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Diet and Exercise for HIV-Positive Individuals

Eating healthy is important for everyone because our bodies use nutrients from food to stay healthy and feel good. Although there is no special diet for HIV+ individuals, it is extra important you eat well to boost your immune system. Also, if you are infected with HIV, your body has to work extremely hard to fight off infections. This extra work consumes more energy, which means you may need to eat more healthy food (calories) than you're used to.


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Can I just take vitamins and supplements?

Vitamins and mineral can help keep you healthy. They're essential to repair and heal damaged cells. HIV+ people should take vitamins and other supplements. But, vitamins and mineral supplements can't replace eating healthy food. Make an appointment with a nutritionist to plan a diet that is right for you.

What kinds of foods should I eat?

  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Whole grain
  • Calcium-rich food, such as milk or calcium-fortified soy milk and yogurt
  • Protein-rich food, such as chicken, fish, beans and nuts
  • Be careful if you're trying to lose weight not to eat lots of boxed and highly-processed food.
  • Read food labels and cut down on your intake of high fructose corn syrup.

Are healthy foods more expensive?

Eating healthy can be more expensive than eating junk food. That’s why it's recommended to buy healthy food that's in season

  • Spring: Leafy veggies, such spinach and Romaine lettuce
  • Summer: Strawberries, pears, apples, summer squash and broccoli
  • Fall: Carrots, sweet potatoes and ginger
  • Winter: Fish, potatoes, onions and eggs

Sometimes fresh markets offer more local, seasonal fruits and vegetables at an affordable cost.

They don’t sell healthy food where I live.

There are different kinds of healthy food. Even some fast-food restaurants sell healthier choices, such as salads and fruits, baked potatoes, and frozen yogurt. Low-sodium and non-saturated fast food can help your health. In addition, learning more about what's considered healthy foods can make it easier for you to find them.

How do I make healthy food taste better?

Try out new recipes. Here are some cooking tips:

  • Garlic and ginger add taste
  • Try new herbs, oregano, rosemary, fresh cilantro and chili powder (if your stomach can handle it)
  • Consider making a weekly dinner with friends and family to share ideas and recipes, and take turns

How do I get started with the change?

Good food is important for a good life. Sometimes, we think eating healthy is difficult. Perhaps you feel too tired, don’t have enough time to cook or you don’t know what makes a healthy diet. Sometimes, when we feel tired or overwhelmed, we eat less healthy and then feel worse an hour later.

Remember, your body is building your immune system and health. You wouldn’t put garbage into your gas tank. Be careful putting sweetened soda, fried food, and processed foods into your body.

Here are some tips to make cooking easy, quick, tasty and healthy:

  • Organize your new, healthy eating lifestyle
  • Plan your own menu plan
    • Make a shopping list that goes along with the menu plan
    • Know what you already have at home
  • Add more fruits and vegetables
  • Microwave:
    • Potato for lunch
    • Veggies with an egg or two for breakfast
    • Frozen veggies for busy nights
  • Bake instead fry:
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Chicken fingers
    • Winter squash
    • Apples or peaches for dessert
  • Boil:
    • Tomatoes with chicken or vegetable broth for a soup base
    • Apples with lemon juice and cinnamon
  • Stir-fry:
    • Tomatoes, mushrooms and squash with olive oil and herbs
    • Broccoli and garlic with olive oil
    • Frozen veggie with low-sodium soy sauce
  • Sauté:
    • Pears and apples with a little butter and marmalade
    • Spinach with garlic and olive oil
    • Peppers (of different colors) with onions and olive oil
  • Roast:
    • Whole red potatoes in the oven with herbs
    • Veggies, such as turnips, rutabaga and beets cut in big pieces in the oven at 425° for 30 to 40 minutes until tender and brown
  • Grill:
    • Onions, mushrooms and bell peppers on kabobs
    • Asparagus
    • Eggplant and zucchini to use in a wrap
  • Stew:
    • Celery, frozen corn, eggplant and chickpeas. Serve over rice
    • Carrots, green beans, celery and potatoes in canned tomato sauce

Healthy recipes:

I hate exercising/I can’t afford to go to the gym

Try other activities:

  • Dance
  • Walk in the park
  • Bicycle
  • Swim in a public pool
  • Take the stairs
  • Park at the end of the parking lot and walk 
  • Walk at the beach
  • Yoga
  • YMCA (San Diego)

I want to lose weight.

It's a good thing that you're ready to make a change in your body. Just make sure your objective is reasonable. The following can help you with achieving your goal:

  • Plan ahead
  • Make a list of what you have and what you need to get for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Always keep in mind to add more fruits and vegetable. Try to stick to your plan.
  • Get more whole grain in your daily meals
    • Whole wheat pasta, wheat bread and brown rice are good sources of whole grain products. Be careful with white bread, tortilla, white rice, potato, and pasta.
  • Eat more vegetables
    • Uncooked veggies are best, but frozen, sautéed or steamed are also good
  • Add more fruit at every meal
    • You can always be creative with fruits. Microwaved fruits with cinnamon and honey make a great dessert.
  • Donuts and muffins for breakfast should be substituted with a boiled egg or whole wheat toast with peanut butter to keep you satisfied for hours
  • Eat small meals throughout the day, so you don’t overeat when you get hungry
  • Snacks that contain some protein and fiber are better for you. Try low-fat yogurt with fruits, nuts and dried fruits and baby carrots with hummus. 
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water.

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