It's not often that you know ahead of time that you will or might feel unwell. Whether you have a surgery coming up, will be giving birth, or are getting your second COVID-19 vaccine, meal planning for sick days will give you one less thing to worry about when you need it.
Later this week we'll be getting our second COVID-19 vaccines. Not everyone has a bad reaction to it, but enough people report being knocked down for a couple of days by it that I want to be prepared.
As I planned our meals for the next week, I took into account that we might not feel well for a few days. So I front loaded the week with healthy meals that require the normal amount of prep. And then during the time when we might not feel like cooking, we'll have some leftovers and quick foods to get us through.
I don't normally buy a lot of processed foods because of the excessive salt and oil but I will pick up a few for our potential sick days. And most of these foods will be shelf stable, so if we don't need them, we'll have them on hand for unexpected illnesses or quick meals.
Since I don't know if we will feel ill or not, this isn't a set-in-stone meal plan. Instead, these are some foods that are easy to keep on hand just in case. The first section will talk about pantry foods and the second section covers more perishable items. Everything I list is vegan.
Shelf Stable Almost Instant Pantry Foods
These are some of the products you can keep around for quick sick day meals. We like some better than others either because of taste or nutritional content. Sometimes though, when you don't feel well, the food that you can get down and feel like eating is the right food.
By the way, these are also good foods to have on hand for when you're short on time and need a quick meal. If you're trying to avoid eating out, being prepared can help!
Dr. McDougall's Right Foods Soup Cups
When I worked an office job, I would often have these soups on hand in case I didn't have any leftovers to take in for lunch. The bean based ones are quite filling and other than being high in sodium, hovering around 600-700mg, they really aren't that bad for you.
For sick days, I'd lean more towards the ramens as they contain more liquid and feel closer to the chicken noodle soup I grew up with.
Thanks to a big sale at Natural Grocers a while back, we already have some Koyo Ramen packets on hand. Unlike most ramen, their noodles are baked instead of fried. The sodium is high at about 700mg per serving but they also have low-sodium flavors that clock in at around 500mg.
I will also make sure to have some frozen mixed vegetables on hand to add the ramen to make it a fuller, more healthy meal.
Edward & Sons Miso-Cup
When you're really wrecked and just want to sip some hot broth, miso soup is your friend. Again, lots of sodium. This is another product we already have in our pantry.
Some places sell the Miso-Cup packets individually. Others have them in a box of four.
Gardein Plant-Based Soups
In the past year, Gardein has come out with a line of canned soups. And they're pretty readily available at regular grocery stores.
We thought we'd get some but now that I see that one can, which is one serving, has over 1000mg of sodium, we're going to pass. There's just no reason for that!
Amy's No Chicken Noodle Soup
Amy's No Chicken Noodle Soup has been around for a long time. It's the first canned vegan soup I remember seeing in stores.
Back in the day I'd get it for sick days but didn't love it. It has a strong onion flavor and I would end up burping onion all day.
And, again, it has over 1000mg of sodium in one can. The McDougall soups and Koyo Ramens are a much better choice for us.
Who else lived on saltines and soup when sick as a kid? You can certainly find healthy versions of these ubiquitous crackers, but regular saltines whether they're a name brand or not really hit the spot.
Stoned Wheat Thins
If you want to get fancy, I like Stoned Wheat Thins. These have the same bland and slightly salty taste as saltines with a bit of a different texture. And if you don't end up using them for a sick day they are nice enough to serve to guests.
Okay, tea isn't a food but it is very soothing when you don't feel well. We always have a variety of teas on hand with and without caffeine.
Other Easy Food Ideas
Make sure to pick up your favorite easy-to-eat fruits. Bananas are great because they are soft and will be gentle on your throat if it is sore. Splurge on a pre-cut fruit cup so you don't have to worry about cleaning and prepping your fruit.
Have a loaf of bread available for toast or sandwiches. Coat your toast in plant-based butter and jam, peanut butter, smashed avocado, or even hummus. Whatever sounds good to you at the time. I'm a big fan of vegan butter with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
A nice, soft peanut butter (or any nut or seed butter) and jelly sandwich is so comforting. For me, only super-fresh bread will do, otherwise I will toast the bread.
Mac & Cheese
There are a few vegan Mac & Cheese options available now. Some have a prepared sauce packet, some have a powder you need to mix and some are ready-to-microwave frozen meals.
We are going with Daiya's original Cheezy Mac. You just boil up the pasta and squeeze the sauce on it when done. If we're feeling spunky, we've got some frozen veggies to add to it.
Rice and other grain packets
Whew, okay, there are SO MANY microwavable grain packets now! Flavored, unflavored. Whole grains, plain white rice. When you don't have the capacity to measure out and cook your own grains, these are a lifesaver and convenient.
Baked or Microwaved Potato
Maybe I'm weird, but I enjoy a regular or sweet potato microwaved and then sprinkled with salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast. Our microwave has a pre-set for baked potatoes and I just use that. They come out perfect most of the time.
If you want to prepare the potatoes in advance, you can bake the potatoes in the oven or steam them in a pressure cooker. Store the potatoes in the refrigerator and then reheat in the microwave.
How do you microwave a raw potato?
First, scrub the potato well under running water. I use a vegetable brush.
Next, poke the potato with a fork all over about a dozen times. This is to let the steam out and keep it from exploding.
Then, put it on a microwave safe plate and cook on high for about 7 minutes for a medium sized potato. If you cook multiple potatoes at once you'll need to add some time.
When the timer goes off, give the potato a squeeze. If it feels soft, it's done. If it is still firm, give it another minute or so.
What's our final plan?
We have three Koyo Ramen packets, two Edward & Sons Miso Cup packets, four McDougall soup cups, a Daiya Mac & Cheese, and some frozen veggies. We also have bananas, apples, and mandarin oranges on hand.
Later in the week, closer to our vaccine date, we will pick up a fresh loaf of bread and restock fruit, if needed. We've got plenty of almond butter and jam on hand. This should get us through.
What are your favorite sick day meals? Do you have any particular items you keep in your pantry for those days when you don't feel your best?