Cooking for the Sick

Let me say this straight out: I’m spoiled. I am accustomed to good health, abundant food, and reasonable comfort. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case this past month: I’ve been a coughing, hacking, miserable wreck. Cooking has been the last thing I could imagine doing. It was a struggle to eat some days.

Chicken Noodle SoupWhich brings me to my point today: we’ve lost the art of cooking for the sick, because we hardly need to do it anymore: we’re used to quick healing.

And you know what? You can’t live on chicken soup and tea.

This post is dedicated to anyone who needs to nurture a sick friend or family member.

Kitchen helpers needed!

Someone who’s seriously ill really needs help. When you don’t have the energy to refill your own water glass, you can’t figure out how to feed yourself, let alone tempt a vanishing appetite. So if you’re caring for somebody or just supplying their fridge, keep these things in mind.

  • sick people need to nibble, not dine
    • too much at a time can be overwhelming
    • present bite-sized and non-threatening portions
    • don’t ask “what do you want”
    • just offer a small assortment
  • try a lot of variation: you don’t know what will be a big hit or not

First rule: lots and LOTS of liquids!

Yeah, yeah, we all know, drink a lot of fluids. Ideally, the kitchen gremlins will jump in to help, and bring small quantities of various things every 1-2 hours or so. If there are no live-in gremlins, consider stocking the patient’s fridge with mini servings ready to grab and go.

  • water
    • plain or fizzy
    • flavored or not (I recommend Lacroix which comes in many zero calorie flavors)
  • clear broths (beef, chicken, vegetable)
    • beef broth with a slice of lemon floating on top
    • chicken broth infused with a bit of ginger
    • chicken broth spiked with lemon juice
  • clear fruit juices and blends
  • ginger ale (this Michigan girl swears by Vernors)
  • tea and herbal tisanes
    • Plantation Mint tea – black tea with mint – is especially good with honey, and soothing whether taken hot or cold
    • lemon/ginger
    • oolong tea
  • jello  (yes, this counts as a liquid)
    • consider jello blocks for someone too sick to use a spoon
    • you can mix fruit juice with unflavored gelatin for interesting flavors too
  • popsicles
    • make your own: fruit juice in ice cube trays

Soothing and Slippery

I had a racking cough that wouldn’t quit – and because of the cough, a horribly sore throat. I needed cold and soothing stuff. When a sore throat is the problem, things need to slide down easy.

  • cold sliced fruit (canned peaches, pears, etc)
  • applesauce
  • fruit smoothies
    • starting mixture: blend 1/2 to 1 cup juice, 1 cup frozen fruit, 1/2 banana
  • chicken noodle soup (an important point: the more the throat hurts, the smaller the noodles should be)
  • blended fruit yogurt
  • gelato and sorbet  (nothing sharply citrus)
  • grilled cheese sandwich strips (minus crusts or scratchy bits)

Warm and Comforting

Some people prefer velvety warm soups and comforting textures. These might include:

  • thicker soups
    • lentil
    • navy bean with or without ham
    • potato/leek
    • onion with cheese
    • noodle soups with thicker noodles (see photo at top)
    • minestrone
  • oatmeal and other porridges
  • congee or jook
  • French toast
  • macaroni and cheese
  • mashed potatoes
  • shepherds pie
  • roasted vegetables
  • polenta
  • pudding – cold, of course! (especially homemade) 

GET WELL SOON!

Eventually, the patient will recover, appetite will return, and we can all get back to our normal diets, whatever they are. And you, dear Kitchen Gremlin and care-taker, thank you.

Add your own ideas in the comments!

I’d love to know – what do YOU like to eat or drink when you’re really, seriously, ill?

Leave a comment

Back to Top