Nourishing Foods for Sick Days
Updated: Mar 9, 2022
Cold weather often brings more frequent respiratory illness. Several of my friends and family members have recently been struggling with cold and flu symptoms and some have been diagnosed with COVID.
When I’m sick, my physical and mental energy levels are depleted and deciding what to eat can be overwhelming. Below, I share food and drinks that nourish, can ease symptoms, and provide comfort when you’re under the weather.
If you're feeling unwell, the first priority for nourishment is to stay hydrated. Keep a cup of water, herbal tea, broth, or juice nearby and sip on it throughout the day. If you are experiencing nausea, some people find that sucking on an ice cube or cold popsicle can help. Avoid or limit alcohol while you recover as it can be dehydrating.
One of my favorite hydrating drinks when I’m coming down with a cold is a Nourishing Broth.
Simmer the following in 2 cups of broth on medium low heat for 10 minutes:
2 garlic cloves
3 sage leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried sage)
3 thyme sprigs (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
Strain and sip throughout the day.
(If I have it on hand, I also simmer 1 Tbsp of miso paste and 1 stick of dried astragalus root in the broth to help support my gut and immune system.)
Choose Warm Foods for Chills and Comfort
Warm foods and drinks, like teas and broths, can be comforting when you don’t feel well and it can relieve chills. In addition, the steam from a warm drink can help relieve nasal congestion and some people also find that warm drinks aid in digestion.
You may already have the ingredients for a nourishing, warming, symptom-relieving tea or broth in your spice rack, refrigerator, or pantry. Many fruits, vegetables and herbs have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Including these in your diet can help support your immune system while you recover.
Below is a list of foods you may already have that can be steeped in hot water or simmered in broth for 10 minutes, strained and sipped throughout the day to relieve some symptoms associated with respiratory illnesses.
Sage or rosemary leaves to ease a sore throat, ease nasal congestion, and/or intestinal gas/bloating
Cloves for sore throat.
Thyme for congestion.
Ginger or garlic for chills.
Crushed berries to help your body fight infection.
Honey to sooth a sore throat.
Add any soft-cooked vegetable, such as carrots, potatoes, spinach, or green beans, to broth for added nutrition.
Choose Soft Foods When You're Too Tired to Eat
When you’re exhausted, even chewing can seem like too much effort. Choosing soft, nourishing foods helps keep your body nourished while you’re regaining your energy.
Examples include soups, cooked or canned fruits like applesauce, bananas, hot cereal, soft noodles or rice, soft-cooked vegetables, tender meat, eggs, tofu, yogurt.
I sometimes cook a big pot of rice when I’m not feeling well. Then I can add some to broth or heat up a bowl of rice and leftover cooked vegetables for an easy meal as I’m recovering.
Leave the Sugar and Fried Food for Another Day
Sugar can suppress the immune system and high fat foods can be harder to digest when you’re not feeling well. So save those foods for when you return to health.
Remember to listen to your body and get plenty of rest.
If you try to eat something and it doesn’t agree with you, set it aside. You can try again later or try something else. Just stay hydrated. Also, allow your body to rest when you’re sick. Sleep supports your immune system and is crucial for recovery.
If you have specific conditions like diabetes, be sure you follow “sick day” recommendations from your health care professional.
For the curious:
In this blog post, I write about herbs that many of my clients have readily available and that I have personally studied and used. In addition to having antimicrobial properties, the following herbs, have other properties that can support well-being:
Garlic is warming, stimulates circulation, can shorten the duration and severity of colds and flu, can relieve sinus and lung congestion.
Sage and rosemary help tone swollen tissues that occur with mouth sores and sore throats. It can ease fevered chills and can relieve intestinal gas and bloating.
Thyme can ease coughing spasms and intestinal gas and bloating.
Cloves can numb pain from mouth sores and sore throat.
Ginger, fresh or powdered, has anti-inflammatory properties, is warming, and can relieve intestinal gas and bloating.
Nourish, Restore & Renew Weekend Immersion
Join me and Leigh Taylor for an immersive experience of rest and nourishment for a few hours January 28-30. This virtual live experience teaches you how to rest, nourish, and recover your vitality.
Nourish, Restore & Renew Weekend Immersion is your chance to learn how to experience nourishing relaxation and restorative foods that can help improve your mood and mental acuity leading to more productivity. The practices you will learn in this immersive experience also can help ease chronic stress and pain that can occur with burn out and chronic illnesses.