15 Best Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

When you’re feeling under the weather, eating might not be the first thing on your mind, but certain foods can help alleviate your symptoms.

The choice of what to eat depends on your specific symptoms. If you’re dealing with diarrhea and vomiting, a bland diet consisting of items like bread, cooked vegetables, eggs, and soup might be best for a short period. On the other hand, if you’re constipated, incorporating high-fiber foods like fruits and whole grains into your diet can be beneficial.

It’s crucial to be aware of foods that could either prolong or worsen your symptoms. Here’s a guide to foods that can help alleviate your symptoms and those to avoid:

Baked Chicken or Turkey Without Skin

If you’re not feeling hungry due to an upset stomach or diarrhea, try consuming small meals of baked chicken or turkey without the skin. Bland foods like these are easily digestible and are less likely to irritate your stomach.


For constipation relief, include high-fiber foods like beans (black, kidney, and soybeans) in your diet. Beans are also a source of magnesium, which may help ease body and muscle aches. Magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties that can be beneficial during infections.

Cereal and Oatmeal

Opt for whole-grain oatmeal and bran flake cereals when dealing with constipation. These cereals provide the fiber needed to regulate bowel movements, but make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Prune juice, a high-fiber beverage, is particularly effective in softening stools.

Coffee, Tea, and Water

Small amounts of caffeine, found in coffee and tea, may provide relief for some migraines but could trigger them in others. Be cautious not to exceed 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day. For other ailments, choose tea over coffee. Warm green tea may not cure a runny nose but can be soothing, while ginger tea might help ease nausea due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Additionally, it’s essential to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially if you’re losing fluids through diarrhea or vomiting. Aim for eight to 10 cups of liquids daily, primarily water, to prevent dehydration and alleviate throat dryness that could worsen soreness. Adjust your fluid intake based on your activity level, environment, health conditions, and weight.


When dealing with symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting, cooked eggs can be a gentle addition to your diet. Following a bland diet, it’s recommended to eat more frequently in smaller portions. Slowly chewing your eggs can ease stress on your stomach, and their soft texture is gentle on a sore throat.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can aid in reducing inflammation – a common indicator of the body fighting off infections like colds or the flu. Inflammation often manifests as pain, such as body aches or earaches. Omega-3s may also have a positive impact on skin concerns like itching.

Examples of fatty fish include herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. If pregnant or breastfeeding, follow FDA recommendations of consuming 8 to 12 ounces of fish per week, opting for types lower in mercury.

Fruits and Vegetables

Certain fruits and cooked vegetables are gentle on an upset stomach. Applesauce, bananas, and potatoes offer essential nutrients that may be lost during bouts of diarrhea or vomiting. Applesauce is a potassium and vitamin C source but has less fiber than a whole apple. Bananas and potatoes also provide potassium. Baked or mashed potatoes are soft and suitable for consumption with a sore throat.

However, be cautious with high-fiber fruits like apples (especially with the skin), berries, pears, and prunes if you’re experiencing diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. These fruits are more suitable for addressing constipation.

Golden Milk

Golden milk, a traditional Indian drink made from turmeric and milk, may help alleviate cold and flu symptoms. Infections can irritate and inflame the blood vessels in your nose, making breathing difficult.

Warm beverages like golden milk can help relieve a stuffy nose. Additionally, people traditionally turn to golden milk to ease a sore throat and reduce fever.

Hard Candies or Lozenges

Soothing a sore throat can be achieved by consuming foods that coat your throat. Hard candies or lozenges can help keep your throat moist and alleviate pain. For instance, ginger-flavored hard candies may assist in reducing cold symptoms, including a sore throat.

Low-Fat or Fat-Free Yogurt

Yogurt is a great source of probiotics, beneficial bacteria that support gut health. Probiotics may help ease diarrhea more quickly than other treatments. Opt for low-fat or fat-free yogurt, especially if you’re dealing with diarrhea or an upset stomach. Greek yogurt is a suitable alternative if your body struggles with lactose digestion.

Nuts and Seeds

Packed with fiber, nuts, and seeds can help alleviate and prevent constipation. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts also provide omega-3s, which can help reduce inflammation associated with body aches, earaches, or itching.


Preventing dehydration is crucial when losing fluids due to diarrhea or vomiting. Consuming water-rich foods like popsicles helps keep you hydrated. Opt for popsicles without fruit chunks, pulp, or yogurt.

Refined White Flour

When feeling queasy, certain foods can calm stomach acids and ease symptoms. Bread, crackers, and pasta made with refined white flour can help settle your stomach.

Refined white rice, part of the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast), is low-fiber, bland, and starchy, making it easy on the stomach. However, for a balanced diet, modify the BRAT diet by incorporating foods like clear broth, soup, oatmeal, or saltine crackers.


Broth and clear soups are effective for staying hydrated during bouts of diarrhea or vomiting. The sodium in these soups helps balance fluid levels. Clear and chicken soups can also help alleviate earaches often associated with upper respiratory infections by clearing nasal passages. Creamy soups may be tolerable if you have a sore throat.


Tofu, part of the bland diet, serves as a plant-based alternative to baked chicken, turkey, or fatty fish. It has a soft consistency and can be included if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Foods To Avoid When You’re Sick

Certain foods can either ease or worsen specific symptoms when you’re sick. For instance, while high-fiber foods can help with constipation, they may exacerbate issues like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, and vice versa. Knowing what foods to steer clear of during illness can contribute to a quicker recovery. Here’s a guide to foods you might want to avoid:

  • Body Aches:
    • Dehydrating beverages, such as alcohol and caffeine, can worsen body aches.
    • Processed foods have the potential to increase inflammation.
  • Diarrhea:
    • Products containing sugar alcohol, like sugarless candy and gum, can trigger or worsen diarrhea due to poor absorption.
  • Headaches and Migraines:
    • Aged cheeses with tyramine may increase blood pressure, triggering migraines.
    • MSG in sauces and soy sauce may worsen headaches.
    • Large amounts of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and red wine are best avoided.
  • Runny Nose:
    • Dairy products may thicken phlegm and trigger mucus production.
    • Spicy foods and sugar can cause an immediate runny nose.
  • Sore Throat:
    • Hard and scratchy foods like granola, nuts, and potato chips may irritate a sore throat.
    • Acidic juices in fruits and vegetables, as well as lemonade, can aggravate a sore throat.
  • Upset Stomach:
    • Caffeine, full-fat dairy, and fried or greasy foods can worsen nausea and increase diarrhea.

What To Do if You Can’t Keep Anything Down

If you’re struggling to keep food down, consider these tips to help settle your stomach:

  • Avoid stomach-upsetting foods and drinks like full-fat dairy and spicy items.
  • Steer clear of stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes.
  • Sip water and clear liquids slowly.
  • Take small bites and chew slowly.

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