What’s more, soup is relatively easy to eat—you can sip it and the chicken and vegetables are all soft and easy to chew—so it’s a good way to eat a variety of filling nutrients, including protein and fiber, that might be tough to get down otherwise.
5. Spices, seasonings, and other flavor-boosters
Cold, flu, COVID, and even allergy symptoms can weaken your senses of taste and smell and tank your appetite. This can be a real catch-22: Getting the energy and nutrients you need is an important part of recovery—but who wants to eat food they can’t enjoy?
That’s why Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, a dietitian based in Kansas City, Kansas, recommends adding as much flavor to your food as possible through spices and seasonings. Knowing that your meal will taste great makes it more exciting and palatable, which encourages you to have more than a bite or two. If you’re able to take in more nutrient-rich food, that’ll only support your healing process, Harbstreet says.
Need some spice inspo? Certain kinds—including cinnamon, chili pepper, turmeric, cloves, black pepper, curry powder, and fenugreek—have been used for medicinal purposes in various cultures for centuries, and boost the flavor of a whole bunch of dishes: Sprinkle some cinnamon on your morning oatmeal, add turmeric to your rice, or shake black pepper into dressings or marinades. And if you’re one of those people who automatically double (or triple) the amount of garlic called for in any recipe, you’ll be happy to know that research suggests an active compound in it may support your immune system in doing its job—and it may even come with some anti-inflammatory benefits, Holli Ryan, RD, a dietitian in Pompano Beach, Florida, tells SELF.
Of course, feeling sick can mean many different things; if you’re nauseated or have an upset stomach and strong flavors seem like they’ll make things worse, you can skip this one.
While flavorful foods can sometimes help tempt you to eat when you’re feeling icky and your taste buds are all out of whack, bland foods might be the better bet if you’re struggling through certain digestive symptoms. If you’re dealing with diarrhea, a BRAT diet—including bananas, broth, rice, applesauce, and toast—could help soothe your churning stomach and bulk up your poop, since these foods are low in fiber and generally easy to tolerate, per the US National Library of Medicine. Bananas are particularly great because they’re rich in potassium, an electrolyte that you may be running low on if you’re dehydrated. They’re also soft, which means they go down easy if you’re dealing with a sore throat along with your GI troubles.
If you feel congested or have a sore throat, foods that require a ton of chewing might be a no-go, but an all-liquid diet probably won’t be hearty enough to help you kick that cold—and let’s face it, most of us aren’t satisfied by drinking juice and smoothies alone. That’s why Ryan recommends oatmeal as a quick and easy-to-swallow meal idea.