Diet and eating habits

Coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery

The symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can affect your eating habits. You might have lost your sense of smell, which can affect your appetite. These symptoms can make it more difficult to have a healthy, well-balanced diet, and slow down your recovery.

Losing weight without trying can be a sign of malnutrition, even if you are overweight. Malnutrition is a serious condition that happens when your diet does not provide the right amount of nutrients.

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

Signs of malnutrition

Signs of malnutrition include:

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

Malnutrition can make your muscles weaker. You might be more likely to get infections, have falls or need extra care.

If you struggle to eat enough, or are losing weight or muscle strength, you might need to make some changes to your diet. This can help your body to recover. Speak to a healthcare professional if you need help to do this.

Read more information about malnutrition and COVID-19

Healthy eating for recovery

Your body needs a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein, energy, fibre, and fluid to help your recovery. Base your meals around these food groups.

  • Protein (meat, chicken, fish, eggs or beans) is important to protect your muscles.
  • Starchy carbohydrates (potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, or cereals) give you energy. Wholegrain options will provide more fibre, which can help keep your gut healthy, and manage constipation. They also have important nutrients, such as iron, calcium and folate.
  • Fruit and vegetables (at least 5 portions a day) contain vitamins and minerals, including folate (vitamin B), vitamin C and potassium, and fibre. Fresh, frozen, tinned and dried options all count.
  • Dairy foods and drinks (or non-dairy options such as soya) have calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein in them.
  • Hydration (drinking enough fluids) is important for your health. If you have an infection, you need to drink more fluids (water is best). Try to drink at least 6 to 8 cups each day, especially water, milk or sugar-free drinks. Limit fruit juice and smoothies to 150ml each day.

You can watch our film about eating and drinking well to help you recover.

Speak to your GP if:

  • you are worried about your diet or weight
  • your symptoms are affecting your appetite
  • you think you might be sensitive to certain foods

Your GP can refer you to a dietitian (expert on food and diet) and check if you need food supplements. They can also explain where to get support with money or food.

Healthy eating after COVID-19

To keep fit, it is important to eat well and be a healthy weight. This can help you to fight infection and recover from illness.

Conditions linked with being overweight (such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease) can make you more likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19. They can also make it harder to recover.

If you are very overweight and want to lose 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, and are available from larger pharmacies. Your GP might prescribe nasal sprays or drops for you. It is important to use these in the right way.  For information on how to take your nasal spray visit uk

Meditation, and breathing mostly through your nose can help your sense of smell. 

The charity AbSent has information and videos about how to regain your sense of smell. 

Resource number: 5122/VER2
Last reviewed: February 2024
Next review date: February 2027

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