Healthy eating for people living with HIV

Good nutrition is essential for people living with HIV. Follow these dietary guidelines to ensure that you obtain all the energy, protein, vitamins and minerals that you need and to help you fight infections such as flu.

Make starchy foods part of most meals

Starchy foods, or carbohydrates, provide energy, keep your weight stable and help you to feel energetic during the day. They should form a major part of every meal.

Examples of starchy foods are:

  • Bread, crackers, roti
  • Porridge, mealie pap and breakfast cereals
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Rice
  • Pasta

Choose starchy foods with more roughage (fibre), such as wholewheat bread, brown rice and wholewheat pasta.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day

They provide the vitamins and minerals you need to help fight infections. They also provide roughage, which is very good for the digestive system.
Include a variety of vegetables every day, e.g.

  • Broccoli and carrots
  • Green beans and pumpkin
  • Spinach and butternut
  • Stir-fry cabbage with mushrooms and red, yellow and green peppers

In summer try more salads that include vegetables:

  • Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, green beans and corn
  • Grated carrot salad with pineapple
  • Beetroot salad

Fruit and vegetables provide the essential vitamins and minerals you need to help you fight infections.
Have fruit as a snack between meals, e.g. apples, pears, naartjies, bananas, pawpaw, mangoes and berries.

Fish, chicken, lean meat and eggs could be eaten daily

These are rich in protein which is good for strong and healthy muscles. Dairy also provides the mineral calcium, which is important for keeping bones healthy.
Include these foods in your daily diet:

  • Chicken, pilchards, sardines or cheese with lunch
  • Red meat, pork, lamb, chicken, fish or liver with dinner

Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day

Dairy foods provide your body with calcium which is important for strong bones and teeth, muscle and nerve function, blood clotting and hormone release.

Eat dry beans, split-peas, lentils or soya regularly

These foods are rich in protein and roughage. Examples of foods to include are:
• Baked beans, butter or kidney beans, lentils, split peas or chickpeas
• Soya mince, soya milk, soya sausages or patties
• Peanuts, peanut butter and other nuts.
• Buy well-known brands of peanut butter and nuts. Nuts that are of poor quality or stored incorrectly can cause food poisoning.

Include some sugars, fats and oils if your weight has decreased

These foods provide a lot of energy and will help you to maintain your weight. If you have lost weight at any stage, they will help to increase your weight if you eat them in addition to your normal healthy meals.
Tips on including these foods are:

  • Add sugar or honey to your porridge or cereal
  • Use jam or honey with peanut butter or cheese on a sandwich
  • Include desserts after meals, e.g. jelly and custard, mousse, bread and butter pudding or ice cream
  • Use soft margarine or butter on bread and baked or mashed potatoes
  • Use a little oil for preparing your meals
  • Avocado is a very healthy food to include

Use salt and food high in salt sparingly

Avoid cooking with salt. Some food contains a lot of salt, e.g. processed meat, packet crisps, packet soups and sauces. Flavour foods naturally with herbs, garlic, chillies, ginger, black pepper and lemon juice.

Drink lots of clean, safe water

It is an important nutrient that you need every day. Make sure that your water is safe. Drink your water from a tap. If it comes from a river or borehole, boil it before you drink it. You can also have fruit juice, cold drinks, tea, milk or soup. If you have diarrhoea, vomiting or night sweats, drink more fluids.

Do not drink alcohol

Alcohol harms the liver and destroys the vitamins and minerals. The combination of alcohol and medication is also harmful to your liver, so avoid it completely.

Keep all food safe

It is as important as drinking safe water. Always try to eat fresh food, wash your hands often and keep your kitchen clean to prevent germs from getting into your food.

Some tips are:

  • Wash your hands with soap after going to the toilet, blowing your nose, playing with pets and before you eat.
  • Buy foods before the sell-by date and eat them by the best before or use-by dates.
  • Cook chicken, eggs, meat and fish properly. Do not eat these foods raw.
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables properly with salted water before eating.

**If you need more advice, click on the ''Ask the Dietitian'' to pose a question to our Registered Dietitian

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided by the SPAR Group Ltd for general information purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.