Meals are adjusted based on unique dietary requirements, BMI, pre-existing conditions, age, and severity of the condition. For most patients in-home quarantine, who are typically asymptomatic, regular meals are followed. For those with moderate cases, meals are adjusted based on their treatment. For those with severe cases, a liquid diet is followed.
Patients’ appetites are usually weak, and experts say that this period occurs anywhere from their initial admission to a few days into treatment. “We have noticed that patients with moderate cases typically lose their appetite. To combat this, we provide them with smaller sized portions in a higher frequency over the course of the day,” said KMC dean P Vasanthamani. Certain private hospitals also offer bland, mashed and lukewarm food for easier ingestion.
Protein remains a crucial food group to counter cell damage, said Vasanthamani, and is given in the forms of soya milk, eggs or meat-based on eating habits. “As Indians, we have a decreased protein intake as per a national survey. We eat meat two to three times a week in some capacity. This needs to increase, especially for positive patients, and so we offer either soya milk, some form of chundal, panneer, or meat-based on eating habits,” said Dr Daphnee DK, Chief Clinical Dietitian and Head of Department of Dietetics, Apollo Hospitals.
Public hospitals and private hospitals offer simple breakfasts of idli, chappati, or pongal. Private hospitals offer lunches consisting of usually two vegetable sides, rice and sambhar or rasam, and some form of protein. Public hospitals follow a similar menu, with reduced sides. Dinners are also very similar. Fruit juices and fruits rich in vitamin C are also given. Supplementary tablets of vitamin C and D are administered based on the gaps in regular diet and upon the consultation of a nutritionist. Public hospitals also provide kabasura kudineer to patients.
The development of menus varies across hospitals. While public hospitals and certain private hospitals do not have custom menus based on the patient, rather having a broad selection of menus based on the severity of infection, certain private hospitals have highly customised menus.
Diabetes continues to be a challenge for doctors, both due to diet and the added risk the condition poses. “Around 80 per cent of our patients are high-risk patients, many with several co-morbidities. I am seeing diabetes in people in their twenties too, now. Sugar intake must then be monitored closely. To these patients, we give porridge and kanji,” said Dr Vijayalakshmi B, Senior Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Kauvery Hospital.
At a time where patients are isolated and fighting the disease, food can be a way to keep patients’ morale up, said Dr Daphnee. “They are all alone in their rooms, and there is nothing better than a warm meal to keep their spirits up. It has a tie with their mental state as well. I do personal consultations over the call with patients and find out how their diet is suiting them, and this personal touch helps them open up more,” she said.