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Why is good nutrition important for wound healing?

Good nutrition is necessary for healing. During the healing process, the body needs increased amounts of calories, protein, vitamins A and C, and sometimes the mineral zinc. The following guidelines will help you choose “power” foods to promote healing.

Goals for healthy eating

Eat a variety of foods to get all the calories, proteins, vitamins, and minerals you need. MyPlate displays the different food groups. To personalize your plan, go to choosemyplate.gov. Click on SuperTracker online tool. Next, create your own plan to obtain a specific nutritional plan to meet your needs based on age, gender, and activity level.

If you have a prescribed diet, follow it as much as possible, as it will help promote wound healing and may prevent infection and some complications.

choose my plate

Suggested Minimum Amount of Food Per Day

  • Food Group: Grains, using whole grain sources as much as possible
    • Number of servings: 5
    • What counts as 1 serving: 1 slice bread; 1/2 cup cooked cereal; 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta
  • Food Group: Vegetables
    • Number of servings: 2
    • What counts as 1 serving: 1 cup raw or cooked vegetable or 100% vegetable juice; 2 cups raw leafy green vegetables
  • Food Group: Fruits.
    • Number of servings: 2
    • What counts as 1 serving: 1/2 cup canned fruit or 1/4 cup dried fruit
  • Food Group: Milk
    • Number of servings: 3
    • What counts as 1 serving: 1 cup milk or yogurt; 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese; 2 ounces processed cheese (dairy or soy)
  • Food Group: Meats and beans
    • Number of servings: 5
    • 1 ounce meat, fish, or poultry; 1/4 cup cooked beans; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon peanut butter; 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds; 1.5-2 ounces firm tofu
  • Food Group: Oils, fats, and sugar
    • Number of servings: Good source of calories, but these may be limited by prescribed diets
    • Vegetable oils (canola, olive oil), sauces, salad dressings, sugar, syrup, butter, margarine, jelly, jam, candy

“Power” Foods and Food Groups to Help With Wound Healing

Protein: Meats, beans, eggs, milk and yogurt particularly Greek yogurt), tofu, soy nuts, soy protein products

Vitamin C: Citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, tomato juice, peppers, baked potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage

Vitamin A: Dark green, leafy vegetables, orange or yellow vegetables, cantaloupe, fortified dairy products, liver, fortified cereals

Zinc: Fortified cereals, red meats, seafood

If you are not eating well:

  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals a day. Instead of trying to eat three big meals a day, try eating smaller meals and snacks between meals to get enough nutrition. Make snacks nutritious. Examples of snacks: cheese and crackers, glass of milk, cottage cheese and fruit, ½ small sandwich, milkshake, peanut butter on crackers or celery, fruit or fruit juices.
  • Some foods that taste good during recovery are not very nutritious. Try replacing them with foods that contain good sources of protein, vitamins, calories, and minerals. For example:
    • Instead of broth, try beef vegetable soup
    • Instead of plain jello, try fruited jello
    • Instead of carbonated beverages, try milk, milkshakes, or a fruit smoothie
    • Instead of Italian Ice/Popsicles, try ice cream, a frozen fruit bar, or frozen yogurt
  • If there are taste changes, try a variety of foods to find out what works for you. You may find that cold foods and foods with little odor work best. For example, cottage cheese, cereals, cheesy entrees such as cheese ravioli and macaroni and cheese, or chicken or tuna salad may be tastier than beef.
  • Use oral nutritional supplements if nothing else works. These are available at grocery stores, drug stores, and discount chains. All the supplements will vary in taste, so if you don't like the first one, try another brand. Also, blending with milk, fruit or frozen fruit, or ice cream may make the supplement tastier.
  • Take a daily multivitamin with minerals if you are unable to eat the “Suggested Minimum Amount of Food Per Day” listed above.

If you have diabetes or high blood sugar

Continue to monitor your blood sugar levels closely. Having good control of blood sugar levels will help with wound healing and may prevent infection. You may need to visit your doctor and a registered dietitian to help control blood sugar through diet and medication.

Finally

Make an appointment with a registered dietitian if your appetite remains poor, your wound is not healing well, and/or you are losing weight.