Eating for Immunity: How to Plan Office Lunches to Fight Cold & Flu Season

Posted by on Monday, January 27th, 2014 with Comments Off on Eating for Immunity: How to Plan Office Lunches to Fight Cold & Flu Season Comments

Some of us keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on our desks. Others refuse to touch doorknobs with bare hands. And still more will swallow dubiously effective vitamin supplements every day until Easter. That’s right – it’s cold and flu season in the office.

Everyone has their own favorite method of warding off illness, but there’s one way to improve the entire office’s odds of getting sick: make sure office lunches are full of immune-boosting superfoods! All the benefits of those vitamin C packets and zinc inhalers can be stealthily administered to every employee who attends a lunch meeting, orders in group delivery, or enjoys a catered meal at the office.

surgical mask at the office

Everyone at the office has their own coping strategy for flu season. Image source: flickr user Blaine Pearson

While there is no secret superfood that will instantly cure the common cold, researchers do agree that following the good old-fashioned advice to consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is key to maintaining a healthy immune system. With that in mind, here are just a few flu-fighting vitamins and minerals to target for a boost in office immunity during the winter months…

Zinc is a trace element that’s required for many cells in our immune system to function properly, and zinc deficiency can lead to increased susceptibility to viruses and pathogens.

Greek sampler plate with gyros

Beef or lamb gyros with hummus make this plate chock full of zinc. Image source: flickr user SWoo

Beef, lamb, garbanzo beans, lentils, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds are all good dietary sources of zinc, as well as the dark meat of chicken. To up the zinc, think Greek: order in a platter of gyros with a side of hummus and veggies for a zinc-rich lunch.

Vitamin C is probably the most well-known flu-fighter, and the reason why our mothers encouraged us to drink a big glass of orange juice at the first sign of a sniffle. While taking mega-doses of vitamin C may not actually cure the common cold, it’s still important to get the normal recommended allowance each day.

plate of strawberries and kiwis

Strawberries and kiwis deliver more vitamin C than oranges. Image source: flickr user lynn.gardener

You don’t need to gorge on oranges, either: strawberries, colorful bell peppers (other than green), tomatoes, kale, and kiwis are all powerful dietary sources of vitamin C. When it comes to office lunches, a thoughtfully-selected fruit bowl with strawberries and kiwis or a raw kale salad sprinkled with bell peppers and tomatoes will get the job done nicely.

Carotenoids are antioxidants that may help our bodies fend off common colds and flus in addition to cancer and cardiovascular disease. In other words, why aren’t you making sure you eat enough carotenoid-rich foods?

roasted sweet potato fries

Sweet potatoes are rich in carotenoids. Image source: flickr user StacySpensley

When it comes to carotenoids, think color. Rich, deeply-hued foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, and winter squashes are good sources of carotenoids, along with dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. During catered lunches, ask for sweet potatoes instead of regular ones for an easy carotene boost.

Selenium may not be a household name, but research is increasingly suggesting that this essential trace mineral has the potential to have a huge impact on our immune system.

Brown rice sushi

Sushi with brown rice and tuna or salmon delivers a high dose of selenium. Image source: flickr user splityarn

Dietary sources of selenium are a bit more unusual: Brazil nuts top the list by a long shot, followed by seafood, eggs, and brown rice. In addition to supplying mixed nuts, order sushi with brown rice for lunch, making sure to include ample portions of tuna and salmon — the omega-3 fatty acids found in these fish will give you a little more immunity-strengthening bang for your buck.

Eating a diverse, healthy diet is one of the best defenses against illness, and the wide range of options available from can ensure your lunch table is a veritable buffet of flu-fighting foods!

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

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