Recovering From COVID: Important Tips To Prepare Healthy Meal Boxes For COVID-19 Patients
“Patients should strictly avoid junk, processed and canned food because of the presence of preservatives. Make sure you take enough probiotics and fermented foods like idli, dosa, yoghurt and buttermilk" says nutritionist Arooshi Aggarwal.
The spike in COVID-19 infections in India has given rise to a growing community of restaurants, home chefs, cooks, helpful neighbours and Good Samaritans offering to feed COVID-19 patients and their caregivers in home isolation as well as hospitals. Many simply started off by sending homecooked tiffins for their unwell neighbours but gradually ended up preparing several meals a day after getting calls from various localities. Thanks to these people, thousands of COVID-19 patients and their families are eating healthy meals and certainly have one less thing to worry about. However, with more people wanting to do their bit by offering homemade food, we talk to doctors, nutritionists and health experts about simple things one must keep in mind while cooking meals for a COVID patient.
Fried, spicy food is a strict no-no
Experts urge people to stay away from spicy and fried food as it might aggravate health risks in COVID patients. “Avoid spicy food and stomach irritating food because they may increase nausea and gastric issues which occasionally happens with COVID-19. So, when planning a meal kit, keep this in mind,” says Dr Ravindra Mehta, chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine, Ahmedabad.
Nutritionist Arooshi Aggarwal adds, “Patients should strictly avoid junk, processed and canned food because of the presence of preservatives. Make sure you take enough probiotics and fermented foods like idli, dosa, yoghurt and buttermilk.”
‘While prepping a meal for COVID-19 patients, keep it fresh, hydrating, non-spicy & balanced’
Most importantly, meals prepared for COVID patients should be freshly cooked. Wellness expert Dr Varun Katyal says, “Fresh produce should always be used. All proper hygiene practices should be followed strictly while preparing the food. A lot of COVID patients experience difficulty in swallowing during the recovery period, so soft foods and liquid diet is what one can begin with. One should have small meals at frequent intervals of time, especially initially, as eating large portions may be difficult for the patient.”
Home chefs, restaurants, and neighbours offer healthy meals for covid patients
While many are providing meals for free, others are charging a nominal fee for a meal of daal, rice, vegetables and chapatis. Bharti Sanghai, founder of an artisanal food restaurant that curates meals for COVID patients, says, “We are providing special tiffins, comprising light and nutritious Indian vegetarian meals for COVID patients and their families. There is no fixed menu; they can order anything as per their need and convenience. However, our basic meals consists of daal, chapati, sabzi and rice and they are priced at `300.”
Devender Chadha and his wife, residents of Sector 48 in Gurgaon, have been providing fresh, home-cooked meals to those under home isolation from the last few weeks. They have been taking as many as 20 orders in a day and say that they have a fixed menu that includes soups, fruits and leafy vegetables. “We have dieticians in the family who were consulted before we fixed our menu. Food is an important part of the recovery process, so we wanted to make sure that we not only provide fresh, homecooked meals, but those meals should be rich in proteins and nutritious,” says Chadha.
Himanshu Rai, dietitian and nutritionist, says, “Meals should be a good source of protein, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc and selenium. These are helpful in faster recovery. Immunity boosting ingredients that are easily available, like turmeric powder (rich in iron), mustard seeds (rich in iron & zinc), almonds (rich in zinc), mint leaves (rich in iron, selenium, vitamin C, beta carotene), coriander leaves (rich in iron, vitamin C), should be included in meals. Also, fruits like mango, muskmelon, papaya and watermelon should be included regularly.”
DIET DOs AND DON’Ts FOR COVID PATIENTS
Chef Saransh Goila, founder of a platform that connects food volunteers with patients, shares some tips:
Don't fall for WhatsApp forwards and random diet plans circulating online No single diet fits everyone. If you have other complications like diabetes etc. take advice from a doctor and nutritionist Eat food that's low on oil, and vegetables with high water content like lauki, tori, cucumber Avoid any kind of packaged treats or snacks Keep your meal balanced: a good mix of protein, carb, fat and fibre. Don’t settle for just khichdi for 14 days (unless it’s filled with a dozen veggies), combine it with a bowl of veggie or salad If you’re ordering in all your meals, try to keep it mostly vegetarian Prioritise nutrition over taste