Experiencing an outbreak of illness in your household can be quite disconcerting. Whether the sickness affects everyone at the same time or strikes them down one by one, it’s a challenging task to ensure everyone feels comfortable and can recover promptly. As a mother, I am familiar with the temptation to just quickly offer a juice box and a bowl of crackers when my family is unwell. However, as a nutritionist, I understand the crucial role that proper nutrition can play in aiding everyone’s recovery.
How do you strike a balance between the two? Keep reading for insights into the most suitable foods for sick days for both you and your family.
Top Foods for Sick Days
Advantages of Consuming the Correct Foods When Unwell
In essence, providing your body with nutritious foods when you’re unwell helps it combat illness and accelerates the recovery process. While there are no miraculous foods that can miraculously boost your immune system, you can opt for foods containing the right nutrients to bolster your body’s inherent sickness-fighting mechanisms.
Nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and protein offer the necessary support for your immune system to operate optimally and are present in a variety of foods. Additionally, maintaining proper hydration is highly crucial for both children and adults.
Diet for Gastrointestinal Illness (Stomach Bugs)
Appetites tend to alter when experiencing stomach bugs. Often, there’s little desire for food and sometimes only a few food items are well-tolerated. In such instances, focus on fluids initially; then gradually introduce small portions of mild foods before resuming a more diverse diet. It’s worth noting that juice can exacerbate stomach bugs as it may worsen diarrhea.
Diet for Respiratory Illness (Cough/Colds)
Coughs, colds, and congestion can make it challenging to eat, especially for children. Food items might lose their appeal due to a decreased sense of taste or smell. In the case of respiratory illnesses, endeavor to maintain a normal diet as much as possible. Warm foods can at times alleviate symptoms associated with colds.
Foods to Steer Clear from When Unwell
Although there isn’t a definitive list of foods to avoid when sick, it’s best to refrain from consuming anything that might exacerbate symptoms. For instance, during a stomach bug, it’s beneficial to opt for milder foods initially and to avoid high-fat, high-sugar options. Ordinarily, you and your family can continue consuming the same wholesome and balanced meals you would typically have when healthy. Having said that, appetites often change during illness, and some foods may be more appealing than others.
Nonetheless, it’s unnecessary to excessively restrict foods following the BRAT (banana, rice, applesauce, toast) dietary regimen. Although no longer endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, this nutritional practice continues to persist. This dietary plan is intended to aid with stomach bugs and diarrhea, but there’s no scientific evidence to support its effectiveness. In fact, it lacks numerous essential nutrients required for the body’s healing process and primarily consists of carbohydrates, which might exacerbate diarrhea.
10 Nourishing Foods and Recipes for Sick Days
For the best sick-day dishes and recipes, aim to serve vibrant fruits and vegetables, as well as protein-rich foods and those that facilitate hydration.
1. Chicken Noodle Soup (or other broth-based soup)
Chicken noodle soup is a go-to option for sick days for good reason. It provides a good balance of protein and additional nutrients from the vegetables. Furthermore, its warming effect offers comfort and can be soothing for sore throats.
Recipe: Cold-Fighting Chicken Noodle Soup
Smoothies are a vital component for sick days. They are easy to prepare and can be customized based on the ingredients available, eliminating the need for extra trips to the grocery store. Incorporate leafy greens for an antioxidant boost, berries for vitamin C, and plain yogurt for probiotics.
Recipe: Berry Green Smoothie
Oatmeal is an expedient and straightforward meal choice during illness. It can be made with milk to increase the protein content and can be garnished with fruit to introduce a surge of vitamins and minerals. Serve it plain for stomach flu.
Recipe: Homemade Oatmeal
4. Avocado Toast
Avocado toast is effortless to prepare and enjoyable even when feeling slightly unwell. Avocado offers healthy fats for energy, and the toast provides energy-producing B vitamins. Adding an egg enhances the protein content.
Recipe: Avocado Toast + Variations
Eggs are an excellent protein source, quick to prepare, and often a staple in the fridge, making them perfect for sick days. They can be prepared in various ways, which is an added bonus!
Recipe: Microwave Cheese and Pepper Scramble
6. Energy Bites
Energy bites are easy to make and can often be prepared using pantry essentials. Peanut butter provides protein while oats offer B vitamins and fiber. Their diminutive size makes them ideal when your appetite is low.
Recipe: 5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Energy Bites
7. Plain Yogurt
While dairy foods may not be appealing to everyone when unwell, plain yogurt is an excellent choice. It contains healing-promoting protein and probiotics, which assist in bolstering immune health. Opt for plain or low-sugar varieties, as excess sugar can exacerbate conditions like diarrhea.
Recipe: Quick Yogurt Parfait
8. Berries and Citrus Fruits
Some studies suggest that vitamin C may aid in shortening the duration of illness. It’s worth a try, isn’t it? Snack on vitamin C-rich fruits such as berries and citrus fruits to aid your immune system in combating sickness. Furthermore, fruits are hydrating due to their water content!
Recipe: Strawberry Orange Banana Smoothie
9. Simple Pasta Dishes
Pasta is generally a safe choice even when your stomach is uneasy. While it’s perfectly okay to have plain pasta with a touch of butter or olive oil, you can also enhance it a little bit. Try incorporating ingredients containing protein to make it more filling.
Recipe: Cacio e Pepe
10. Roasted Vegetables
Although vegetables might be the last thing you want to eat when unwell, roasted veggies acquire a pleasant sweetness. Additionally, they are brimming with essential vitamins and minerals that sustain your immune system.
Recipe: Colorful Roasted Vegetables
Pointers for Maintaining Hydration
Dehydration is one of the primary concerns during illness, especially with children. On sick days, prioritize fluids by offering water throughout the day and endeavor to incorporate hydrating foods such as soup, fresh fruit, and smoothies. Fruit popsicles also serve as hydrating and soothing treats for sore throats. For adults, restrict the consumption of caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea, as well as alcohol, to optimize hydration.
You may also consider using electrolyte drinks like Pedialyte or sports drinks. If you have concerns about your hydration status or that of a child, promptly seek advice from a medical professional.
Nutrition is an integral aspect of recovery during illness, but nothing surpasses the importance of taking the time to rest and recuperate. Refrain from attending daycare, school, and other activities until you and your family feel better. It might be difficult to miss out, but the less rest you get, the longer your illness may persist. Therefore, take the opportunity to read extra books, watch an enjoyable movie, and enjoy additional cuddle time on the couch.
Prioritizing your family’s health during sick days pays off, so embrace it as much as possible. Opt for nourishing and hydrating foods to help fortify your body’s fight against illness. Don’t hesitate to rest—everything will be waiting for you once everyone feels better!