Monday, January 25, 2010

Sick Days

Growing up, my favorite meal when I was sick and home from school was vegetarian vegetable soup and a cucumber and sour cream sandwich.   The soup was canned and easy for my mother to heat up.  Cucumbers and sour cream, a vestige of my family’s eastern European heritage, delivered in a surprisingly neat sandwich made with soft bread was pure comfort food.  It was cool and kind to a tender throat.  Sometimes, there was homemade chicken soup from my great aunts instead of canned soup.  Stocked with thin egg noodles in a full flavor broth, if you had to be sick, this was some consolation. 

Soup still remains the top choice for most when a cold hits and energy reserves are low.  Parents try to tempt their children with foods that will keep dehydration at bay and provide some nourishment along the way to recovery.  After a few days, some new ideas suited to improving appetites are in order.  These are good for adults or children. 

Some soothing and easy breakfasts can include smoothies, cottage cheese or yogurt, scrambled eggs and bananas slathered with peanut butter.  Pancakes and hot cereal can both be served with fresh or canned fruit.  Next time you make pancakes, put some extra in the freezer between sheets of wax paper in reserve for sick days. 

For lunch, try some mild fish, baked or broiled with a dab of butter or olive oil and lemon.  Cooked vegetables can be served hot or room temperature.  Try lightly steamed carrots with a dip made from yogurt mixed with a little honey. Tuna and chicken salad sandwiches are another way to pack in a little protein before heading back to bed. 

Dinners can include simple pasta meals made with light sauces.  Tortellini, steamed shrimp and peas doused with a little olive oil and lemon or angel hair pasta tossed with cream cheese thinned with milk and garnished with grated Parmesan cheese are easy and appealing.  Potato lovers will enjoy them mashed and covering a Shepard’s pie made with layers of cooked ground meat and diced vegetables.  A simple cheese omelet is both welcome and easy to put together for lunch or dinner and is appealing with a freshly tossed side salad. 

There is nothing wrong with providing sweets like frozen fruit pops and pudding as snacks but consider sick days as a good bridge to better eating and keep things in moderation.  Make snacks work double-duty by providing extra doses of fruit and calcium.  Bananas make great emergency fruit pops after a few hours in the freezer.  Chunks of orange, melon or pineapple on a skewer or served in a bowl with a toothpick make fruit an easy pick for languid eaters.  Canned fruit like pears, peaches and apricots packed in juice are soft and easy on the throat and tummy.  If you can only find fruit packed in syrup, rinse it off to reduce the extra sugar.  The fruit’s sweetness will come through loud and clear.  

Pudding, flan, tapioca, and my dad’s favorite when he is under the weather—junket—are pleasant sources of calcium to try as appetites revive.  Use caution with flavored yogurts that include lots of sugar.  Enjoy some plain with maple syrup or jam.  Try it as a fruit dip to start and you’ll soon build up to bowls of it.  Or go back to the soup concept and blend up a fruit soup.  In a blender, mix the patient’s favorite frozen fruits like cherries, strawberries and blueberries and add some orange juice and honey.   Garnish with or mix in some plain yogurt.  Sprinkle on some cinnamon and indulge. 

With a few extra ideas for sick days, everyone will be feeling better soon.