What to Eat If You’re Sick with COVID
A registered dietitian shares how she ate during her quarantine, and shares her advice for others going through the experience.
Like many Americans, the day after Christmas 2021 I had symptoms of a sore throat and two days later tested positive for COVID. For the next 10 days I was symptomatic and quarantined alone in my home. (I was fortunate that my children had a safe place to stay while I recovered.) With the spike in cases due to the new variant, more folks have been finding themselves positive for COVID and needing to quarantine. As a registered dietitian, here’s what I ate during my COVID quarantine, how I shopped for groceries, and what I recommend for others.
Eat to Ease Symptoms
When you have COVID, it's important to ease symptoms, so you can recover more comfortably. You can use the power of food to help alleviate common symptoms like a sore throat, congestion and chills. For example, I had very dry mouth and opted for sucking candies, ice pops, and soup. (Research shows chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory effects, which could sooth upper respiratory symptoms like those associated with COVID.)
Dehydration is also a common issue associated with COVID and many other illnesses. If you feel very thirsty, drink warm tea, cold water, seltzer, or a glass of 100% juice. Choose lower- or no-calorie beverages most often and, on occasion, if you have a craving for ginger ale or lemonade it’s okay to take a drink. The key is to keep yourself hydrated while you recover.
Quarantining can be a stressful experience, so enjoying some of your favorite comfort foods if you have your sense of taste and smell can help make it more bearable. For example, opt for a serving of mac and cheese along with a piece of grilled salmon or chicken breast and steamed broccoli or a tossed salad.
Ask for Help
When you’re in quarantine, you can’t go to your nearest supermarket or pick up food — and you may not even feel up to cooking, which can be especially challenging if you have a family to feed. It’s a good time to call family and friends to help you out. I made a short list of must-haves from the grocery store, including chicken noodle soup and asked my college-aged son to do the shopping and deliver it to me. If you're not up for cooking, ask a friend or family if they'd be willing to pick up food or bring a home-cooked meal to your front door. (We know you'd do the same for them.)
Order Food Online
If having a friend or family member help out isn't an option, you can also order in using the many online delivery apps. If you choose to order in, ideally look for a dish that can last you a few meals — food is expensive! For example, a burger and fries is not very tasty warmed up the next day, and doesn't provide much nutritional value to boost your immune system. Some dishes to consider are salads, chicken and broccoli with sauce on the side, and non-creamy soups.
You can also use online apps to order groceries. Order foods that are easy to prep like low-sodium deli turkey, eggs, and canned or fresh fruit. You can even get a rotisserie chicken or other pre-made dishes when you order online, depending on the market. Do make sure that there is a delivery slot open before you start your order. It’s no fun to have everything in your shopping cart only to be told there are no delivery times left!
Bottom Line: Stay hydrated and nourished.
During COVID quarantine, stay well hydrated and keep well nourished. Enjoy small amounts of comfort foods along with healthy foods to keep your body well fed in order to help with recovery.
The situation with the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change. We encourage readers to stay informed with resources and guidance from the CDC and local health officials.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.