Even if you got a flu shot and diligently wash your hands 13 times a day, there's no guarantee that you won't fall victim to some awful bug this season. And if and when it does happen, the last thing you want to do is make your congestion, aches, and general crappiness even worse. So do yourself a favor and avoid these foods like the plague.
Soda, juice, and other sugary stuff
It's true that ginger ale might settle a queasy stomach, and OJ delivers a hefty dose of vitamin C. But they're both loaded with sugar, which causes inflammation that can actually weaken your body's infection-fighting white blood cells, said Alissa Rumsey, registered dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Not surprisingly, the same goes for other sugar-laden foods like cookies, candy, kids' cereal, and all that other yummy stuff you might feel justified eating on a sick day. (Try one of these organic cereals.) Instead, stick to ginger tea for your stomach and stay hydrated with good ol' H2O or sugar-free coconut water. And if you feel like snacking, try fruit or popcorn. In a few days when you're not feeling like a snot-filled alien anymore, you'll be so glad you did.
Despite what you might have heard, milk, yogurt, and the like don't actually cause your body to produce more nasty mucus. But in some people, dairy can make the mucus that's already in your throat thicker and all around more unbearable. So if you notice the stuff seems to make you more phlegmy, consider cutting back or steering clear altogether. If it doesn't bother you? It might be worth drinking (or eating) up.
"If you can tolerate dairy, it's a good source of the protein and vitamin D that can help your body fight infection," Rumsey said. "Plus, yogurt has probiotics that can help balance out your gut bacteria." (Try one of these five probiotic-infused foods.)
In case you were still clinging to the idea that it's totally fine to hit the bar when you're sick, let's dispel that notion right now. Like sugar, alcohol causes inflammation that weakens your white blood cells, making it harder for your body to heal, Rumsey says. (Here is what happens to your body when you give up alcohol for 2 weeks.) Plus, knocking back a drink or two leaves you even more dehydrated than you already are, which can raise your blood alcohol content and cause you to get drunker faster. So unless you want to wake up tomorrow with a fever and a hangover, skip happy hour if you're not feeling 100 percent.
Toast and crackers might be classic sick-day foods. But aside from serving as a cozy reminder of mom bringing that tray up to your room whenever you rang a little bell, they aren't doing you any favors.
"Refined carbohydrates are quickly broken down into sugar and will cause a rise in blood sugar similar to juice, soda, or high-sugar foods. So they can hinder infection-fighting in the same way," Rumsey said.
If you really want to do the buttered toast thing, make sure that bread is 100 percent whole-wheat.