Diet after coronavirus

Coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery

The symptoms of coronavirus can affect your eating habits. You might have lost your sense of smell, which can affect your appetite. This can make it difficult for you to meet your body’s nutritional needs, which can slow down your recovery.

Losing weight without trying can be a sign of malnutrition, even if you are overweight.

It's important to be aware of your weight and appetite, particularly if you are older or have a pre-existing medical condition.

Signs of malnutrition

Signs of malnutrition include:

  • having less of an appetite or not being interested in food
  • losing weight without meaning to, or trying to
  • clothes or jewellery that used to fit well now fit loosely

Malnutrition is a serious condition that happens when your diet does not have the right amounts of nutrients. Malnutrition can increase the risk of weaker muscles and make you more vulnerable to infections, falls and needing extra care. 

If you struggle to eat enough or are losing weight or strength in your muscles, you might need to make some changes in your diet to help your body recover.

Read more information on malnutrition and coronavirus

What to have in your diet

  • Protein (meat, fish, eggs or beans) is important to protect your muscles.
  • Hydration (drinking enough fluids) is important for your health. If you have an infection, you need to drink more fluids.
  • Fruit and vegetables (at least 5 portions a day) are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate (vitamin B), vitamin C and potassium. They also contain fibre, which can help to keep your gut healthy and stop constipation and other digestion problems.
  • Higher fibre starchy foods (potatoes, bread, rice or pasta) are an important source of energy. They also have important nutrients, such as iron, calcium and folate.
  • Dairy drinks (or dairy alternatives such as soya) have calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein in them.

Speak to your GP if:

you are worried about your diet and weight. 

Your GP can refer you to a dietitian, explain where to get support with money or food, and check if you need food supplements.

Healthy eating after coronavirus

Eating well and being a healthy weight are important to keep you fit. This can help you to fight infection and recover from illness.

Conditions associated with being overweight (such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease) can increase your chance of becoming more seriously ill with coronavirus. They can also make it harder to recover.

If you are very overweight and thinking of losing weight, it is best not to do this while you recover from an illness. Wait until you have recovered fully.

Losing your sense of smell

Losing your sense of smell can be distressing and affect your appetite.

Nasal rinses are a good way to keep your nose clear. Your GP might prescribe nasal sprays or drops for you. It is important to use these in the right way. 

Meditation and breathing techniques can also help your sense of smell. 

The charity AbSent has information and videos on how to use nasal sprays. It also publishes other information about loss of smell.

Resource number: 5122/VER1
Last reviewed: January 2021
Next review date: December 2023

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about your coronavirus recovery, please speak to a doctor or nurse caring for you. Your discharge letter should have their contact information.

Physiotherapy, phone 020 7188 5082 or 020 7188 5089

Occupational therapy department at St Thomas' Hospital, phone 020 7188 4180

Occupational therapy department at Guy's Hospital, phone 020 7188 4185

Nutrition and dietetics department, phone 020 7188 4128

Speech and language therapy department at St Thomas' Hospital, phone 020 7188 6246

Speech and language therapy department at Guy's Hospital, phone 020 7188 6233

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Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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