What To Eat When You're Sick This Winter

24 January 2023

Taylor Wales-Ryan

Contributor - Accredited Sports Dietitian

As we approach the coldest months of the year, we’re no strangers to symptoms of sneezes, coughs and sore throats during the dreaded Australian flu season.

At My Muscle Chef, we’re firm believers of living your best and healthiest life - no matter what time of year it is. Which is why we’ve enlisted the expertise of Accredited Sports Dietitian, Taylor Wales-Ryan, to break down exactly what you can eat and do to feel better faster.

Read on to discover Taylor’s guide of simple diet hacks and lifestyle tips to help you build a strong immune system that can fight off those flu symptoms.

Fluid, fluid and more fluid

Any doctor will tell you to make sure you’re drinking adequate amounts of fluid for hydration. But how much, you ask? At least two litres of water per day is the recommendation. Not sure how many bottles of water this equates to? You can examine the colour of your urine as an indicator - if it’s a very pale yellow or on the border of being clear, you’re drinking enough water. Bonus tip: drinking warm fluids or herbal tea can immediately help soothe a sore throat.

Drinking water

Low GI Carbs

Whole grain or multigrain breads and cereal products will become your best friend when you’re sick. These types of carbs (the good kind) provide a sustained release of energy and also contain other immune-supporting nutrients such as fibre and B-vitamins which are important for building your gut health - the control centre of your immune system.

Protein (and lots of it!)

Eating enough protein is one of the golden rules of a healthy diet. Not only is protein essential for developing and retaining lean muscle mass (hint: a shapely and toned figure), it also ensures you don’t lose muscle strength and helps keep cravings at bay by reducing hunger levels.

This is why I love and recommend My Muscle Chef - most of their range contains meals, snacks and drinks high in nutrient dense protein to support my immune system and keep me fuelled throughout the day.

My Muscle chef meal plated on a table

Whether you prefer traditional proteins such as lean meat, fish, dairy and poultry, or plant based protein alternatives like tofu and legumes - you’ll be getting your daily doses of iron, vitamin B12, zinc and magnesium which help nurture and grow your immune cells. The magic number? Aim for an intake of 1.6-2.2g per kilogram of bodyweight per day to reap all of the immune-boosting and muscle-improving benefits.

Dairy and dairy alternatives

In addition to protein and calcium content, dairy and it’s plant-based alternatives also provide your body with vitamin D. Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D assists in regulating our immune system: recent research has shown that vitamin D has a protective effect against certain respiratory infections, as well as a host of other brain and nervous system benefits to help us feel better.

To load up on vitamin D, be sure to drink milk and incorporate cheddar cheese, egg yolks and white or tinned fish in your lunch and dinners. Alternatively, a brisk walk in the sunlight should also do the trick!

Salmon, avocado and nut

Plenty of plants

Get ready to eat the colours of the rainbow! Fill up your plate full of fruit, veg, herbs, legumes, nuts and seeds - variety is key here.

  • Vitamin A rich foods - Beta-carotene, found within veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and tomatoes are key in maintaining the protective barrier of our connective tissue, lungs, skin, stomach and intestines.

  • Probiotics - Found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir are live active bacteria that can improve the balance of the gut microbiota (or gut bugs) within our digestive system. Fun fact: 70% of the immune system exists within our gut! Therefore, gut health and probiotics definitely play a role in immunity.

  • Prebiotics - Promote the growth of the gut bacteria in the bowel. Think of these as fertiliser or ‘fuel’ for your gut bugs. Examples of prebiotic-rich foods include unripe bananas, oats, wheat bran, leek and herbs.

  • Herbs and spices → Enrich your dinners with aromatic garlic, onion, ginger and turmeric. Garlic contains compounds called allicins which have been shown to have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties to help reduce inflammation, assist with gut health, and support the immune system. Ginger has also been shown to relieve nausea, reduce inflammation, and aid in digestion.

Chopping food in kitchen

Sweet, sweet sleep

Aside from a healthy diet, it’s crucial to hibernate when you’re ill. Sleep is the key to recovery, cognitive performance, and much more! Be sure to get extra rest when you’re feeling ill and run down. For adequate sleep, aim for more than 7 hours per night. Anything less than 7 hours is classified as sleep deprivation. Yikes!

Simple stress management

Stress can manifest as many types of symptoms - becoming ill and feeling ‘run down’ is just one of them! To avoid prolonging your sickness, remember to look after your body, and if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take some time out for yourself!

Whether that be going for a walk, making a calming cup of tea, catching up with a friend, or just taking some time away from your screen - ensure that you are allowing yourself some ‘down time’ and responding to your body so that you don’t put it into overdrive.

My Muscle Chef helps me by taking the stress out of thinking and planning what to eat on a daily basis, giving me back more time to focus on my training and family life

Eating my muscle chef meal on couch

By taking the time to ensure that you’re regularly consuming these foods and implementing these practices in your lifestyle, you will equip your body and immune system during the colder months approaching us.

So, now you know all there is to know about the best foods to eat when you’re feeling sick and symptom-ridden. The next step? Stock up on My Muscle Chef meals - which are rich in nutrient-dense proteins and vegetables - to help keep your immune system in check this winter.

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