Gaylord Dietitian, Amanda Perriello, RD, CDN, Offers Tips for Optimal Nutrition
What we eat has a profound effect on not only our long-term health, but also on the way our bodies recover from illness or injury.
Registered dietitian Amanda Perriello, RD, CDN, says that having an infection such as COVID-19 can significantly increase the body’s nutritional needs. Nourishing your body with proper food plays a large role in promoting healing and recovery.
“It’s essential for anyone recovering from even mild cases of COVID-19 to replenish with calories and protein that rebuild strength and immunity, and even more so after a critical or prolonged illness,” she explained.
Reach for foods and snacks that provide optimal nutrition:
While no specific food or nutrient can alone optimize immune health or nutrition after COVID, research suggests that healthful, balanced meals and snacks that include a variety of nutrients from good quality protein, complex carbohydrates can arm the body with what it needs to fight illness and infection.
Protein, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, and iron are all vital to bolstering immune support and recovery,” she said, noting that these nutrients can be found abundantly in foods such as seafood, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and fruits, and vegetables.
When loss of taste and smell affects eating habits:
Perriello said that some people who experience long-hauler symptoms such as loss of taste and smell or fatigue and headache can become disinterested in eating, or even food-averse.
“I often recommend that patients experiment with the textures, colors and spices they put in their foods to stimulate their other senses and make food look more appealing and appetizing,” she said.
“I also stress the importance of establishing a regular eating routine. If someone tires easily, consider eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day and stock up on ready-to-eat or easily prepared foods. Save your biggest meal of the day for whenever you feel the best.”
Recovery after COVID hospitalization:
For those who were hospitalized for a severe COVID 19 infection who have experienced significant weight loss and loss of muscle strength, other factors may come into play that affect eating habits, such as fatigue, difficulty feeding, or difficulty swallowing – these factors can make it difficult to consume adequate nutrition, leading to further debility and worsening nutrition status
“It’s vital to consume a protein with each meal as well as adequate calories to rebuild strength and ability,” Perriello said. “A nutrition supplement shake or homemade protein smoothies can help meet your calorie and protein needs when meal intake is insufficient.”
Make good nutrition a year-round priority:
Perriello urges readers to prioritize good nutrition even when not actively fighting or recovering from illness.
“Eating healthy, nutritious meals is important to help recover from illnesses, but it should be a year-round priority so that the body is prepared with what it already needed to help fight off pathogens,” she said.