Eating When You Have Been Diagnosed With COVID-19

HSE Media Release: 25 May 2020

The symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, coughing, general weakness, tiredness, pain, difficulty breathing as well as changes to taste and smell. All of these can affect your appetite however, it is important to try to maintain good nutrition and keep well hydrated as this will help with your recovery from illness. This means making sure you are eating and drinking regularly, even if it is only small amounts.

The following are some tips to help if you have a poor appetite:

Eat regularly through the day
Try to eat something every 1 – 2 hours. Aim for 3 small meals and 3 snacks during the day. Large meals can be off-putting so only put out what you are able for. If you do not feel like having a meal, have a nutritious snack instead at this time e.g. cheese and crackers, a small sandwich or a bowl of rice pudding.

Eat your biggest meal when your appetite is best
Some people may find that they are hungrier in the morning and their appetite decreases as the day goes on. Therefore, eat a bigger breakfast rather than a large evening meal.

Eat high energy foods.
High energy foods provide the extra calories that you need to maintain your weight when your appetite is poor. Try to avoid low fat, low calorie or diet foods at this time. Good sources of energy include foods like butter, oils, cream, milk, cheese and yoghurts.

Include a high protein food at each meal and snack
High protein foods help maintain and repair muscles and tissues that have been affected by the infection. High protein foods include meat, chicken, turkey, fish, cheese, eggs, pulses, nuts.

Drink liquids through the day that give you energy.
You will need more fluid than usual if you have an infection.  Most people need 8 mugs or large glasses of fluids per day, but if you have a high temperature you may need more. Limit low-calorie drinks such as water, coffee and tea as they will fill you up and you may eat less at mealtimes. Milky drinks and smoothies are a better choice at this time.

Eat foods that taste good to you
It is okay to eat the same foods often if there are only a few foods that appeal to you.

Use convenience foods
If your energy is low and you do not feel like cooking you can use convenience foods. Keep your freezer, fridge and cupboards stocked with foods that are ready-to-eat or easily prepared e.g. tinned fish, cartons of soup, pots of rice pudding. You can also use pre-washed, pre-cut fruits and vegetables. Frozen fruits and vegetables are also really convenient and are easily prepared.  

Losing weight due to infection is not good, whatever your starting body weight is. If you have a weighing scales at home it is a good idea to keep an eye on your body weight while you are ill. If you notice that you are losing weight it is important to ask your GP to refer you to a Community Dietitian.

Community Response Forums led by the Local Authorities to coordinate and mobilise community supports is playing a fantastic support role to vulnerable populations and communities These supports include help with shopping for food and the delivery of hot meals.

If you need support please make contact with the following Helplines:

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Last updated on: 25 / 05 / 2020