Nutrition for Strength When You're Not Well
Get tips on nutrition and healthy eating when you’re ill.
Finding Time for Fiber
Most people need 20-35 grams of fiber a day, depending on your gender and
age, according to the American Dietetic Association. In addition to improving
regularity, adequate fiber can help prevent several forms of cancer and heart
"Generally speaking, fiber comes from fruits, vegetables, and whole
grains," Vagnini says. But if your appetite is compromised, "one of the
things that you may try is a fiber supplement or try oat bran cereal mixed with
some milk and fruit."
Fresh fruit is another great source of fiber. Also, some meal-replacement
drinks and bars have fiber in them.
Certain pain medications and cancer medications can be constipating, so
fiber can help keep you regular. But she cautions against filling up on bran
because it is important to get calories from other foods as well.
Fitting in Fat
"We encourage people to eat fats like avocado and even ice cream,"
Pataky says. "We are not as concerned about fat types as we are about
getting in calories because if you lose weight when you are sick, it's not just
fat loss, it's muscle loss as well and that is very hard to get back," she
says. "It's important to get enough calories and fat is high in
calories," she says.
Juicing Your Fruit Bowl
"Fruits have more calories than vegetables so if you can't eat fresh
fruit, eat canned fruit," Pataki says. "Juicing is not a bad thing
either because it is easier to drink then chew when you don't feel well,"
"Generally I am opposed to juicing because it takes away fiber,"
adds Vagnini. "I'd prefer a person eat an apple or orange, but when you are
debilitated it's a very good way to get in nutrient density, is easy to do, and
Crunching Something Cruciferous
"I recommend one serving a day of cruciferous vegetables for optimal
immune function," Beller says. Whether Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy,
broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, radishes, broccoli sprouts, or others,
cruciferous vegetables are probably one of the strongest powerhouses of
phytochemicals or plant-based substances that are rich in disease fighting
antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
"They should be a key player in one's weekly -- if not daily --
nutrients," she says. Sneak them into a salad or a sandwich.
Other helpful appetite boosters include:
- Keep a food diary. "The first step is to keep a food diary or a
careful food history for at least two weeks to help evaluate calories and
nutrient intake better -- then show it to your doctor," Vagnini says. It
also should include beverages and reflect how you feel after you eat, he says.
Medications, too, should be included.
- Be wary of nutrient thieves. "Fast food is easy and cheap and
can be double trouble," Vagnini says. "These foods contain higher
amounts of fat, sugar, and salt and they rob the body of nutrition," he
says. Steer clear!
- Eat smaller meals. "Eat small amounts often because most people
can't manage the three-meal-a-day thing when they don't feel well," Pataky
says. Even three normal meals seem like a lot to people who don't have an
appetite. Also, get enough rest because people who are tired don't eat, and if
you can, engage in some exercise such as walking. "Exercise improves
appetite and fatigue," she says.