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HIV and Nutrition

Healthy eating is a basic, yet important thing you can do for yourself. Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive: eat a variety of whole foods, fruits and vegetables in a range of different colours, and you’re on track. Shopping smart and eating on the go can be healthy if you use some simple guidelines.

Eat a variety of colours and textures

A variety of foods best meets your needs. Get a mix of these groups every day:

  • vegetables and fruits in a variety of colours for maximum nutrition: green, orange, yellow, purple…
  • dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese, kefir
  • grains: whole grains are best for your system and digestion. Look for packages saying “100% whole grain”
  • meat and alternative proteins: nuts and seeds, meat, beans, fish, lentils, tofu

Shopping Smart

  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables, which are most affordable when in season. Frozen fruits and vegetables are fine, but canned foods often have salt or added sugar so rinse them before eating.
  • Meat is expensive and there are good alternatives for protein. Try kidney beans in chili, a lentil soup, and soy hot dogs and burgers.
  • Buy whole grain breads, pastas, rice and cereals.
  • Pay attention to labels and buy food that is made with whole grains and limited amounts of added fat, salt and sugar.

If you’re living on a limited income, you might qualify for a food bank. Most communities have them; check with your local AIDS organization, church, or in the local phone book.

Eating on the run

You can still eat well when you aren’t able to prepare food for yourself. Try:

  • milk, a container of yogurt
  • pizza slice, bagel and cream cheese, whole grain bun
  • fruit or vegetables you can eat raw
  • peanuts or other nuts, sunflower seeds
  • take out food that combines vegetables, grains, and protein

Digestion and Constipation

HIV can make it difficult for your stomach to digest food. This means that you may get less benefit for the same amount of food. Various infections may also make it difficult to eat. Eat smaller portions more often.

If you have problems with constipation try:

  • water
  • prune juice
  • orange juice
  • shredded wheat and bran cereals
  • ground flax seeds
  • raw fruits and veggies

If you have specific questions about nutrition or making changes to your diet, there are a couple of options:

  • For anyone in Canada: Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. CATIE’s website features a nutrition guide written by Diana Johansen, a dietician who specializes in HIV.
  • For women with HIV in BC: Diana Johansen at Oak Tree Clinic, who meets with women regularly to talk about nutrition. You can refer yourself to Oak Tree Clinic.

Also on this website: