Ahhh sick days…when you live at home they’re all about your mum bringing you soup, lying on the sofa/in bed wrapped in blankets and watching movies, and maybe being driven to the doctors. When you’re in uni? Not so much. Welcome to the reality: you have to make your own food when you can face it, you have to go out to buy the food, you have to get yourself to the doctors, get a formal sick note, and fill in enough absence forms to convince you you’re actually applying for a new identity due to a career change involving MI5. And being driven anywhere isn’t gonna happen because you don’t want to fork out for the taxi.
As some of you may know I’ve been a little under the weather this past week (and by that I mean stood under a monsoon while hail and lightening wait in the wings, and an earthquake rumbles somewhere in the background, just to add a bit more atmosphere). As someone who actually rarely gets sick, it meant that this week was a major learning curve. Because I had no idea what to eat, and what didn’t sit so well that I tried to eat. So, if you’re looking after yourself, and need some quick and easy, and (most importantly) healing meals and snacks then this is what I have for you.
These are my personal picks for feeling unwell; the majority can be kept in the freezer, a cupboard, or will last for a long time in the fridge. Perhaps you have your own favourites too? Leave a comment below and let me know…
If you have a dodgy stomach then you need to keep it simple and plain. I opt for pitta breads personally. Keep a packet in the freezer, and then defrost one and pop it into the toaster. You can then spread on whatever you can handle (mashed banana and honey, a nut butter…).
Bananas are life savers when you’re feeling icky. They contain potassium (especially important to replace electrolytes if you’ve been throwing up), and are easily digested by the stomach. If you aren’t eating much the natural sugars will up your glucose, and if your throat is sore then they’re nice and soft. They’ll keep in a fruit bowl for a while, and transfer them to the fridge once they’re ripe (almost covered in brown spots), or chop up and freeze (great to snack on with a sore throat).
Plain, simple, and can be dipped into soup or topped with mashed banana.
The plain original ones. No added sugar and crunchy bits to startle your stomach or throat. I add a warmed plant based milk, as it makes it easier to chew and also feels more comforting. Dairy foods irritate my stomach even more when its not happy, and so if it does the same for you then try switching it up with almond, oat, or coconut-rice blend milk.
Cook up 40g of porridge oats with 130ml water, plant based milk, or a mixture of both, until the thickness you desire. Top with banana and honey, or if you fancy apple sauce. Oats will keep for a long time in an airtight container in a cupboard.
Put this on any of the above. Honey is amazing when your throat is the issue, and just has a naturally soothing taste to it. Alternatively, mix into a drink. Take 1 cup of boiling water, some slices of fresh lemon, and a good drizzle of honey: mix up then drink up.
My craving for ketchup literally came from nowhere, but it was intense, and when you’re sick just go with it. Sweet potatoes stay good in a cupboard for around a week or so in my experience. Chop into wedges, and microwave on full power for 5-6 minutes. Once tender serve with a dollop of ketchup. Don’t go crazy with any spices. Unless you have a cold and just want to scare it away with chilli, then anything too powerful is going to upset your stomach, or irritate your throat. If you need something on them, then add a little black pepper, or some mixed herbs.
This is one for when you’re on the mend, and can handle a small meal. Chop one chicken breast into chunks and bake in the oven for 30 minutes with a little black pepper to get your taste buds going again. You can also cook this in a pan with a little spray oil. Boil some noodles and chuck onto a plate. Again, don’t go heavy with any sauces or spices. Keep it plain and tummy-friendly. If you want add some ketchup on the side, or some such other condiment with a bit of flavour, but thats relatively plain (aka. don’t crack out the mustard). Before I became ill I hadn’t eaten chicken in about 9 months, but when my body started craving meat I knew better than to ignore it. After I had chicken I started to improve; I’m not saying you should eat chicken necessarily, but go with what your body is truly craving, because there may be something in there it needs to fight infection/heal. Keep chicken in your freezer, and noodles last for ages in the cupboard.
Sweet, easy to chew, and good for getting some calories into your body- which are needed in getting you back into working order. These will keep for a while once opened in an air tight tub, and I have them in pretty much constantly.
Keep these in the fridge for a refreshing and sweet hit of natural goodness. They’re easy to eat in small portions, and somehow just feel right when you’re feeling all wrong.
This was a little bit of a lifesaver when I was feeling dodgy. If you have a sore throat then something cold and soft and silky is amazing. Picking a flavour you really fancy can also help the taste buds out once you’re on the mend. I loved the Booja-Booja ginger dairy-free ice cream, and actually ended up having two 150ml portions in one day (that’s over half the tub). The ginger felt as if it was working wonders at settling my stomach too. Don’t just go for a flavour you think you know you love; taste buds are odd things, and when unwell I found that my taste preferences can change. For example I couldn’t stomach foods like apples, pears, or any kind of fish- though they’re some of my regular favourites. Again, I went none dairy on this one as foods like yoghurt didn’t sit so well…
If you’re off your teas but still want warm and comforting then slice up 1/3 lemon and pour hot water over it. Lemon water feels cleansing, and will aid digestion when you start trying to eat properly again.
The I’m-so-sick classic. Either make a batch of a relatively plain flavoured soup (such as chicken noodle, vegetable, or a broth based dish), and keep it in the freezer for when you feel under the weather, or if you feel something brewing then stock up.
What Do I Avoid?
In my week of oops-that-food-actually-made-things-worse, these were the worst offenders. And most of them belong in my every day diet, so that was a bit of a shocker…
- Greek yoghurt and other dairy foods, such as cottage cheese
- Chilli, in any form
- Smoked paprika
- Fat rich foods (avocado, oily fish- even nut butters like peanut butter, which was a complete bummer. Almond butter did agree with me in all but the two worst days of being ill though, and was great on pitta bread)
- Beans (baked beans and all other beans – even homemade- sent my stomach into spasms)
- Hummus (I think it was the garlic, and obviously the small amount of oil)
There you have it! The foods I found either aided or impended my getting better. Just remember: your body will take the time it needs. I learnt not to try and speed it up, and just take it a little at a time. Go for small portions above all, and then give it time to digest. Once it has you can evaluate if you feel hungry or queasy. Listen to the body as well: your diet will be different over the days you’re ill. I don’t usually, for example, eat much bread- but pitta breads have been consumed in bulk this week, as had shredded wheat. Purely because they were all my body could handle for a few days. Other than that, plenty of sleep, keep up your fluid intake, and lots of rest. I hope that this helps some of you. And if you’re unwell right now, then get well soon. Just crack out the YouTube and pjs my friend…