Having a cold is absolutely no fun. You feel terrible, have little energy, and sometimes you crave foods that are definitely not on your weight loss plan. Sticking to your diet when your nose is running and you feel lousy is challenging but you can do it. Here’s why it’s hard to stick to your diet when you have a cold and what you can do to avoid blowing your diet.
Why Having a Cold Makes You Want Certain Foods
There is no definitive answer to the question of why being sick makes you want certain foods, but there are three likely causes:
1) Childhood conditioning
If your mom was like mine, she fed you certain foods when you got sick. For my brother and me it was powered Jell-O mixed with water (which sounds disgusting now), salty chicken noodle soup, oranges, and sandwiches on soft white bread.
When you have a cold, you might have trouble sleeping. A lack of sleep increases your cravings because of the two hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin tells your brain when it is time to eat, and the hormone increases when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, which makes you want to eat more often. To make matters worse, leptin, the hormone that helps you know when you are full, decreases when you are sleep deprived.
3) You believe the old saying “Feed a cold, starve a fever.”
Although there may be some scientific truth to the adage, if you feed your cold with too much junk food, you can easily gain weight while you are recovering. Although you could lose it with some effort, gaining weight when you want to lose it can cause you to falter in your weight loss effort.
Which Comfort Foods Work for Colds and Weight Loss
Some people like salty foods when they are sick and others prefer sweet foods. No matter which type you prefer, there are healthy comfort foods that satisfy cravings without blowing your calorie budget.
Try some of the following:
- Chicken noodle soup
- Pretzels dipped in hummus
- Fruit popsicles made with real fruit
- Frozen banana chunks dipped in 1 tablespoon of melted dark chocolate chips
- Five saltine crackers and a bit of cheese
- Tangerines, oranges, or grapefruit
- Fruit smoothies
- Hot tea with lemon and honey
Which Foods to Avoid When Sick and Dieting
There are no foods you can’t eat when you have a cold unless your doctor says so, but there are some I avoid when I have a cold. For example, if I start eating chocolate when I have a cold, my weakened willpower becomes weaker and I eat way more than I normally would.
Some other foods to avoid when you are fighting a cold and trying to lose weight are:
- Sugary foods
- High-calorie salty foods like chips or peanut-butter-filled pretzels
- Fatty foods such as burgers dripping with grease, bacon, and fried foods
- Fast food
- High calorie drinks
Getting Back on Track After You Feel Better
You might be coming off a cold and looking to get back on track. It’s not ideal to have blown your diet when sick, but it is possible to bounce back.
The first step is to stand on the scale and see if you’ve gained a bit of weight back. If you have, get back on your eating plan. You will quickly drop those few pounds and be on your way once again.