Experts Say These Are The Best Foods To Eat When You're Sick & Have No Appetite

by Julia Guerra

I’m not a picky eater in general, and rarely am I ever not hungry (I’m one of those people who wakes up starving and lives for midnight trips to the diner). This all changes when I’m sick, though; it’s like a switch inside my stomach turns off and I’m perfectly content living off Lipton tea and saltine crackers. Unfortunately, even if your appetite vanishes when you’re feeling under the weather, your body needs nutrients to support the healing process. Ergo, it’s always helpful to stock up on the best foods to eat when you’re sick and not hungry, just in case, because even though you never plan to get sick, if you know for a fact you’re finicky when you do, having a means of sustenance can help get you through it.

For the record, it’s not unusual to lose all sense of an appetite when you’re sick. It’s ironic, because your body needs nutrients and to stay hydrated — especially if you’re dealing with some kind of stomach virus where you’re losing liquids — and yet your body's usual hunger cues are nowhere to be found. In fact, Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area and a spokesperson for KIND, tells Elite Daily you could easily lose your appetite while battling the common cold.

“When you have a cold, your body’s immune system releases chemicals that may make you tired and not feel like eating,” Gorin explains. But, she adds, “eating certain foods that are hydrating and full of immune-helping vitamins and minerals may help make you feel better.”

So even though you may not want to eat, your body would probably benefit from you at least trying to do so. Here are the best foods to eat when you're sick, even if your appetite is pretty much non-existent.

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A Bowl Of Soup Will Replenish Your Body With Electrolytes

It turns out, chicken noodle soup isn't just good for the soul; it also makes for an excellent meal when you're feeling under the weather and anything but hungry. Especially if you're dealing with tummy troubles, Gorin says your body will benefit from electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium, all of which can be found in a good ol' bowl of soup.

"There’s a reason that chicken noodle soup is a go-to for feeling better," Gorin tells Elite Daily, but she actually prefers a vegetarian version. "I’ll choose a low-sodium broth that offers potassium, another electrolyte," she explains, adding that she'll toss diced firm tofu, veggies such as sliced bell peppers, diced onions, halved grape or cherry tomatoes, and sliced mushrooms, as well as seasonings such as black pepper and garlic powder, for flavor. "In addition to providing electrolytes, the soup is hydrating," she says.

Snacks Rich In Vitamin C Boost Your Immune System

Vitamin C is one of those essential vitamins that everyone knows they need, but maybe you don't actually realize what it does for your body. Gorin breaks it down like this: Vitamin C is one of those nutrients your body can't produce on its own. Therefore, it's important that you consume foods with vitamin C in them because it helps your immune system function at its most optimal, Gorin explains.

"Regularly taking in at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C daily could shorten the duration of the common cold, shows a Cohrane review," Gorin tells Elite Daily, and while that's fabulous, I'm sure the last thing you want to take when you're sick is yet another pill or supplement. Luckily, there are lots of foods you can eat to score some extra vitamin C, like oranges, papaya, and, if you're really feeling lazy, or just don't have the energy to cut up fruit, Pressed by KIND's Mango Apple Chia Bar will do the trick, too.

"Because vitamin C is a helpful nutrient that supports your body’s immune system, it can be helpful to have a grab-and-eat food on hand, such as a Pressed by KIND Mango Apple Chia Bar," Gorin tells Elite Daily. "The bar supplies 25 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, as well as two servings of fruit."

Smoothies Offer Nutrients And Hydration

Trying to eat when you have a sore throat can be just as grueling an experience as trying to keep food down with an iffy stomach. The process of swallowing can be so painful sometimes when your throat is really dry and scratchy, but according to Gorin, sipping on a cool smoothie will feel good going down, and it'll be good for you, too.

"A smoothie can feel soothing to a sore throat, and the main ingredient in most smoothies — fruit — is hydrating," she tells Elite Daily. "I like to make a berry smoothie with frozen strawberries, which provide immunity-helping vitamin C."

Probiotics In Yogurt Will Strengthen Your Immune System

Dairy might be a major no-no if your stomach already doesn't tend to agree with the stuff, but if you're battling a sore throat or experiencing cold and flu symptoms, you might want to snack on yogurt to reap the benefits of probiotics, Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, Chinese and integrative medicine expert, tells Elite Daily. (And don't worry — almond milk yogurt is a thing in case your body doesn't really do dairy.)

According to Dr. Trattner, the first line of defense for the body’s immune system is the digestive system, and probiotics are little microorganisms that live inside your digestive system. So, by taking a probiotic supplement, or eating something that's rich in probiotics, like yogurt, you can "increase natural killer cells," and "maintain immune system activity, which in turn helps the body react more quickly to new infections," Dr. Trattner explains.

Hot Tea

My mom always told me that there's very little a cup of tea can't solve. In this particular instance, it seems like she's not wrong. According to Brianna Harris, a registered dietitian and chief vitamin officer of wellness beverage brand VitaCup, a hot cup of tea with a bit of honey or ginger is definitely a beverage to keep refilling when you're under the weather.

To start, herbal, black, and green teas all have "great medicinal properties" and "are packed with polyphenols and antioxidants," Harris tells Elite Daily, which can both help to support your body when you're not feeling well.

Adding honey or ginger to your tea is like putting the cherry on top of your sundae: "Honey can help due to its antibacterial and cough-suppressing effects" Harris says, while adding ginger "can give your tea an extra boost of antioxidant or help if you’re nauseous."

Similar to smoothies, tea can also help to soothe a sore throat, not to mention they can work as a natural decongestant, according to Harris, who's a personal fan of VitaCup's green tea blend when she's sick. "I love the Green Tea from VitaCup. VitaCup Green Tea contains matcha, moringa, antioxidants, and our signature vitamin blend of B1, B5, B6, B9, B12, and D3," she tells Elite Daily — aka all the goodies your body needs to get better.

Cold-Pressed Juices Are Packed With Vitamins And Minerals

This is probably going to come off as a no-brainer, but fruits and veggies are always the way to go when you're feeling sick, even if the last thing you want to eat is a salad. Luckily, fresh juice packs a lot of nutrients into one tasty drink that you can sip throughout the day.

"Fruits and vegetables are packed with amazing benefits due to their high vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant properties," Harris says, but if you're going to drink your fruits and veggies, she highly recommends "a cold-pressed juice to help preserve all the nutrients."