see what happens.

A lot of people also feel like they just have to have dessert at night. I'm talking about feeling satisfied mentally and physically. If I have three balanced meals that have a balance of macro nutrients and that I've eaten mindfully, I really don't crave the sweets at night.

It's when I have maybe a lackluster dinner, maybe I ate lunch standing up because I was trying to make son's lunch and we got home late and I was really hungry and I wasn't prepared. Those are the days when I find myself slipping up.

Once you make healthy living a lifestyle, it becomes a habit and you do it effortlessly

Click to Tweet

I think just the more proactive you can be, the better of you are. That at first is a little hard, but if you have to kind of think harder and plan harder but then over time that just becomes a part of your lifestyle. People always talk about making healthy living a lifestyle rather than it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle. Once you can kind of get everything on autopilot then you just do it, you don't even think about it.

If Healthy Eating Was The Easy Choice

Dave: Would you say then that a lot of the health issues that we face will actually be remedied when we do get into sort of these habits or build this lifestyle of healthy eating?

Kath: Yeah, I do. I wish the whole country would get behind ... I can't remember the specifics of the study, but I remember a couple of years ago I read about a study where a workplace had a vending machine and had I think it was beverages, I think there was like Coca-Cola was at eye-level and then water was at the bottom. They switched it and they put water at eye-level and Coke at the bottom. The water sales all of a sudden increased and the Coke sales went down.

I wish the whole country could get behind human psychology and just make the healthy option the easy option, because people will choose what's easy. They don't really think, "Is this good for or bad for me?" They just do what's easy. Right now, it's easy to run through the fast food line and get unhealthy food. I've been waiting for some place where you can keep your child strapped into their car seat and go through a fast food line and get a kale salad. That would be so amazing.

I do think that the world is headed in that direction. I'm just surprised that hasn't really taken off yet. It's just more convenient foods that are super healthy. Drive-through's green smoothie, drive-through salad bars and all that kind of stuff. That's got to be on horizon and I think that will make everybody make these changes a lot easier. I think our obesity crisis would certainly get better if the healthy choice was the easy choice.

Dave: Again, I 100% agree. Quite often we'll talk about people's priorities when it comes to food choices and not always in this order but convenience, taste, cost and then usually below those three would be the health ramifications or health benefits of eating those foods. For sure, like you said convenience is out there, but also taste and then the cost of those foods as well.

Kath: Right. I think though cost is definitely a concern for many people, but for others it's not so much. I know I would pay a little bit more to go through drive-through with a salad than I would a burger. Then the quality too is I think that the cost and taste are often a little bit correlated. This is where programs like, there's a nonprofit called Katie's Krops and she works with school gardens who raise vegetables and then they get donated to food kitchens, so soup kitchens then.

She saw a need where the soup kitchens need vegetables and she needed a garden to help kids learn about where their food comes from. I think similarly there's going to be more organizations that could perhaps facilitate getting produce, like the ugly produce that isn't grocery store presentable, but could be great chopped up in a salad at a restaurant. Those kinds of organizations could help get the cost down a little bit and maybe make this healthy food a little bit more approachable and accessible to everyone.

Dave: Yeah, I agree. I don't know if you saw this, somewhere in the UK, I believe, there's a grocery that did exactly that. They took all their ugly produce and made a specific section in the grocery store. I'll have to look it up, they had an interesting marketing name for it, but it was somewhere like they tried to make it sort of like a sideshow and sort of feature some of these misgrown tomatoes and whatever it was.

Anyways, the price of that produce was 30% less than the price of the regular produce and that whole section was sold there all the time. It was just such a neat illustration. Do people really care about how their food looks or is the quality they're getting and the price associated with it?

Kath: I heard about a juice company that was doing something similar. It was called Eden, but I think they changed their name. They were taking all this ugly produce and just juicing it because of always to prepare food like juice is like the least ... They care the least about how it looks. I thought that was a great concept as well.

Make Your Body Work Takeaway

Dave: Kath, we like to keep the show really short and to the point. At the end of every interview I like to ask my guest what's called a make your body work takeaway. For someone like Helena, or Helena, when she's talking about this idea of wanting to boost her immune system and really do something that'll help her health get on the right, for anyone like her out there who's listening what's the one thing that you'd say they should start doing today?

Kath: My answer is obviously going to be "eat real food" but I'll go back and explain why. I know people have heard this before, but you wouldn't put that gasoline in your brand new car. Your body is not going to run optimally if you're not fueling like it's supposed to be fueled.

If you're feeling tired, if you're not having energy, if you're crashing at 3pm every day, look at what you're eating because you are what you eat and what you eat has a direct impact on how you feel, how you look, so many different parts of your physical well-being.

I think everybody needs to be putting a lot more emphasis in nutrition and there would be a trickle-down effect with the rest of your lifestyle. Everything from healthcare, bills and disease, the big stuff to just like feeling good when you go to bed at night and your body just humming ideally. You want every cell in your body to get what it needs and you do that with real food and a balanced variety of foods, colorful balanced of food throughout the day.

Food has a direct impact on how you feel and how you look. You really are what you eat!

Click to Tweet

Dave: Yeah. It's wise advice, get back to the basics.

Kath: Exactly. Through the nutrition it's not complicated. We have somehow in this country managed to take something so simple. Like I said, people don't know how to eat healthy and that should be like one of the most basic things that we know as humans. We have to eat, we're animals. Why is it so hard for us to answer the question what should I eat? When you think about it, it's just like eat food as nature intended it. It's really very simple.

Dave: Yeah, I agree. Kath, thanks so much for you words of wisdom and just the practicality of your message. I agree with you when you said that's what it's coming down to, it's most people know what they need to do, it's just a matter of doing. You gave some really good practical suggestions. Thanks so much.

Kath: Sure, thanks for having me on the show.

Dave: Thanks again Kath for taking some time of your day to join us and for all that practical advice. Like I said at the top of the show, your advice it's great for people for people like Helena who are looking to improve their immunity and feel better and avoid sickness, but this is the message, you brought to us a message that is important for everyone.

Let's get back to the basics, let's make healthy eating convenient again, let's find ways to make healthy eating affordable. Thank you so much for that much needed message and thank you to you the listeners for tuning in.

Like I said at the top of the show as well, you have just invested a few minutes in improving your health. What ideas can you take from Kath's message that you can apply to your life starting today? I just want to say if anyone out there if you want a little bit more help making that practical jump from understanding what it is that I need to do and actually putting into practice, I'd love to help you out.

I run a coaching program called the 10 in 4 challenge. You can check it over at It's all about doing that, it's taking our knowledge, we know what we need to do, let's put it into practice, let's find a way to stay accountable, staying motivated and doing it consistently day and day so that we can start to see some real changes in our life. Thanks again for joining us today and I can't wait to see you again here next week.

Thanks for joining me today!

You May Also Want to Check Out...