How To Eat Well When You Lose Your Sense of Taste or Smell (And Actually Enjoy It)

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For many of us, the motivation to enjoy a good meal is rooted in the satisfaction of tasting each unique and rewarding flavor. 

Unfortunately, whether it’s due to a health condition or something else, our bodies sometimes lose their sense of taste. By virtue of that loss, our appetite is reduced significantly, and yet eating well is part of getting better.

When the sense of taste is missing from our palette, eating food can become very difficult. It’s often been reported that two of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is a loss of taste and smell. Even worse, they often don’t return for a long time.

Despite the challenges a lost sense of taste or smell present, it is possible for people to maintain a healthy diet. 

Exploring What Causes Loss of Taste

Experts explain that loss of taste can be caused by traditional respiratory problems, including Asthma, Pulmonary Disease and Bronchitis. When it comes to COVID-19, however, things become far more complicated.

COVID-19 has become known to attack and in many cases damage the nervous system. This is of course directly linked to taste and smell. Unfortunately, understanding how it alters these senses is still an ongoing project. 

What to Eat When Experiencing Loss of Taste

Caroline West Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN says one of the key things to remember when preparing food for impaired taste buds is to create a meal plan with healthy guidelines.

She recommends, “filling half of your plate with vegetables or fruits, one quarter with protein and one quarter with starch (preferably whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans or legumes).”

Related Article: The Flexitarian Diet: What, Why & How To Eat Less Meat

Passerrrello also notes some of the Eatingwell.com recipes that are only a few steps to make, like the Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Kale and the Air-Fryer Broccoli & Cheese Baked Potatoes that include plenty of zest and seasoning. 

What Not To Do When Experiencing Loss of Taste

Without having much taste, people may be tempted to add more salt, sugar or excessive amounts of other seasonings. That is not recommended. Adding more of these is a quick way to take in unhealthy amounts of sodium. You’re trying to compensate for flavor, but you’re really doing your body harm.

Instead, one of the food hacks few people know about is using vinegar to replace salt. Some associate vinegar with having a bitter taste, but there are ways to make it more savory for many dishes.

In fact, acids like lemons and vinegar are strong flavors that are more likely to reach diminished taste buds while also being ideal healthy alternatives.

Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Ginger Hultin, M.S., RDN recommends meals that are packed with big flavors, while still offering beneficial nutrition.

Eatingwell.com suggests that people try their Basil Pesto Pasta with Grilled Vegetables recipe as well as their Chipotle Chicken & Vegetable Soup recipe

Soups are also great for people that are experiencing other common COVID-19 symptoms and traditional cold symptoms; coughing, fever, muscle aches, sore throat and more.

While it may be tempting to order in or have a loved one bring you some fast food, this should be done in serious moderation. 

Related Article: A Nutritionist’s Guide to Vegan Health During COVID-19

COVID has the potential to last a long time, and people should avoid highly-saturated and sugary foods, along with processed foods which will impede their body’s ability to fight the disease. 

There is a known link to COVID and diabetes. The CDC has found that, “among the 48 percent of the COVID-19 victims who are obese, 28 percent of those hospitalized with the virus have diabetes.”

A Variety of Recipes to Try

Fortunately, there are a variety of healthy foods that are both flavorful and easy to digest. Lisa Valente, M.S., RD recommends trying a healthy Minestrone soup recipe, which can be made with a diversity of ingredients to fit different preferences.

While some are more hardy and dense, like this Slow-Cooker Minestrone with Smokey White Beans, others are a bit lighter, like this Celery & Parmesan Minestrone.

For those that are not fans of soups or stews, there are other healthy routes to take that can unlock taste buds while boosting immunity.

Nutrient dense smoothie recipes can provide strength and energy with some refreshing sweetness.

This Green Peach smoothie was created by nutritionist Sarah Garone to help those in need of vitamin C and iron while covering their daily fruit and vegetable intake. 

ACCORDING TO CNBC’s MAKE IT SECTION, YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1½ cup frozen sliced peaches
  • 2 cups fresh chopped spinach
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt 

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender.
  • Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

There are also a combination of other smoothie recipes made with ingredients that motivate the body to heal and defend itself from any viruses and ailments.

Healthy Snacks to Try

UC Davis Health recommends that people try making their own trail mixes or simply enjoy sliced fruit and vegetables and handmade dips with Greek yogurt, veggies and herbs. 

Related Article: Avocados: Why Are They The Biggest Trend In Fruits?

The main thing is to avoid mindless eating and to instead eat with intention. It helps to refer back to not going for too many processed foods. Supplement drinks like Ensure and Boost may help with any nutrient deficiencies as well, and they come in a variety of flavors.

Things to Remember

It’s also important to remember that everyone’s diet can and should be different. There’s no universal diet for people who have lost their sense of taste because of COVID. 

Another key is to stay hydrated. Adding some lemon and even a low calorie water flavor liquid or powder can help if the water taste is unpleasant. 

People should not ignore the specific needs of their own bodies and always consult a doctor for any specific concerns.

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