What to eat when you are sick and have lost your appetite

We have all heard the saying ‘feed a cold, starve a fever,’ but does it actually work?

In short, no. Registered dietitian Maria Lucey says we should be extra careful to eat well when we are under the weather.

Nutrition is key 

“It is never a good idea for us to restrict our food, especially when we feel sick,” she says. “The truth is, our bodies need calories to heal when we are sick, so we should be eating.”

Of course, this does not mean you reach for the takeaway menus. Focus on foods that are high in nutrients and will give you the energy you need.

“I always say, we are what we eat. We are constantly rebuilding muscles and cells, so what we put into our body today will affect us.”

Eat a rainbow 

In terms of staying healthy, Lucey says prevention is always better than cure.

“Looking at your immune system, you need to be eating a balanced diet. You don’t want to be cutting anything out or being on a restrictive diet because that can have an impact on your immune system.”

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She advocates eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, with lots of colour on your plate. “That will give you all of your vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.” Make sure to include lots of whole grains too, because they will give your body the energy it needs to heal.

Go for something that is loaded with nutrition

When we are sick, we often lose our appetite, and that’s when it’s more important than ever to pack as much nutrition into our food as possible, says Lucey. “A person who is unwell might not feel like eating three meals a day, and if you are really struggling with a small appetite, you need to be taking in more calories in these smaller meals. There is no point going for just lots of low-calorie fruit and vegetables at that time.”

Remember the protein 

She suggests giving your patient a rounded meal like toast and a boiled egg with butter, or porridge with full-fat milk.

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Don’t forget the liquid 

While warm drinks are soothing, there is no evidence to suggest that drinking warm water with lemon and ginger will help you to heal more quickly, says Lucey. “I think lemon water, in particular, has a ‘halo effect’ because all of the celebrities drink it, but if you bring it to basics, it is fluid and there is fluid and there is a bit of vitamin C in there, but it is by no means a miracle cure. If somebody is quite elderly or frail, they are better off drinking a glass of milk and getting vitamins and minerals and protein.

If you are concerned about your diet and nutritional intake, visit a registered dietitian for help and advice. Your GP can refer you or you can find a list at or


recipe by:Derval O’Rourke

Perfect porridge all year round with this foolproof method



  • 50g porridge oats

  • 120ml milk

  • 120ml water

  • 1 tbsp wheatgerm


  1. Combine the oats, milk and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Cook gently, stirring occasionally until the porridge is soft and creamy.

  2. Pour the porridge into a serving bowl, sprinkle over the wheatgerm and serve.

    Chopped bananas, crushed pecans and a drizzle of agave syrup.
    Blueberries and sliced strawberries.
    Grated apples and crushed raw cashews.
    Chopped medjool dates and a drizzle of agave.

Thai chicken, galangal and coriander soup

Spicy but ultra-soothing, this is the perfect soup if you are feeling under the weather

Thai chicken, galangal and coriander soup

Preparation Time

15 mins


  • 900ml homemade chicken stock

  • 4 fresh lime leaves

  • 5cm piece of galangal, peeled and sliced or less of fresh ginger

  • 4 tbsp fish sauce (Nam pla)

  • 6 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 225g chicken breast, very finely sliced

  • 230ml coconut milk

  • 1-3 Thai red chillies

  • fresh coriander leaves 


  1. Put the chicken stock, lime leaves, galangal, fish sauce and freshly squeezed lemon juice into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time, add the finely shredded chicken and coconut milk. Continue to cook over a high heat until the chicken is just cooked, about 1-2 minutes.

  2. Crush the chillies with a knife or Chinese chopper, add to the soup with some coriander leaves, and cook for just a few seconds.

  3. Ladle into hot bowls and serve immediately.

  4. Note: We usually use one red Thai chilli — the number depends on your taste and how hot the chillies are. Blanched and refreshed rice noodles are also delicious added to this soup, you have a main course.

  5. Serve in a wide pasta bowl with lots of fresh coriander scattered over the top.

Honey and seed flapjacks

recipe by:Michelle Darmody

A simple but delicious lunchbox treat, these flapjacks are bursting with mixed nuts and seeds

Honey and seed flapjacks

Preparation Time

15 mins


  • 140g butter

  • 2 tbsp honey

  • 80g soft brown sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 175g porridge oats

  • 150g mixed seeds

  • 60g chopped nuts


  1. Preheat your oven to 150°C and line an 8 x 8-inch square tin with parchment.

  2. Gently melt the butter, honey, and sugar together. Stir in the vanilla. Add in the oats, seeds, and nuts until combined.

  3. Scoop the mixture into your tin and flatten it down. Bake for about 35 minutes until it is turning golden. Allow to cool in the tin and then slice into whatever size bars you would like.

Spanish omelette

recipe by:Michelle Darmody

This easy potato omelette can be sliced and brought to a picnic or added to lunchboxes for a nourishing, hearty snack

Spanish omelette

Preparation Time

10 mins


  • generous dash of olive oil

  • 2 shallots, sliced

  • 500g waxy potatoes, cut into think, circular slices

  • small bunch of thyme, removed from the stalk and chopped

  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten


  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the shallots and stir them, add the slices of potato and allow it cook over a low heat until the potatoes are softening.

  2. Strain the potatoes and onion and stir them through the eggs. Season with some sea salt and cracked black pepper and add in the thyme. Heat another dash of oil and gently add the whole mixture into a pan that fits the ingredients snuggly.

  3. Allow to cook over a low heat and gently nudge the edges with a spatula. When it is almost cooked through invert it onto a plate and slide it upside down back onto the pan. Cook for another few minutes. Allow to cool and slice into wedges. These freeze well and can be taken out for lunches or popped into a lunch box.

Chicken bone broth and stock

This guideline recipe produces 6 pints of rich, flavoursome stock and broth which will keep for several days in the refrigerator

Chicken bone broth and stock

Cooking Time

3 hours 0 mins

Total Time

3 hours 0 mins


  • 2-3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both giblets from the chicken (neck, heart, gizzard)

  • 1 onion, sliced

  • 1 leek, halved

  • 2 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves

  • 1 carrot, cut into chunks

  • a few parsley stalks

  • sprig of thyme

  • 6 peppercorns


  1. Chop up the carcasses as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4l cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon.

  2. Simmer very gently for 3-4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt.

  3. For the broth, continue to cook for a further hour or so.

  4. Add a tablespoon of wine vinegar which helps to extract even more minerals and helps to breakdown the cartilage and other connective tissues in the bones of the chicken, which helps speed up the formation of gelatine in the stock. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze in convenient containers.

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