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April 2020 Champions Challenge- Foods to help us feel better when we’re sick

We’ve come down with a very bad cold
or with the Flu.
We are tormented with fever, coughs, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches.
The last thing on our mind is food. We’re just not hungry.

But it’s very important to adequately sustain our body so that our immune system is strong and can fight off the illness. We need foods that are easily digested and rich in nutrients, especially protein.
It is also important to keep up our fluid intake.

To receive the Food Champions Award
badge for this month, please post below which foods and drinks you prefer when you or your family are unwell, and which ones do you think should be avoided.

From Food Champions Peter @Phb, Mike @vax2000, and Gaby @Gaby.

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Our family favourite is honey and lemon (or lime) in hot water. Add a heaped teaspoon of honey and a couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon (or lime if one has spare limes) to a mug and half fill the mug with boiling water. Sip slowly to assist in treating symptoms of a cold.

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I stick with the old tried and true chicken broth . Drink wise . Weak black tea with lemon juice and honey .

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The most challenging time can be when you are living on your own, and shopping is not an option. Or difficult. Sounds like a more recent experience.

With a miserable cold or flu spending time cooking a meal is one of the last things you might feel like.

My goto’s relied on what comes in a tin or packet ready, and prepared typically with a twist. Heartier meals for a cold, lighter and more liquid (for the flu).

Any time of the day:
Plain old baked beans on heavily buttered toast.
Easily dressed up with fresh tomatoes. Dice large tomatoes or halve cherry tomatoes and part cook in a little olive oil in a pan. Add salt to taste. Open tin and add a similar quantity of beans and reheat. Don’t forget some sliced tasty cheese melted on top.

Optionally use left over or cooked sausage cut into thin rounds added to the pan with the beans, the spicier the better. No cheese required? :wink:

As it is often the need to improvise with what is in the fridge or pantry, most premade soups seem to be easily improved with a few fresh veges. Celery, sweet potato etc cut into 1-2cm cubes, cooked in the microwave or caramelised a little in a pan before adding to a can of soup, one cup of added veges to two of soup. Preferably not tomato soup, although it might come to that one day. Tomato and onion?

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Drink: Lemon juice and honey as hot as you can take it, with butter melted into it to help it slide down that sore throat. Apart from seemingly helping you to sweat out the bugs (an old wives thing, methinks) its a taste sensation. I love it.

Food… always mashed potatoes with peas and diced raw onion.

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Get a can of diced (not crushed) tomatoes, chop up an onion and fry that, tip all of it into a microwave safe bowl/container… theres your soup. Its thick and tasty, and it isnt “tomato soup” as such. You can also drp some shredded cheese into it. All good.

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Looks like a job for soup. Soup is easy to eat and can be filled with flavour to tempt sick taste buds. If you are careful it can be nutritious, balanced and easy to make. This will be fairly long because it isn’t just a recipe but an approach that has to be explained. Please read it all before deciding it’s too hard - it ain’t. I don’t actually have a recipe - this is stream of consciousness.

Here is a flexible soup whose origins are in southern China and it uses many Chinese ingredients. You might find something like it in a restaurant called combination long soup. This does not mean you will have problems keeping exotic ingredients to be available when you feel like soup. The reasons are;

  • the recipe is flexible, you can use a subset of ingredients if you don’t have them all,
  • many of these ingredients are long lasting, they are dried, preserved or frozen so you don’t have to shop fresh just 'cause you feel like having soup tonight,
  • once these things were only to be found in specialised asian grocers, today many can be bought at the supermarket or elsewhere.

This is not a delicate soup, it its strong in basic flavours (umami) and in aromatics, it is hearty and filling, a one bowl meal. The food groups are protein, vegetable, starch and some fat, you can vary the proportions to suit yourself.

Base stock
I use box chicken stock from the supermarket, you could use beef or vegetable. By all means make your own if you have the time, homemade stock is another good thing to freeze. If not making your own it is an idea to start with the low salt version as you will be adding some salty things and while you can always add salt later it is hard to take it out.
Protein
Raw chicken (I prefer thighs) or pork diced, leftover Chinese roast pork chopped, uncooked prawns halved (fresh or frozen), lup cheong (spicy pork sausage) sliced.
Vegetables
Any of the Asian brassicas, pak choi, choi sum etc. fresh bean shoots, broccoli, cabbage. Dried shiitake mushrooms are important.
Starch
Cooked fresh packet noodles (eg hokkien) note these freeze very well. Or whatever dried rice or wheat noodle you like.
Garnish and flavours
Various Asian sauces (soy, oyster, hoi sin, black bean, ma po etc), toasted sesame oil, spring onions trimmed and sliced, green ginger, garlic, shao shing (Chinese cooking wine, substitute dry sherry).

Method
This is for four big serves for a whole dinner, you will need large soup or pasta bowls. For smaller eaters or lunch this will serve 6.

Chop meat. Soak 8-10 shiitakes in boiling water, when soft slice the caps thinly and discard stems. Cut your larger veggies into bite-size. Thaw your noodles or any other frozen food.

In a large soup pot gently fry 1 dsp grated green ginger and 1 dsp crushed garlic in 2 dsp oil (eg peanut) for a few minutes.
Add your raw meat (not prawns) raise the heat and stir until coloured. Add 2l of stock and return to the boil, then down to a simmer.
Add sliced 'shroom caps and any remaining liquid to the soup.
Add 2 dsp light soy (or tamari), 2 dsp shao shing and 2 dsp oyster sauce. For extra punch try some hoi sin (beany), ma po (beany and spicy), chilli or others. Don’t get carried away and add them all at once. Taste as you go.
Add 2 or 3 sliced lup cheong.
Simmer for 20 minutes.

I like to cook (dried) noodles or heat fresh (cooked) noodles in separate containers, especially if microwaving. You can heat/cook them in the soup but it is hard to control because unless your timing is great they and the vegetables will not be cooked the correct amount each and they get lost in the pot and are hard to serve. I tend to microwave bok choy etc.

If using beans shoots put some in each bowl they don’t need to be cooked other than on the heat of the broth.

When the broth is nearly ready, add your prawns, heat (or cook) your noodles and cook your veggies, leaving some crunch. Put the drained veggies and noodles in the bowls. Add 1 tsp toasted sesame oil to the soup and stir. Serve out the soup, making sure the solids are divided not concentrated in the last serve! Garnish with sliced spring onions.

Within the listed ingredients you can do many variations. On top of that those who enjoy tofu could replace one meat or all the meat with it. You could use other seafood. You could add dumplings in which case it would become long and short soup, or for logophiles, syncretic soup.

Notes

  • Try lup cheong if you have never had them, they are readily available and keep very well.
  • There are many kinds of soy sauce, start with light soy and experiment at your discretion. If you are worried about salt only add half the soy before you taste. If you want the broth more salty add more than I have said it’s up to you. You could serve soy and chilli sauce on the side so each can suit themselves.
  • Shiitake have much more concentrated flavour than fresh supermarket mushrooms.
  • If you have a surprise guest or two, or a big hungry person, use more noodles.
  • If despite taking care the broth gets too salty add a cup of water.
    [edit] I forgot meatballs, which can replace meat. If you have pork or pork and veal mince make small meatballs flavoured with ginger, spring onions, soy, sesame with egg to bind. Drop them in the broth about halfway.
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You do all this when you’re sick? Oy vey!

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On soup …

My chest freezer is a veritable treasure chest of things I’ve saved and bought - it never ceases to surprise me and there are things therein that I am less than proud of and need to be used because waste is bad.

This afternoon, somewhat at random, it seemed appropriate to reduce the stuff stored there and make something useful. The ingredient that came to prominence was broccoli. Frozen, packet broccoli … but three lots of stock saved from roasts past and various other ingredients including some ‘nearly end-of-life pumpkin’ and a similarly urgent bag of greens (kale and baby spinach etc), a bulb of garlic, some Worcestershire and some Tabasco sauce and some diced bacon rind I’d saved, because … bacon … some ‘frozen fresh herbs’ and the kernels from three corn cobs. No salt other than what might have been in the sauces - I rarely add any salt to anything. Smells amazing and tastes amazing according to the chef (me) :slight_smile: I always like to reduce soup a bit - runny is for custard, thick is for soup.

I did look up a couple of recipes - they seemed to mention ‘add the broccoli’ at some point and that is about the extent to which they were followed.

The reason I mention this is because I believe soup can be so easy - its fun to make a special soup and follow a recipe to the letter, like a good bisque or a cullen skink, which I’d not try to ad-lib (I’m a bit of a fan of seafood soups) but I reckon anyone can put together a good leftovers soup like I did today, and feel good about not wasting good food … or even frozen broccoli, which hopefully still has some good vitamins ‘and stuff’ …

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I don’t cook much when I am sick, this is for others. Making a meal for 4 in 35 minutes out of stuff in the cupboard and freezer is not a lot of work.

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Another vote for chicken soup… but for me, usually a Tom Yum Gai!
I know I’m weird, but when I’m “snotted up” and feverish, I like a spicy, sour, lemongrassy, coriandery soup. One that makes your eyes water.
We always have a jar of good quality Tom Yum paste in the fridge, and in times of sickness it goes in a pot to simmer with some chicken breast (which is always in the freezer), chicken stock, onion, and whatever other vegetables are on hand (usually carrot, mushroom, maybe some spinach or tomato). Its a case of “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” until my feverish, mucous-infested tastebuds are happy. If I’m too sick to make it, the local Thai takeaway makes an excellent more strictly traditional version.
Never ever Tom Kha when sick though. I struggle with the fat content of coconut milk at the best of times, but definitely not with cold and flu. Same for all creamy soups. Clear broths are better.

And just for anothet weird one - my parents always fed us flat lemonade (always schweppes never sprite) and red frogs when we were sick as kids, and I still develop the worst cravings for lemonade and frogs whenever I’m sick as an adult. Zero nutrition besides the fluids and sugar!!

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When I’m not hungry but really need to eat, I sometimes can stomach a good quality protein or similar bar like those Emma and Tom’s Life Bars. They are really small and tasty enough to not be a trial to get down, plus will give you some protein, fibre, vitamins, etc. Especially if your stomach is really empty and proper food seems too big a first step. Not for everyday eating as not that cheap, but a good way to get some goodness in if you’re feeling too sick to eat really well.

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Nice to see you again @consumer.

It often amazes me that after a big meal, no matter how full I feel there’s always room for dessert :wink:
Also, no matter how sick and not hungry, a little treat is always welcomed. It’s a plus if it’s good for you too.

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Well, I picked the right year to go Vegan. No-one emptied out the fruit and veg or soy milk sections during the crisis . I’ve also learned about basic amounts of protein and B12 each day.
If I combine that knowledge with being ill, I’d recommend weetbix and soy milk with B12 added (they don’t all have it) or toast with nuttelex and marmite, a soy Chai latte if you’re up to it, or black ginger tea, then for lunch some hommus on Crackers or toast, or if you can manage the time, over cooked rice (so it splits and is like porridge) with either stock or honey. A handful of nuts in the afternoon with some dairy free dark chocolate (there are plenty of good brands) or some strawbs and for dinner maybe a peanut butter sandwich or swap with lunch. Plenty of water, with or without lemon or other flavours, stay in bed or reclining when not eating, listening to the sounds of the people who have to go to work.

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An interesting variety of drinks, carbs, protein and salt.

Is there anything else you might add?
Vitamin C comes to mind.
Tomatoes lightly pan fried, fruit in season - custard apples at present, or …lime/lemon iced tea home made from fresh fruit?

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A lot of good suggestions on what foods and drinks to have when we’re not feeling well, but I was wondering about what we should avoid.
According to Healtline.com we should have no alcohol, and no caffeinated drinks like coffee, cola, energy drinks, tea, because they are dehydrating.
Also foods with a crunchy texture can aggravate a cough and a sore throat.
And processed foods as they are very low in nutrients.

Must remember this next time I’m down with a cold and all I want is a packet of chips and a drink of coke. And maybe some ice cream :wink:

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What about jelly and a nice warm custard? Add some soft warmed tinned pears or peaches.

Sorry, no cravings for chips and coke, unless there is a red wine to follow. Although a citrus Amaro seemed to dull a sore throat, I doubt the alcohol did much for cure as it did for …?

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Maybe we’re just feeling sick and sorry for ourselves? :wink:

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One of the reasons you’ve lost interest in food is that the upper respiratory tract infection has temporarily removed your sense of smell. And smell is a big part of how we ‘taste’ our food.
Therefore go for strongly flavoured foods to tempt you to eat.
Dishes containing garlic, chilli, spices,

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