What to eat when you're sick

What to eat when you're sick

Eat these foods when you're under the weather. Image by: Getty Images Author: Tralee Pearce


What to eat when you're sick

Eat these foods and drinks when you're sick with the flu to feel better faster.

When you’ve got a cold or flu, you make a beeline for the chicken noodle soup and load up on rice, bananas and other plain fare. But these typical "sick foods" aren't necessarily the best bet to cure your tummy troubles, says dietitian Ashley Hurley from Sudbury, Ont. You can probably eat a broader range of foods than you think. Here are Hurley's tips on what to eat when you're sick to help you feel better.

Drink plenty of liquids.

With any cold, flu or digestion-related illness, it’s important to drink lots of water and other clear fluids, says Hurley. You need lots of liquids every day, but if you're losing fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, it's important to replace that water by drinking more. 

Eat BRAT and beyond.
You might have heard of the BRAT diet—eating bananas, rice, applesauce and toast when you're sick. But Hurley says there’s nothing magical about those four foods, so don’t worry about veering off the list.

"It’s incredibly limiting at a time when getting a variety of nutrients is important," she says. The BRAT foods are generally easier to tolerate, she says, but other easy-to-digest foods can help you feel better, too.

Check your fibre.
Foods rich in soluble fibre, such as oatmeal or barley, may help with loose bowels or diarrhea because they slow digestion, she says. "However, foods rich in insoluble fibre, like bran or some green vegetables, may be harder to tolerate. It really depends on the person and the severity of the symptoms."

Some foods can make diarrhea worse—think caffeine, full-fat dairy, cookies, cake, candies, and fried or high-fat foods like French fries and doughnuts. It's best to avoid those.

Sip some soup. 
Many of the traditional remedies for cold and flu, like chicken noodle soup and tea with honey, are mostly based on anecdotal rather than scientific evidence, says Hurley. Still, "at a time when we're feeling down and out, if the only thing we get from these foods is some comfort or temporary symptom relief, that can feel invaluable."

Stock your pantry.
When you’re not well, your motivation to cook from scratch tends to vanish. For times like these, stock no-cook or low-cook foods, including fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, yogurt, tuna, eggs, hummus and nut or seed butters. "These are also fairly soft foods that might be easier to get down," says Hurley.

The bottom line? "There isn't one right way to do it. Eat in the way that works for you."

Read on to learn about more foods to eat when you're not feeling well and the importance of getting enough sleep to prevent illness.


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What to eat when you're sick