As the omicron variant moves across the country, infiltrating our very homes and families, here are a few proactive things to do as we start 2022. Not only are they good ideas to fight the virus, but just to stay healthy as well.

If you’re struggling with a New Year’s resolution, here’s one that is sustainable: Do everything you can to boost your immune system.

» Hydrate — Drink plenty of water, have a glass of orange juice to boost your vitamin C and go easy on sugary drinks like soda. This is the time to avoid energy drinks and other sweetened beverages.

» Get plenty of rest — Look for ways to reduce stress and make sure you’re getting adequate sleep. Try going to bed an hour earlier.

» Move more. Physical activity can energize our bodies and our minds and help ward off sickness.

» Make healthy food choices. Eat a variety of minimally processed foods (ask yourself “how far removed is it from the ground?” to help with knowing how processed it is). The goal is to give our metabolism everything it needs to help stay energetic and healthy.

» Choose more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These are powerhouses of vitamins and minerals, which in turn boost our immune system.

» Choose less refined carbohydrates. Foods made with refined flours and added sugars may give a quick energy boost but throw off your energy metabolism.

» Remember the food we eat supplies our body’s energy needs. The more nutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats), the more fuel. Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) support metabolism and health.

Make 2022 your year to improve your dietary and lifestyle choices and you’ll ward off sickness and have plenty of energy to accomplish your goals. Happy New Year!


Q: Should you take a multivitamin to boost your immune system?

A: It’s always best to get your vitamins and minerals from food because food offers so many other benefits — oranges not only have vitamin C, but they also offer fiber, vitamin A and other minerals.

If you have a healthy diet with no digestive health issues or other medical conditions that can cause a vitamin deficiency, there is little evidence that taking vitamins will improve your health.

The key is having a healthy diet. Ask yourself how many fruits, vegetables and whole grains you eat in a day. If you find yourself coming up short, a multivitamin this time of year may be good insurance.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The Mayo Clinic has published a new cookbook to help you prepare easy meals that taste good and are good for you. Cook Smart, Eat Well offers 100 recipes designed to help families eat healthier.

Here’s a kid-friendly recipe from the book. While the authors suggest adding broccoli, other veggies such as cauliflower, butternut squash, carrots, green beans or zucchini can be substituted. If your child doesn’t like the texture of the chosen vegetable, cook the veggies first, then puree with the cheese sauce.


» 1 cup dry whole-wheat or multigrain elbow pasta

» 1 cup skim milk

» 3 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese

» 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

» ½ teaspoon kosher salt

» 4 cups broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (or frozen broccoli florets, cooked)

» ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (optional)

» ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley (optional)

» 2 teaspoons butter, melted (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium to large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add pasta and stir. Cook pasta until soft but with a little crunch (about 2 minutes less than recommended cooking time). Strain the pasta and leave in strainer.

In the same saucepan, add the milk, cream cheese, cheddar cheese and salt, stirring constantly. Heat until the cream cheese melts and mixes in. Return the drained pasta to the saucepan. Mix thoroughly and add the broccoli.

Transfer the macaroni mixture to a casserole dish. For a crunchy crust on top, sprinkle with the optional mixture of panko, parsley and butter. Place the casserole dish in oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.


Serves 6 (serving size: 1 cup)

Per serving: 260 calories; 12 grams protein; 29 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams fat (6 grams saturated); 3 grams fiber; 370 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.