As our nation, states, and local communities initiate strict measures and protocols to protect the public and stem the tide of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we at The Center for Discovery are doing the same.

We care for and educate some of the most vulnerable children and adults with complex conditions and medical frailties. This unprecedented time in our world highlights our dedication to health and wellness for the 1,200 children and adults we serve, along with our staff of nearly 1,800.

Excellent nutrition is the foundation from which we build health here at The Center. Food is Medicine®. It can bolster your immunity to viruses and chronic illnesses. And, it gives you power over your own health. In this time of great concern over health, there are foods you can focus on to help keep your body protected.

Jennifer Franck, MS, RD, Assistant Chief of The Department of Nourishment Arts® at TCFD, says to start by sticking with the basic principles of healthy eating. “Here at The Center, we serve an organic, whole-foods, mostly-plant based menu. Most of our produce comes from our own farm, but when you do not have access to a farm like ours, go with what you can get. And pay attention to color. Each vibrant orange, yellow, red, purple and green speaks to the beneficial vitamins and minerals in each fruit and vegetable. You need all of them for a healthy, well-balanced diet.”

There are however, a couple of standouts when it comes to boosting immunity. “Allium vegetables — particularly garlic and onions which have powerful antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, says Franck, “Ginger is also anti-bacterial which supports the immune system. And it has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the basis of many diseases, so keeping internal inflammation at bay is a key to immunity.”

“Additionally, Vitamin C is critical for keeping our immune systems strong. When we think of Vitamin C most people think of the citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. They are high in Vitamin C, but actually red peppers are higher.  Also great are strawberries, kiwis, kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts,” adds Franck, “frozen are good too.”

Great nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated though, according to Chef Cesare Casella, Chief of the Department of Nourishment Arts®, “My favorite way to eat lots of different vegetables is to chop them up, toss them together with good fats like avocado oil or coconut oil, and add a few herbs, salt and pepper, and pop them in the oven to roast. It brings out their natural flavors. Start experimenting with the spices you like. Cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and cloves add a punch of flavor and are anti-inflammatory, as well. Drizzle with olive oil just before serving.” Look for a pumpkin, kale, and white bean ragu recipe below for inspiration!

As schools close and children are home looking for things to do, it may be a perfect time for some experimenting in the kitchen. “Fermented vegetables and home-made yogurt can be fun to make and watch bubble up, and it’s an excellent source of probiotics which are crucial for gastrointestinal health – a major contributor to overall immunity,” says Franck, “Try out different vegetables and spices. Let the children lead you to new flavor combinations with ferments or even something as simple as a smoothie.” You’ll find a delicious smoothie recipe below – perfect for the whole family!

Stock up on dried goods and pay special attention to filling your pantry with some protein containing foods.  Nut butters, canned fish, and beans are all great options.  Beans of all colors like red, pinto or pink, navy, and black beans as well as other legumes and grains, like quinoa, are shelf stable and provide essential amino acids – the building blocks for the body. They are nutrient-dense little powerhouses and easy to prepare says Chef Casella, “Beans and lentils are so versatile. We add them to soups, salads, stews. If you are new to the kitchen, start with canned ones.  Rinse well and then add your favorite spices. I love garlic, onions, thyme and of course, rosemary. At TCFD we might pair a bean dish with a grass-fed meat or even a frittata of pasture-raised eggs from our own chickens.”

Just as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is urging everyone to wash hands well and frequently, here at TCFD, we urge you to wash not only your hands, but your produce well, too. If preparing food for those outside of your home, perhaps a neighbor who is a senior citizen, consider wearing gloves and wash surfaces frequently. And, dodge the traps. “It’s important during this stressful time to focus on staying strong which includes managing that stress, being active, and getting enough sleep. Eliminating or at least reducing processed foods, sugar, and alcohol which increase inflammation, will definitely help,” says Franck, “Together we can stay strong and get through this health crisis right in our own kitchens. We do it at The Center for Discovery every day.”

View recipes from our Department of Nourishment Arts® and from Chef Cesare Casella and Patrick H. Dollard’s, Feeding the Heart.