Foods to eat (and foods to avoid) when you have the flu


Let's face it: When you're sick with the flu, eating might not seem like an appealing idea. But your body needs nutrients and calories during illness more than ever. Good nutrition boosts your immune system, helping it fight the virus. You don't have to eat a lot, but the right foods can make all the difference in your recovery.

Getting plenty of fluids and nutrients is the trick to eating while you have the flu. This can be tough if you're feeling nauseated, but the key is to start out with bland foods like toast, crackers, rice, bananas and applesauce. You should also sip on clear drinks to stay hydrated. Juices, sports drinks, ginger ale, clear broths, gelatin and ice pops are all great options.

Once your stomach can handle real food, move on to these more substantial foods.

  • Oatmeal: Oats contain fiber to strengthen your immune system. Add a banana for some extra potassium, which often gets depleted with fever and vomiting.
  • Vegetable juice: A salad might not sound appetizing, but sipping your fruits and vegetables for nutrients is a great alternative.
  • Coconut water: This tasty drink is packed with electrolytes, which you lose a lot of when you sweat or have a fever. Add a squeeze of lime for some extra vitamin C to boost your immune system.
  • Cauliflower soup: Cauliflower has tons of antioxidants, which can help your immune system fight the flu. You can also try some steamed cauliflower.
  • Chicken soup: Hot, broth-based chicken soup isn't just good for soul. It also opens up your airways and helps your body get the nourishment and liquids it needs to get better.

You'll want to avoid some foods:

  • Fatty foods: Foods high in fat are hard to digest and can lead to more stomach irritation.
  • Spicy, acidic foods: Spicy foods might clear up your congestion, but they can be hard on your stomach. The same goes for citrus fruits like grapefruits, oranges and lemons, which may cause discomfort.
  • Candy/cookies/cake: Eating a lot of sugar when you're sick is not helpful to your immune system. 

If you'd like to learn more about the way the foods you eat impact your overall health, consult one of Goshen Health's registered dietitians.