Feed a Fever

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You were probably told to “starve a fever and feed a cold.” Actually, everyone needs to eat, fever or not. During a short illness, allow the person’s appetite to be the guide.

Increased body temperature helps kill invading microbes, but that high temp can lead to fluid loss through sweating. While the most important nutrient a feverish person needs is water, using fruit or vegetable juice offers important nutrients for a person whose appetite is usually slim.

Fluid replacement
Your best bet is equal parts juice and water for good nutrition and fast rehydration. Orange juice offers natural potassium, folate and vitamin C, which has been shown to reduce the length of a cold. Carrot juice is an excellent source of beta-carotene. Lemonade made with fresh lemons adds vitamin C and phytochemicals. Grape juice has heart-healthy phytochemicals called flavonoids.

Diet for diarrhea
Research shows that once fluids are reestablished with diarrhea, there is no advantage to the BRAT diet consisting of banana, rice, applesauce and toast or a clear liquid diet. Both of these diets do not meet nutritional needs and unnecessarily restrict intake. The best plan is “diet as tolerated,” or offer whatever the person feels like eating until they are back to their usual routine.

Make each bite count
Soups are a great way to sneak in healthy food without overwhelming someone’s weak appetite. Add lots of healthy carrots, collard greens and other vegetables. Bok choy is a surprisingly mild vegetable that adds phytochemicals and calcium to your soup. Try adding cooked brown rice or whole wheat pasta for added nutrition.

Drink a meal
Drinking a meal may be easier than trying to eat for people with a reduced appetite. Try a smoothie made from fruit and skim or soymilk for a healthy way to get potassium, protein and vitamins. The smoothie can be frozen with a stick or spoon left in the cup to make a popsicle.

Make it fun
A bowl of hot cereal with raisins placed to look like a smiling face, or soup served in a fun bowl can make a meal more appetizing, even for adults.

An ounce of prevention
The best way to prevent colds and flu is to avoid them by frequent hand washing. Flu and rotavirus vaccines can also help. By far the best prevention is a healthy diet based on beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables since this contains proper amounts of zinc, selenium, vitamins A and C and protein for a healthy immune system. People with severe diarrhea and vomiting should seek the advice of their physician.
By Carol M. Coughlin, RD.

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