Nutrition Guidelines to Improve Healing

Good nutrition is necessary for healing. During the healing process, the body needs increased amounts of calories and protein. Vitamins A and C, and the mineral zinc are also key nutrients to promote healing. Just as construction workers need special materials to repave a road, your body demands nutritious supplies for its "construction zone:" the growth and repair of tissue.

The following guidelines will help you choose "power" foods to promote healing.

Goals for Healthy Eating

Foods to choose to  improve healing

Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta

At least 6 servings/day

One Serving = 1/2 cup cooked cereal, pasta, noodles or rice; 3/4 cup dry cereal; 1 slice wheat bread.

Best sources of zinc: whole grain breads, wheat germ.

Best sources of iron: fortified cereals

2- Fruits

At least 2-4 servings/day

One serving = 1/2 cup canned fruit or fruit juice; 1 piece of fruit.

Best sources for Vitamin A: yellow or orange fruits, especially cantaloupe, apricots, pink grapefruit.

Best sources of Vitamin C: citrus fruits and juices, melons and strawberries.

3- Meat, Fish, Poultry, Beans, Eggs, Nuts

At least 2 to 3 servings per day

One serving = 2-3 ounces of meat (the size of a deck of cards); 2 tablespoons of peanut butter; 1 cup cooked beans or legumes; 1 egg

Best source of zinc: lean meats and eggs

Best source of iron: lean meats, poultry

4- Dairy

At least 2-3 servings/day

One serving = 1 cup milk or yogurt; 1 ounce cheese (the size of your thumb)

Best source of Vitamin A: milk fortified with vitamin A

5- Vegetables

At least 3-5 servings per day

One serving = 1 cup cooked or raw vegetables; 1 cup raw leafy vegetables.

Best source of Vitamin A: yellow, orange or green vegetables - especially spinach, broccoli, carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, orange, yellow and red peppers.

Best source for Vitamin C: peppers, tomatoes, broccoli

6- Some additional suggestions:

Should I include nutritional supplements?
Yes. You may include high calorie, high protein liquid nutritional supplements such as Sustacal, Ensure, Boost, Resource or Carnation Instant Breakfast mix. These high protein drinks are available at grocery stores, pharmacies and discount department stores.

These products are very similar; you may want to sample different types or flavors. These supplements may be taken along with meals or between meals as snacks. Your dietitian can advise you on how to use these products.

Super fuel recipes for people recovering from an illness

These recipes will help you create high-energy drinks to promote healing.

High Protein Shake

1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons powdered milk
1 cup ice cream (1-2 scoops)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons chocolate, butterscotch or fruit syrup

Pour all ingredients into a blender. Mix well.

Makes two 8-ounce servings. Per serving: 320 calories, 12 grams of protein

Buttermilk Shake

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup lemonade
1/2 cup ice cream
1/4 cup egg substitute (not fresh egg)
Fresh lemon juice (optional, for flavor)

Pour all ingredients into a blender. Mix well.

Makes two 9-ounce servings. Per serving: 160 calories, 9 grams of protein.

Banana Peach Cooler

1 medium banana
1/2 cup peach nectar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup pineapple juice
5 tablespoons powdered milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup egg substitute (not fresh egg)
1/2 package peach flavored gelatin

In blender, combine banana and juices. Blend until smooth. Add other ingredients and whip until smooth.

Makes approximately two 10-ounce servings. Per serving: 340 calories, 17 grams of protein.

Orange Smoothie

3/4 cup orange juice (or other juice)
1/2 cup egg substitute (not fresh egg)
3 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup ginger ale
1/2 cup orange sherbet (or different flavor)
1/16 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon ground ginger
1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves

Pour all ingredients into a bowl and beat with a mixer until smooth and frothy. Makes two 8-ounce servings. Per serving: 262 calories, 8 grams of protein

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit or This document was last reviewed on: 10/1/2001