What to Eat When You’re Sick: Simple Immune-Boosting Foods

When you’re struck down with a cold or flu, eating for health can be challenging – not only due to lack of appetite, but also because you don’t necessarily feel like cooking. These simple-to-make, immune-boosting foods are tasty (for the most part!) and will help soothe you when you’re sick.

What to Eat When You’re Sick: Immune- Boosting Foods


Food waste - how to reduce it immune boosting

Warm, comforting, and packed with vitamins and minerals, broth can help support immunity and it’s easy to sip if you’re not feeling well. Bone broth or vegetable broth are both fantastic, and you can power up your broth with culinary adaptogens, spices and herbs, and immune-boosting ingredients (and if you use random kitchen scraps you can also help to reduce food waste!).

Prep Tip: Make broth in large batches ahead of time so you always have some stashed in your freezer for a sick day. That way, no cooking is even required! If you don’t have any on hand, keep your broth simple with a few key ingredients (bones, water, garlic, onion, carrots) or purchase a high-quality version from the grocery store.

Recipe to Try: Simple Bone Broth by Meghan Telpner (*ACN Founder + Director)


What to Make When You're Sick

Soup is a classic food to eat when you’re sick, and provides more substance than clear broth alone. You can keep it chunky or blend your soup to be super smooth. Winter and root vegetables like winter squash, carrots, celery root, parsnips or sweet potato are good options, along with dark leafy green vegetables for key minerals.

Prep Tip: If you have a slow cooker or Instant Pot, it can ease the burden, leaving you with more time to rest while the appliance does the cooking.

Recipes to Try:


Tea - Guide to Adaptogens immune boosting

Few things are more comforting on any day of the year than a cup of tea, and there are many herbal options that can help boost your immunity and keep you hydrated. Tea ingredients like medicinal mushrooms, ginger, lemon, echinacea, jasmine, fennel, and turmeric are fantastic options to use, as well as herbs that will help you calm down and relax like lavender or chamomile.

Prep Tip: Add a natural sweetener such as raw honey to your tea for the extra anti-microbial benefits.

Recipe to Try: Download three awesome tea recipes here, or try this health-restoring tea.


Everyday Herbal

Hot Elixirs

Dairy-Free Elixir - Gingerbread Latte immune boosting

An elixir is a sweet liquid used for medicinal purposes, and here at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition we’ve expanded upon the elixir so it can serve as a complete, nutritionally balanced snack or light meal. They’re warm, comforting and can be easily amped up with immune-boosting foods and anti-inflammatory spices. If you’re looking for what to eat when you’re sick without having to consume a ton of food, hot elixirs are great way to maximize your nutrition.

Prep Tip: You can use herbal teas, hot water, or warmed nut milk as the base for your elixirs.

Recipes to Try:


Dairy-free Smoothie Recipes

If you’re looking for something to cool you down when you’re sick, a smoothie is easy to blend and easy to digest. Heap your blender with dark leafy greens, antioxidant-rich fruits, protein sources like nut/seed butter or protein powder, chilled tea, water, nut milk or coconut milk, dairy-free yogurt, and herbs and spices for a full spectrum of immune-enhancing nutrition.

Prep Tip: Make smoothie packs ahead of time by compiling all of your smoothie ingredients (except for the liquid) in a freezer-safe container or bag. Then, when you’re ready to eat, add the liquid and blend away.

Recipes to Try:

Fire Cider

immune boosting Fire Cider

With one quick shot of fire cider, you are flooded with nutritional power! It tastes, in all honesty, completely gross. And yet it is highly effective.

Prep Tip: This tincture takes two to four weeks to brew, so it’s definitely something that needs to be made ahead of time. We recommend starting a batch just before cold and flu season begins so you’ll have it on hand if needed, or you can sip it as an immune-boosting tonic for prevention.

Recipe to Try: Fire Cider Recipe

Fermented Foods

How to Brew and Flavour Kombucha

Fermented foods help us maintain a good balance of gut bacteria, which is important for healthy immune function, and the fermentation process increases the number of nutrients and makes them more available to us. Some fermented foods are very strongly flavoured, so you may not want to eat all of them when you’re sick, but certain ones like miso soup, kombucha or dairy-free yogurt may be comforting.

Prep Tip: Watch for sugar in some store-bought fermented foods like kombucha or yogurt – when you make your own, you can let the batch ferment for longer to remove the sugars.

Recipes to Try: 

Don’t let the conundrum of what to eat when you’re sick paralyze you. Eat simple immune-boosting foods, practice lifestyle strategies that support the immune system, and get plenty of rest!

what to eat when you're sick immune boosting