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. This 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 have 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 in your diet. This can help your body to recover.

Read more information about malnutrition and COVID-19

    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) contain 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.
    • High fibre starchy foods (potatoes, bread, rice or pasta) give you energy. They also have important nutrients, such as iron, calcium and folate.
    • Dairy drinks (or other options 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 (an 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 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 exercises 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 (COVID-19) recovery, please speak to a doctor or nurse caring for you. Your discharge letter (the letter that you get when you leave hospital) should have their contact details.

    Physiotherapy 
    Phone: 020 7188 5082 or 020 7188 5089

    Occupational therapy department 
    St Thomas' Hospital, phone: 020 7188 4180
    Guy's Hospital, phone: 020 7188 4185

    Nutrition and dietetics department 
    Phone: 020 7188 4128

    Speech and language therapy department 
    St Thomas' Hospital, phone: 020 7188 6246 
    Guy's Hospital, phone: 020 7188 6233

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    Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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