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15 Worst Foods to Eat When You're Sick

Avoid snacking on things that will make you more congested and dehydrated.

When you're sick, your immune system is your best ally. It'll get you through the common cold and flu without much over-the-counter help. The one thing you need to do to help your body fight off sickness is to boost your immune system and give it the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs.

Keeping yourself optimally fed while sick also includes avoiding foods that can exacerbate your symptoms and make them worse. Some common offenders in this category are foods that are high in histamines, which cause additional inflammation and congestion in the body; foods that dehydrate you, because they're high in sodium; or foods that overall wreak havoc in the body if consumed in high amounts like sugar and gluten.

Here is a list of exactly which foods to avoid in order to recover from sickness faster. Instead, munch on these 30 Best Immune-Boosting Foods instead.


Avocado dip

Put that avocado down! The high-fat content may be difficult to digest if your stomach is unsettled. Not to mention, this fatty fruit is rich in histamines, which means consuming it in great quantities could make your congestion even worse.


Bread loaves

You may feel great after eating bread normally, but even those with a minor sensitivity to gluten can experience inflammation after eating wheat. It's best to lay off the gluten until you recover since inflammation can lead to an increase in mucus production.


Candy jar table

This one's probably pretty intuitive—lay off highly processed sugary foods when you're sick or else you'll take longer to recover. Consumption of sugar causes inflammation which can weaken the production of white blood cells which fight infection. If you want your immune system to work optimally, pass on the candy.

French Fries

French fries table

Fried foods like French fries cause inflammation in your body every time you consume them, which is especially harmful when you're sick. Also, if your stomach is upset, consuming greasy deep-fried foods is not advisable. High-fat foods take longer to digest and therefore make your stomach work a lot harder when it's already sensitive.


Skim milk

Whole milk has also been shown to stimulate the production of mucus, which is the opposite of what you want when you are sick. Dairy can temporarily thicken mucus, which will cause allergens to stay in your body longer.


Latte mug

You may feel like you need the extra caffein boost more than ever when you're feeling under the weather, but drinking coffee when you're sick is a seriously bad idea. Caffein is a diuretic, which means it also dehydrates you faster. Combine that with other symptoms like a low-grade fever or an upset digestion, and you're heading for a seriously painful recovery.


Thin crust pizza

Pizza consists of three things that can make cold symptoms worse, so it's a triple threat to your recovery efforts. The gluten and carbs in the dough, the fat and dairy from cheese, and the histamines in tomato sauce will leave you feeling sluggish and more congested.


Dark chocolate

Most chocolate bars have high levels of saturated fat, which can increase inflammation and exacerbate cold and flu symptoms. Generally, foods that are high in refined sugar can help yeast multiply in your body, which will lead to an overgrowth of bacteria.

Processed meats

Bologna deli meat

Processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, bologna, and ham are a major dietary faux pas when you are sick and trying to stay hydrated. They pack a high sodium content and too much salt can lead to dehydration during a sickness. Excess salt draws fluids from your cells, leaving your cells dehydrated and with a worse or prolonged cold.

Potato Chips

Potato chips

Greasy potato chips are always a bad idea, but especially so when you're feeling unwell. They're high in sodium and saturated fat, which will make you feel lousier because you'll be more dehydrated and sluggish. They can also irritate your throat and gums, so munching on them with a sore throat is a bad idea.


Diet soda
Courtesy of Shutterstock

Only drink soda if you want to make the inflammation in your body worse. Sugar-heavy foods like soda weaken your body's immune response and you're less able to fight off an infection. You need to boost your immune system as much as you can, and really avoid anything that can hinder its function.


Avocado kale tofu

This meat substitute is made almost entirely out of gluten, which can be extremely problematic if you have a sensitivity to it. Gluten has the potential to cause inflammation and an increase in mucus production if you have any issues digesting it. Stay away from tofu, seitan, and other soy-related products until you're feeling better.

Soy Sauce

red chopsticks and bowl of soy sauce on dark background
Evgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

By the same token, you should avoid soy sauce. It's high in gluten, sodium, and contains a substantial amount of histamines, which are all the things you want to avoid when sick and congested.



Seafood like clams, mussels, squid, crab, and shrimp are high in histamines, which is why so many people are allergic to them. If you're having congestion and sinus-related symptoms, they'll likely get worse with the consumption of any of these. Save the fancy seafood dinner for when you're feeling better.


Pouring whiskey drink into glass

This goes without saying but please don't drink alcohol when you're sick. Nothing good can come out of it. Alcohol is a toxin that affects your immune system, and will also dehydrate you substantially. Imagine a hangover made ten times worse because you're also fighting off a cold. Drinking while sick is a surefire way to compromise your immune system and stay sick for longer.

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Mura Dominko
Mura is ETNT's Executive Editor, leading the coverage of America's favorite restaurant chains, grocery stores, and viral food moments. Read more about Mura