While most people infected with COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate illness and recover without requiring special treatment, some may develop more serious illness. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer are more at risk of developing serious disease.
There are no specific foods or vitamin or mineral supplements that will prevent you from catching COVID-19 and good hygiene practice remains the best means of avoiding infection. However, eating a well-balanced diet can help support the normal functioning of the immune system to help fight off infection.
The Managing Adult Malnutrition in the Community team has worked with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) and the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN) to develop a range of patient information leaflets to advise those who have COVID-19 illness, or who are recovering after the illness, on eating well to assist in their recovery.
“Dietary advice for people who have or have had COVID-19 illness needs to be considered in relation to a number of factors including severity of their illness, any underlying conditions they have, whether their appetite has been affected and if they are overweight or underweight“ says Anne Holdoway, Consultant Dietitian. “One size does not fit all when it comes to diet and for this reason we have developed a number of different resources to enable people to access the dietary advice most suited to their need. For those who needed support on intensive care I would emphasise the need for individualised dietary advice by a registered dietitian.”
Three different nutritional information leaflets have been developed, each tailored to the differing nutritional requirements of individuals who have been affected by COVID-19. The leaflets aim to help those who have had a mild/moderate illness and have been coping at home and also for those who have been in hospital with a more serious illness. The leaflets are free to download at www.malnutritionpathway.co.uk/covid19 and a useful tool has been developed on the website to enable people who have or have had COVID-19 to identify the nutritional advice leaflet that is most suitable to their needs www.malnutritionpathway.co.uk/covid19-resourcetool
“Fighting off infection can increase your body’s needs for energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, but being unwell can make it difficult to eat and drink enough”, says Liz Anderson, Nutrition Nurse Specialist, “because of this, you may need to think differently about you are eating and drinking. Those who have had a serious case of COVID-19 and particularly those leaving hospital may require additional dietary support in order to regain lost muscle mass. These leaflets offer practical nutritional advice for people who have been affected by the illness.”
Nutritional information for people during and after COVID-19 illness
The three leaflets include tips on for coping with symptoms related to COVID-19 illness and encouraging activity combined with good nutrition:
- Green leaflet - ‘Eating Well During and After COVID-19 Illness’ https://www.malnutritionpathway.co.uk/library/covid19green.pdf
An information leaflet about eating a balanced diet to help maintain your strength and fitness, as well as help your body fight infection
- Yellow leaflet - ‘Improving your Nutrition During and After COVID-19 Illness’ https://www.malnutritionpathway.co.uk/library/covid19yellow.pdf
An information leaflet for those with a poor appetite and/or recent unintentional weight loss, including tips to help get the most from their food.
- Red leaflet - ‘Nutrition Support During and After COVID-19 Illness’ https://www.malnutritionpathway.co.uk/library/covid19red.pdf
An information leaflet for those who have been very unwell. Aimed at those who have recently been discharged from hospital after COVID-19 illness or who are struggling to eat enough and are underweight and/or have lost quite a bit of weight due to their illness. This information leaflet gives advice on increasing nutritional intake and how to incorporate oral nutritional supplements into the diet if they are prescribed.
Information for those who have not had COVID-19 but are concerned about their nutritional health
For individuals who have not had COVID-19 but are concerned about your overall nutritional health there are a number of leaflets available to help you with healthy eating on the malnutrition pathway website https://www.malnutritionpathway.co.uk/leaflets-patients-and-carers
The British Dietetic Association also offers advice on healthy eating during social isolation: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/eating-well-during-coronavirus-covid-19.html
Anyone who is concerned about any aspect of their diet or any symptoms of their illness should speak to a healthcare professional for further advice.
Anne Holdoway, Consultant Dietitian is:
- Chair of the Managing Adult Malnutrition in the Community and Managing Malnutrition in COPD panels
- Chair of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) COVID-19 Clinical Guidance Group
- Education Officer for the British Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN)
Liz Anderson, Nutrition Nurse Specialist is:
- Nurse member of the Managing Adult Malnutrition in the Community and Managing Malnutrition in COPD panels
- Executive Officer at the British Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN)
NB: Production of the COVID-19 Nutritional materials was made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition.