Is what I eat affecting my recovery?

Find out information on the value of nutrition and how healthy your current diet is

The food and drink you consume can influence your health and well-being. On this page you will find advice to help you improve your diet. This should support your recovery from COVID-19.

There is information on:

  • Deciding whether you are at risk of nutritional problems
  • Self-screening tools and checklists to pin-point problems you may have
  • Finding the right expert to advise you
  • Nutritional information to support your own recovery

Identifying yourself at risk of nutritional problems

You may be more at risk of nutritional problems if you answer yes to any of these questions:

  • Do you have on-going symptoms (such as poor appetite, sore mouth, tiredness)? If these persist after you had COVID-19 they may affect your diet, or you may be able to improve them by altering your diet. See this page for more information on managing your symptoms. Having symptoms for more than 12 weeks is called post-covid syndrome and you should consider seeking further advice from your healthcare professional.
  • Do you have high blood pressure, diabetes or a high body mass index (BMI) (over 30)? This means you may have been affected more by COVID-19 and need to adapt your diet to manage these conditions too.
  • Were you hospitalised as a result of COVID-19? This suggests you had a much more severe infection, and you may need more help to recover. Ideally you would be offered follow-up appointment from a dietitian, COVID-19 clinic, GP, or consultant one to two months after discharge.
  • Are you using an oral nutritional supplement (such as Ensure, Glucerna, Boost Isocal, Foodlink, Fortisip, Aymes or similar) with the aim of improving your COVID-19 symptoms? It is important your healthcare professional checks the supplements are working and how long you need to stay on them.
If you have answered yes to any of these it is important to get nutritional support. The section below explains how.

In the next section you can find self-screening tools and a checklist to help you identify specific nutritional problems.

Your symptoms may change over time and the dietary advice may change too. Consider coming back to this page to check your risk at intervals.

Self-screening tools and checklist

Here are some tools designed to identify risk of under-nutrition. If you think you have a specific vitamin or mineral deficiency, you will need to consult a registered nutrition expert or your GP. 

Have your eating habits or diet changed since catching COVID-19?

Changes in eating habits or lifestyle can mean your nutrient intake alters. This online tool from the BAPEN Malnutrition Self-Screening website can help you find out whether you are at nutritional risk. If you have noticed weight change (loss or increase), or if any of your symptoms affect what you eat, use this self-screening tool.

The tool asks about weight change – If you can’t remember your weight before or unable to weigh yourself now, just think about whether your clothes, belt, rings or watch strap have become looser or tighter; this is a sign of weight change. Similarly, dentures can become loose with weight loss.

Do I need a nutritional assessment?

The Patient Association Nutrition Checklist can help you understand whether you need dietary advice and a more detailed nutritional assessment. You can download it from the Patient Association website [PDF]. The checklist gives a guide for signs that you may need help and provides information about how to find it.

My swallowing is sometimes difficult, is there a tool to assess this problem?

If you have problems with swallowing, you can download a self assessment from the Melbourne ENT Group website [PDF]. If your score is 3 or higher you may want to seek a consultation with a speech and language therapist or dietitian. Ask your GP for a referral.

I have post COVID syndrome, do I need nutritional support?

The multi-disciplinary-rehabilitation teams from Leeds, Airedale and Hull NHS Trusts have produced a screening tool called COVID-19 Yorkshire Rehabilitation Screening (C19-YRS). It assesses symptoms and guides what support you might need. There are questions about swallowing and nutrition. You can find the tool on their website. If you have concerns about diet, weight loss or swallowing seek further support via your GP, local post COVID clinic or other health professional.

Finding appropriate help and professional advice

If you need nutritional advice and support, contact one of the following for help:

  • Your GP - you can ask for referral to see a dietitian
  • Your local hospital - they may offer follow-up appointments or a post-covid clinic. The dietetic department may take self-referrals. You will have to check locally.
  • A dietitian or a registered nutritionist – for information to help you find a dietitian or nutritionist, please see our Find a dietitian or nutritionist to help your COVID-19 recovery page.

These are the type of things that they can help you with:

  • A source of advice and support
  • Signpost you to support groups, a link worker (if this is available) or online apps
  • Help you get support from local services, the Department for Work and Pensions and advice about financial support
  • Written information as a reminder of what was discussed
  • Tailored advice for managing specific symptoms like breathlessness, fatigue or brain fog
  • Additional support if you are self-isolating, lonely, recently bereaved or other issues.
You can listen to the talk about “Psychological well-being and communication with health professionals” to learn more about how to make the most of your consultation with a healthcare professional.

Nutritional information to support your own recovery

The first step would be to make sure you are following healthy eating guidelines which can be found in The Eatwell Guide.

The evidence also suggests that a Mediterranean style diet is highly beneficial. This includes:

  • wholegrain breads
  • fresh vegetables and fruits
  • fish and seafood
  • nuts, seeds, legumes and potatoes
  • herbs and spices
  • healthy fats: extra virgin olive oil, avocados, olives and avocado oil
  • yogurt, eggs, cheese and poultry which should be eaten in moderation.
You can listen to the talk “Is there an anti-inflammatory diet?” which discusses the Mediterranean diet in more detail.

You can also listen to the talk “Is there a link between food and my symptoms?” which explains how to monitor your symptoms and possible dietary changes you could make.

There are two other talks that you may find interesting: “Diet and COVID” and “Q&A panel with our experts”. Find details about all our talks.

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References for this advice