As we say goodbye to August, and hello to the fall months, we also say welcome to the cold and flu season.

Awareness around illness has obviously been heightened over the last 18 months because of the pandemic. With many people looking to stay healthy and avoid getting sick, what you eat can play a huge role.

“The first thing to think about is eating a diet with fresh produce that’s rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Going into fall, think about incorporating all of the new, fun fall produce,” said Marissa Meshulam, MS, RD, CDN, founder, MPM Nutrition.

“Antioxidants keep our cells healthy. They fight off what’s called free radical damage, which is cellular damage which happens from toxin exposure, aging, plenty of things and antioxidants safeguard our cells, and keep us healthy,” added Meshulam.

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If you can’t get fresh produce, frozen or canned are great options that still have the high nutritional value for your family.

When building your plate, Marissa says to try to fill half the plate with fruits or vegetables and split the other half with protein and starches.

Marissa said her ideal grocery shopping list would be filled with a number of illness fighting foods and how to season your food for added health benefits.

“Beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin,” said Marissa. “Nnot just produce, make sure you’re getting healthy protein like chicken, salmon — the omega 3’s in salmon are really, really great for our immune system.”

Eggs, high in vitamin D and healthy fats — foods like avocado, olive oil, or nuts keep you full but also high in antioxidants.

“Tumeric is another — it contains a compound that is an anti-inflammatory that increases T cells which is an immune cell. roast veggies with it (carrots) — add black pepper to increase bioavailability so the body can absorb maximum benefit.”

Marissa says herbs and spices are also your immune system’s best friend.

“One of my favorites is garlic — it’s antiviral and contains this compound called alliinase.. alliinase produces this immune-system compound. alliinase gets activated by chopping or crushing… garlic. So add it to olive oil and lemon juice and there’s your salad dressing with extra immune-boosting benefits.”