While no food or nutrient can protect you from getting sick, this healthy and delicious meal plan can help support a strong immune system.

Emily Lachtrupp, M.S., R.D., C.D.
April 17, 2020
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While you can't necessarily "boost" your immune system, you can practice healthy habits that help your immune system function to the best of its ability. Eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep and reducing stress as much as possible can all help support your immune system naturally, no crazy supplements or expensive "superfoods" needed. And while a healthy diet certainly doesn't hurt, if you're trying to prevent a cold, the flu or COVID-19, proper hand-washing, not touching your face and following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are what can actually help.

This healthy, balanced meal plan helps to support a healthy immune system while delivering the comfort you crave from food, plus it uses pantry staples that you likely already have in your kitchen.

We set this plan at 1,500 calories and included modifications to make this plan 1,200 or 2,000 calories a day, depending on your needs.

What Does Your Immune System Do?

The immune system is our body's natural protector against infection. White blood cells, antibodies and several different organs work together to recognize harmful bacteria and foreign invaders and in turn eliminate them. The immune system also remembers infections and learns from them, so if you're exposed to the same infection later, your immune system is better equipped to fight that specific invader again in the future.

How to Strengthen Your Immune System

To help support your immune system to the best of its ability, continue to practice healthy behaviors like getting plenty of rest and quality sleep, reduce stress, eat a healthy balanced diet and drink plenty of water. Plus, consider getting outside for a walk— research shows that vitamin D, which our bodies can make from sunlight, can help improve our immune system.

Food to Eat for a Healthy Immunity:

Focusing on foods that contain these nutrients may help support a healthy immune system. But remember, the best defense against colds and viruses is good hygiene practices (washing your hands regularly, not touching your face), avoiding sick people and staying home yourself if you feel ill.

  • Vitamin C: Although it won't prevent a cold, research shows that vitamin C may decrease the duration of a cold, so fill up on citrus, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe and bell peppers.
  • Zinc: Found in beef, beans and fortified grains, this mineral helps produce infection-fighting white blood cells. Aim to get this nutrient from food rather than a supplement, as research shows that zinc in too-large amounts (like what you find in supplements) can inhibit the immune system and even be toxic.
  • Vitamin D: This fat-soluble vitamin is absorbed best when we get it from 10 to 15 minutes of direct sun exposure. Food sources include fortified dairy and fatty fish, like salmon. Vitamin D supplements may be warranted for people living in regions with long winters and thus less sunlight, but speak to your doctor or a dietitian beforehand.

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals

Do these simple meal-prep steps ahead of time to get ahead for the workweek.

  1. Prepare Muffin-Tin Omelets with Bell Peppers, Black Beans & Jack Cheese to have for breakfast throughout the week.
  2. Assemble Sweet Potato, Kale & Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.
  3. Whip up Balsamic Vinaigrette to have throughout the week.

Day 1

Breakfast (304 calories)

A.M. Snack (216 calories)

  • 1 medium orange
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (304 calories)

P.M. Snack (249 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (429 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,503 calories, 75 g protein, 190 g carbohydrates, 41 g fiber, 60 g fat, 895 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Remove the almonds from both A.M. and P.M. snacks.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast, and add 1 clementine plus 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to lunch.

Day 2

Breakfast (261 calories)

A.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 cup blackberries

Lunch (393 calories)

P.M. Snack (77 calories)

  • 1 cup sliced cucumber
  • 1 orange

Dinner (716 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,509 calories, 62 g protein, 178 g carbohydrates, 43 g fiber, 66 g fat, 1,694 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Remove the orange from P.M. snack, and skip the Guacamole Chopped Salad at dinner.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack, add 1 large pear to lunch, and add 1/4 cup hummus to P.M. snack.

Day 3

Breakfast (304 calories)

A.M. Snack (145 calories)

  • 2/3 cup raspberries
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (392 calories)

P.M. Snack (186 calories)

  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (452 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,480 calories, 72 g protein, 151 g carbohydrates, 35 g fiber, 73 g fat, 1,120 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Remove the almonds from both A.M. and P.M. snacks.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. almond butter and 1 clementine to breakfast, and add 1 large pear to lunch.

Day 4

Breakfast (479 calories)

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Lunch (393 calories)

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (415 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,480 calories, 69 g protein, 174 g carbohydrates, 36 g fiber, 63 g fat, 1,506 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Remove the apple at breakfast.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack, and add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. almond butter to P.M. snack.

Day 5

Breakfast (261 calories)

A.M. Snack (286 calories)

  • 1 large pear
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (393 calories)

P.M. Snack (216 calories)

  • 1 medium orange
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (365 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,521 calories, 85 g protein, 157 g carbohydrates, 36 g fiber, 67 g fat, 1,611 mg sodium

Meal-Prep Tip: Reserve 2 servings of Classic Chicken Soup to have for lunch on Days 6 and 7.

To make it 1,200 calories: Remove the almonds from both A.M. and P.M. snacks.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 tsp. unsalted butter to breakfast, and add 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts to A.M. snack.

Day 6

Breakfast (220 calories)

A.M. Snack (271 calories)

  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 large peach
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (335 calories)

P.M. Snack (181 calories)

  • 1 small apple
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (472 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,478 calories, 82 g protein, 205 g carbohydrates, 46 g fiber, 43 g fat, 1,266 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Remove the peach and almonds from A.M. snack, and remove the almonds from P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Increase to 5 Tbsp. chopped walnuts at breakfast, and add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. almond butter to P.M. snack.

Day 7

Breakfast (304 calories)

A.M. Snack (234 calories)

  • 1 large pear
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (335 calories)

P.M. Snack (190 calories)

  • 1 clementine
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted dry-roasted almonds .

Dinner (418 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,481 calories, 84 g protein, 187 g carbohydrates, 36 g fiber, 54 g fat, 1,315 mg sodium

To make it 1,200 calories: Remove the almonds from both A.M. and P.M. snacks.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 2 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast, and add 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to lunch.

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