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Eating well while recovering from COVID-19

While recovering from COVID-19 (coronavirus), it is important to eat and drink well. This will boost your immune system and help you to regain your strength.

If you have a good appetite

Your diet should be healthy and balanced if you:

  • are otherwise feeling well
  • have a good appetite (desire to eat food)
  • have not lost any weight

Healthy, balanced diet

Every day, you should eat regular meals that include:

  • protein such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, or nuts
  • dairy such as milk, yoghurt, cheese, or dairy alternatives
  • wholemeal cereals and bread, potatoes, pasta or rice
  • fruit and vegetables

Aim to limit fat, salt and sugar in your diet.

Different age groups have different dietary needs. Read more about how to eat well at any age.

If you have a reduced appetite

After coronavirus, you may have a reduced appetite. This is normal after certain illnesses.

You may:

  • feel full soon after you have started eating
  • feel like skipping meals
  • have lost some weight without trying to

While your appetite is reduced, you should follow a diet that is high in protein energy. This is also called a nourishing diet. It will help you get enough nourishment for your recovery and prevent weight loss.

Even if you are overweight and trying to lose weight, this is not the best time to do so. Try to stay the same weight until you are fully recovered.

When you are recovered and your weight is stable, you can return to the healthy, balanced diet above.

Tips for mealtimes

To help your recovery:

  • eat little and often - 3 smaller meals and 3 snacks every day is recommended
  • make sure you are sitting in an upright, comfortable position when eating
  • allow time for eating - you may have to eat at a slower pace
  • eat nourishing foods that you enjoy
  • get some fresh air before eating a meal - this may help to increase your appetite

You may have trouble breathing and swallowing. This is because you hold your breath when you swallow. This may affect how much you can eat. If it does, read advice on swallowing difficulties after COVID-19.

Foods high in protein energy

If you can only eat small portions, there are some high-calorie ingredients you can add to your meals. This will increase the energy you get without increasing your portion.

Good high-calorie ingredients you can add to meals and snacks include:

  • cheese
  • skimmed milk powder added to whole milk and milky drinks
  • jam
  • honey
  • ground almonds
  • nut butter

Other high-energy snacks include:

  • cheese and crackers
  • custard or rice pudding
  • nuts and seeds
  • thick and creamy yoghurt or high-protein yoghurt
  • cereal bars or flapjacks

Download a cookbook for recipes and advice on high protein, high calorie meals (PDF, 6.5MB, 222 pages).

When to get help

You should ask your doctor or nurse to refer you to a dietitian for advice if:

  • you have lost more than 5% of your body weight in the last 3 months. For example, if you were 70kg and you lost more than 3.5kg
  • your body mass index is less than 20

Calculate your body mass index at Safefood.eu

If you have a health condition or are underweight

If you have an underlying health condition or are underweight, you may need need to talk to a dietitian. Ask your GP or community nurse for a referral if needed. A dietitian can give you specific advice about your situation. You should also follow the nourishing diet advice above.

Oral nutritional supplements

You may need oral nutritional supplements in the short-term. These have energy and protein to supplement your diet.

Continue to follow any advice you have been given by a dietitian during your illness. If you have been prescribed oral nutrition supplement drinks in hospital or at home, keep taking these as recommended. Ask your doctor or dietitian for advice if you are finding these difficult to take.

These can usually be stopped when:

  • you have recovered
  • your weight is stable
  • your appetite has returned to normal

Taste changes during illness

Some people experience a change in taste and smell when recovering from COVID-19 (coronavirus).

People have experienced taste changes in different ways.

This can include:

  • complete loss of taste and smell for a number of weeks
  • a bland taste from foods
  • metallic or salty taste from foods

Tips to help manage taste changes

  • Eating a variety of hot or cold foods, or food of different textures may bring some sensory enjoyment even if taste is reduced.
  • Adding additional salt, butter, cream may make food taste nicer if flavour is lacking.
  • If you are cooking for someone who is ill, the presentation of food is important to make as appetising as possible.

Food is as important as medicine. Even if food does not taste the same, you should eat enough nourishing foods to help your recovery.

Access to food while you are recovering

Your energy levels may be low and you may feel tired easily. Preparing meals may be difficult.

If you are too tired or unwell to cook, stock up on foods that are ready-to-eat or easily prepared.

If you are self-isolating

If you cannot go to the supermarket, ask family or friends to do your shopping. You can also shop online and get your groceries delivered.

Ask whoever is shopping for you to leave the groceries on your doorstep or in your porch.

If you need help, you can also contact your local County Council. They have community support in place to help deliver essential items.

Read more about how Local Authorities can help you during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you have recovered, read our advice on shopping safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related topics

Exercise after COVID-19

Swallowing difficulties and voice problems after COVID-19

Fatigue after COVID-19

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