7 Nourishing Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

Cold and flu levels spike during winter, and if you get sick, you must rest, eat often, and drink plenty of fluids to recover. Although chicken noodle soup has long reigned as the go-to recovery meal, there are plenty of other options you can eat, too. Keep reading to learn simple and nutritious meals you can eat when sick.

Key takeaways:

You need energy

Food contains calories, which serve as energy for your muscles, tissues, and immune system. When you’re sick, your white blood cells and other immune biomarkers work around the clock to eliminate harmful bacteria or viruses. Although these mechanisms are happening at the cellular level, you can feel their effects because you feel more tired and weak compared to when you are healthy. The best way to recover your energy is to sleep and refuel by eating consistently.

Food and drinks that help you heal

Classically, food that helps you feel better when you’re sick contains protein, vitamins, and antioxidants. These nutrients are vital to your immune function and help you recover quickly.

You can probably remember the meals you ate as a kid when you were sick. Most people grew up eating soups, stews, rice dishes, and smoothies because they're flavorful, rich in nutrition, and easy to swallow. All these meals are also high in fluids, which have the added benefit of helping you stay hydrated while recovering.

Eating or drinking hot meals can soothe flu symptoms, including a sore and scratchy throat. It's okay to eat a frozen smoothie, but you may find more relief by sipping a hot tea after you're done.

1. Chicken noodle soup

Many cultures have their own version of chicken noodle soup, and it continues to be one of the most popular dishes to eat when you feel under the weather. The hot broth can temporarily clear congestion, the noodles offer energy, and the protein helps your body build new white blood cells.

2. Ginger and lemon tea

Fresh ginger and lemon are rich in antioxidants, and the heat can soothe sore throats. To brew your own cup at home, cut a wedge of fresh ginger and a slice of lemon, add fresh mint leaves and fennel seeds to your cup, and brew with hot water for ten minutes before drinking. You can also make a pot and refill it several times with hot water.

3. Rice and lentils

Soft foods, like rice and lentils, are easier to eat than crunchy foods. You can use any color of lentils for this dish, but red and brown will cook the fastest. Flavor your dish with grated ginger, garlic, onion, tomato, spinach, and yellow curry.

4. Fruit smoothie

A fruit smoothie is easy to drink and can be enhanced by adding nutrient-dense ingredients. To make a smoothie at home, choose two brightly colored fruits, like frozen strawberries and mango, and add protein-rich Greek yogurt. Sprinkle in hemp hearts or ground flaxseed for fiber, and add a spoonful of your favorite nut butter to increase calories to help your body have the energy to heal.

5. Oatmeal

Boiled oats are versatile and easy to whip together. To add protein, boil your oatmeal in cow or soy milk instead of water. Add raspberries and a dollop of honey, and sprinkle ground cinnamon for flavor.

6. Toasted bagel

A bagel is rich in carbohydrates and gentle on your stomach, especially if you dress it up with plain toppings, like cream cheese or sliced banana and nut butter. If an entire bagel is too much, start with half.

7. Citrus fruit salad

All citrus fruits contain vitamin C, an essential nutrient and antioxidant that supports your immune system. Make a delicious citrus salad by layering sliced oranges, clementines, and grapefruits. Layer in sliced fennel and basil leaves, and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

Nutrition Tip
Add baked chicken or a hard-boiled egg to your citrus salad for protein.

Eat small frequent meals

You may need to adjust your eating schedule if you’re congested, sneezing, or fighting a fever. It’s hard to eat an entire meal while you’re feeling stuffy and uncomfortable. Instead, try eating small meals more frequently throughout the day, even if it’s only a few bites here and there.

If you aren’t well enough to prepare meals, consider buying meal replacement beverages loaded with nutrients. You can drink a maximum of two meal replacement drinks daily, and try to eat whole meals as soon as possible. Book an appointment with your physician if your symptoms don’t improve over 48 hours.

Choose bland items when you feel nauseous

If you’ve been throwing up or feeling nauseous, you should follow the B.R.A.T diet until your symptoms subside. B.R.A.T is an acronym for bananas, rice, apples, and toast. These food choices are bland and delicate on your digestive system, making them easier to eat when you feel sick.

Take it easy

It goes without saying that being sick is unpleasant, but there’s only one way to get better: get adequate rest. Staying hydrated and eating nourishing foods can help you feel better quicker, but if you still feel ill, visit your doctor to be assessed.



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