10 Best Things to Eat and Drink When You Have the Flu
Medically Reviewed by Carolin Schneider, MD
Coming down with the flu is no fun — it can leave you exhausted and run down for weeks. There’s no one magic food that will make you feel better right away, but you can speed up the healing process by eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of fluids. Try these 10 foods and drinks to support your recovery from the flu.
Drinking plenty of water is key when you have the flu. Water keeps you hydrated and can also help loosen congestion. It’s probably a better choice for hydration than caffeinated beverages like coffee, which can have a diuretic effect — meaning they make you pee out more water than usual. And water also wins out over sugary juices, since too much sugar isn’t healthy for you. When it comes to fluids for the flu, water is often the best choice.
2. Ice Pops
Ice pops or popsicles are another great way to stay hydrated. These chilly treats can have a soothing, numbing effect on a sore throat. An ice pop can also help ease the gagging reflex that sometimes happens with flu-related post-nasal drip. Just remember that all ice pop brands are not created equal. Steer clear of brands that are high in added sugars and artificial flavorings. Go for pops made with 100% fruit juice instead.
3. Hot Tea
Not in the mood for a popsicle? Check out the opposite end of the hydration spectrum: a nice hot cup of tea. Hot tea can help relieve sinus congestion and has an instant warming effect — just what you need to ease the chills and shivers that often come with the flu. Tea also has polyphenols, a type of healthy antioxidant. Instead of highly caffeinated black teas, opt for green tea, decaf black tea or herbal teas.
4. Chicken Soup
This age-old remedy has stood the test of time for good reason. Soup can have the same hydrating benefits as drinking water and hot tea, and chicken can provide a healthy protein boost. Make sure to choose a soup with plenty of vegetables in the broth — veggies are full of nutrients that can help support recovery. And if you don’t eat meat, vegetable soup is also a great choice.
5. Vegetable Juice
Another way to stay hydrated and get extra nutrients when you’re sick is to drink vegetable juice. Unlike fruit juices, vegetable juice is generally low in sugar. And drinking vegetable juices gives you lots of vitamins and antioxidants without having to chew all those fresh veggies, which can be hard when you have no appetite.
Garlic is known for its antibacterial powers — but it also has antiviral effects that may help speed the healing process from the flu virus. Of course, spicy raw garlic might be a bit much when you have a weak stomach. But this food has the power to fight microbes and it’s a great flavor boost in soups, so add some garlic to your sick-day meals.
After several days of a mostly liquid diet, resist the urge to dig into a rich, heavy meal. Instead, choose lighter foods to ease the transition and give your stomach time to adjust, without causing nausea or bloating. Bananas are a great transition food — they have a soft consistency and are also high in potassium, which can help relieve muscle aches and cramps caused by the flu.
Ginger is a flu go-to because of its power to treat stomach aches and nausea. Try eating grated or sliced raw ginger to soothe your stomach. You can also try drinking hot ginger tea or a refreshing ginger ale. Just make sure to choose a ginger ale that’s flavored with natural ginger root extracts, and skip the brands with lots of added sugars.
9. Chicken or Turkey
Lean poultry is a healthy source of protein — and that may be just what your body needs to regain its strength. A protein boost can give your body the energy it needs to fight off the flu virus, so it’s important not to skimp on protein when you’re sick. When you’re feeling up to eating solid foods, try adding these healthy proteins into your diet.
10. Bread or Crackers
Bread and crackers are also good transition foods after days of only liquids. These comforting carbs can help absorb excess stomach acid, and their texture can help your stomach feel full without overdoing it. Choose plain bread and crackers without strong flavors. Lightly toasting the bread can also help if the texture of untoasted bread makes you nauseous.
Eat Healthy When You Have the Flu
A combination of a healthy, balanced diet and lots of rest is often the best remedy for the flu. While it can take time for the flu virus to run its course, these foods and drinks can help ease symptoms, prevent dehydration and speed up recovery time. And to lower your risk of getting the flu in the first place, remember to get your flu shot every year.
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