Coronavirus affects people in different ways and can put people at risk of malnutrition. Some of the effects of the virus could be:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Loss of appetite or eating smaller portions than before due to
- Loss of taste / smell
- Mouth ulcers
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulties swallowing food and drink
- Diarrhoea or vomiting several times a day
The following guidance may not be suitable if you have diabetes requiring insulin, renal disease or on a texture modified diet. If you have any of these conditions, please refer to your managing healthcare professional for personalised advice.
Why Does This Matter?
Becoming malnourished makes it harder for you to fight infections, meaning you may:
- Take longer to recover from your illness
- Increased risk of becoming ill again
- Lose muscle strength, therefore less able to do daily activities such as shopping, cooking and caring for yourself and others
- Be at increased risk of falls, developing pressure ulcers and may find that any wounds you have will take longer to heal
What Should You Do About It?
Weigh yourself weekly and keep a record of your weight. Contact the dietetic department for advice, (Tel: 01932 722202) if concerns within 6-8 weeks of discharge.
The best way to improve oral intake is:
- Eat LITTLE AND OFTEN - take small nourishing meals together with nourishing snacks and drinks between meals.
- ENRICH your meals, snacks and drinks with high energy/ high protein foods.
Top Tips for Improving Your Appetite
- Avoid missing or skipping meals. If you don’t feel like eating, have a nourishing drink instead.
- Aim for 3 small meals and 3 snacks every day.
- Use a smaller plate to avoid being overwhelmed by large quantities and present your food in an attractive way to tempt your appetite.
- Your favourite foods are likely to be more appealing- have these more often.
- Staying indoors may impact mental health and can in turn reduce appetite. Where possible get some fresh air by spending time in your garden/ balconies or going for a walk as this may help to improve appetite and general feeling of well-being and also aid digestion. Please refer to up to date government guidance before doing this.
- If the smell of food is off-putting, cold options like sandwiches, quiche, frittata, hummus, ice cream, yoghurts and jelly can be just as nutritious as hot foods. You can also use convenience foods and ready meals.
- Make the most of ‘good days’ or good times of the day. Eat when you feel hungry or if you think you could manage something, even if it is not a meal time.
Fortify your foods
Food fortification is enriching your foods with extra energy and protein without increasing the volume. Aim to use 1 pint of fortified milk every day, long life, evaporated or condensed milk can be used. If you can’t have dairy/ lactose- look for soya, oat, rice or hemp milk options (these may be lower in calorie and protein than their dairy alternatives). You can also try lactose free milk if able to tolerate this.
- Use yoghurt, ice cream, cream, or evaporated or condensed milk to add extra calories.
- Milk puddings and custards can be made with fortified milk.
- Individualised desserts in cans and pots are available for stocking in cupboard and fridge.
If you have difficulties with swallowing, a dry cough, sore throat or sore mouth then solid foods may be more difficult to eat. Soft and easy chew foods may be easier to manage.
- Porridge is a good breakfast cereal option or well soaked weetabix
- Easy to chew food must be able to break apart easily with the side of a fork or spoon
- Most foods can be changed into easy to chew by cooking them in a liquid such as broth or water until soft
- Mix food with butter, gravy or sauces to add extra moisture
- Cooked meat should be tender with no bones or gristle. e.g., lasagne, cottage pie, curries, stews and minced meat
- Bananas, melon and stewed fruits are good options
Food characteristics to avoid:
- Hard or dry foods, e.g. Nuts, raw vegetables, dry cakes, bread, dry cereal
- Tough or fibrous foods, e.g. Steak, pineapple
- Chewy foods, e.g. Candies, sweets, marshmallows chewing gum, dried fruits
- Crispy foods, e.g. Crackling, crisp bacon, crisps, crackers
Need A Ready-Made Meal?
Meals on Wheels services are available through Surrey Adult Social Care (0300 200 1005), or through companies such as Wiltshire Farm Foods (0800 077 3100), or Oakhouse Foods (0333 370 6700).
Strengthening your immune system
It is important to have a well-balanced diet to help you recover and stay healthy. Your immune system is your body’s defence system. It helps protect against, and fight off, harmful bacteria and viruses.
In addition to following a healthy and balanced diet-
- You will benefit by taking A-Z multivitamin and mineral once a day when you are recovering
- At least 10µg Vitamin D a day and spend time in your garden/ balcony to help improve vitamin D levels. Government guidance recommends to always take this in winter months.
- Staying indoors and reduced physical activity can lead to constipation. Having adequate intake of dietary fibre and fluids can help to keep your bowel movements regular.
- Surrey County Council Coronavirus Help Page. You can ask for help with shopping / meals delivery / picking up prescriptions.
- If you need help, and are unable to rely on family and friends you should call Surrey County Helpline on 0300 200 1008, (Monday- Friday, 8am – 6pm)
- Look for COVID-19 mutual aid group working in your area. There are volunteers available to help you with shopping/ deliver hot meals / pick up prescriptions.
- BDA: COVID-19 Dietary Advice for general public.
- Malnutrition Task Force: Coronavirus Information Hub
- Malnutrition Pathway: Malnutrition Pathway Resources
- Malnutrition Pathway: BMI calculator and self screening tool
- Patient Webinars: Patient Webinars
- BDA: Nutrition at home after critical illness