10 Foods Nutritionists Eat When They’re Sick
We asked 10 nutritionists what foods they crave when they're feeling under-the-weather.
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Sick Day Solutions
When you're sick with the flu, stomach bug, or even a common cold, what you eat can make all the difference between spending another day in bed and waking up refreshed. The key is to eat meals that are comforting physically and emotionally. That’s why we asked 10 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) which foods they turned to when they’re under the weather. Shockingly, chicken soup isn’t on the list.
"When I'm feeling under the weather I often make a smoothie with fresh or frozen strawberries, yogurt or kefir, and a little bit of milk. If my stomach is upset I prefer a mango or tropical smoothie, with coconut milk and freshly grated ginger root. Smoothies are easy to make, nutritious, and soothing. They're also flexible based on personal preference and dietary restrictions."
-Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, cookbook author and recipe developer at JaniceCooks.com
"Although I rarely get sick, my go-to comfort food when I'm under the weather is a steamy bowl of oatmeal. This practice dates back to when I was a child. My dad used to make it for me before he left for work in the morning. The comforting memories, plus the fact that oatmeal is a creamy carb that supplies energy without making my body work very hard, brings a warmth to my mind and body. (And when I'm feeling better, I add a swirl of a nut butter, too!)"
"Garlic contains allicin, which can help fight infection and bacteria. Whenever I'm starting to feel sick, I add crushed garlic to whole grains and pasta dishes, or I make a paste with garlic and olive oil and put it on bread."
-Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness and author of Three Steps to a Healthier You
"When I’m sick, I reach for ginger. My grandma used to give us a locally bottled ginger ale when we were sick as kids. I didn’t love it (it was spicy!), but I’d always wake up feeling better the next day. Today, I usually go for ginger tea made with fresh slices of ginger. Maybe it’s the pleasantly pungent, spicy flavor that helps take my mind off of feeling ill, but ginger delivers also 6-gingerol, a compound shown to help reduce nausea."
-Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, owner of Marisa Moore Nutrition
"Nothing soothes my tummy like a slice of buttered toast like my mom used to make me when I was sick. It always hit the spot and made me feel comforted. Today, I swap out white bread for 100% whole grain and the butter to a flaxseed plant based alternative. Despite these changes, it still hits the spot!"
-Elizabeth Shaw MS, RDN, CLT, Nutrition Communications Consultant at Shaw Simple Swaps
"Kiwi has more vitamin C than an orange and I love its combination of sweetness and bitterness. I will eat them plain, throw them in a smoothie or on top of a salad."
-Jim White RDN, ACSM EX-P Owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios
"It’s a nutrient-dense food that tastes great and it’s easy to eat no matter how under-the-weather I feel. I have several kinds at home, including plain Greek yogurt, which is like a blank slate. There are tons of foods I can add to yogurt to get great healing nutrition with very little effort. If I’m feeling well enough or have help at home, it can even be turned into soup or a smoothie."
-Virginia-based Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, author of The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition
Chamomile Tea (Te de Manzanilla)
"Since I can remember the manzanilla tea has been a staple in our house for whenever anyone is sick. I still remember my abuelita (grandma), who lived with us for many years, making me a cup of manzanilla tea not only when I wasn’t feeling well, but also whenever I was feeling emotionally sad or drained from playing hard. It always hit the spot."
-Sylvia Klinger, DBA, MS, RD owner of Hispanic Food Communcation
"Whether I'm down for the count with a stomach bug or cloudy headed from too much nasal decongestant, I reach for a sports drink to help replenish hydration and electrolytes. I like mine cut 50/50 with water and lots and lots of ice."
-Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC FoodNetwork.com Healthy Eats contributor and owner of Dana White Nutrition
Saltines with Peanut Butter
"After a stomach virus I crave salty, bland foods, so saltines hit the spot. When I also feel really hungry but can't stand a lot of bites adding a little protein and healthy fat from the peanut butter helps satiate me without a lot of volume."
-Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD owner of Amy Goodson, RD