Eating Healthy After a Burn Injury
Eating a healthy diet is important all of the time – but especially after a burn injury. When healing from a burn injury, maintaining proper nutrition is crucial because a well-balanced diet can reduce the loss of lean body mass, stored energy, and protein. Without a proper diet, the healing process can slow, you may lose too much weight, and suppress your immune system.
Why It Matters
A burn injury increases the need to eat a healthy and nutritious diet because, after a burn injury, your body needs additional support to recover. According to Models System Knowledge Translation Centers (MSKTC), healing from a burn injury requires more calories and protein than any other type of injury. Eating a proper diet can help wounds heal faster, maintain muscle mass, support the immune system, and minimize weight loss/gain.
Your Nutrition Needs
Every burn injury is different, and larger burns will require more nutrients to heal. Furthermore, nutrition needs are based on height, weight, and age. Speaking with a medical team, dietitian and/or nutritionist will help determine a healthy diet plan perfect for you. Vitamins and minerals are also necessary factors of any well-balanced diet because they assist with healing and preventing infection. For example, Vitamin C helps heal burns, reduce the body’s stress, and treats some infections.
Below are various nutrition tips to help maintain a healthy diet at-home. Please note – every person is different and dietary needs will vary. Be sure to talk to your doctor for diet tips specific for you - especially as your needs may change the further you are in your recovery (i.e. time since injury).
- Include protein in every meal and snack. The body loses protein through burn wounds and muscles will break down trying to produce extra energy for the healing process. The additional protein helps rebuild lost muscle. Chicken, eggs, and yogurt are good sources of protein.
- Don't be afraid of carbohydrates. Burn wounds require the glucose found in carbohydrates for healing. Carbohydrates also prevent the use of muscle protein as a source of energy (minimizing muscle loss). Crackers, rice, potatoes, and beans are great ways to add carbohydrates to your diet.
- Eat frequent, small meals and snacks to prevent overeating. Fruit, such as apple or orange slices, make great nutritious snacks on-the-go.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water helps you stay full and hydrated. Refrain from drinking sugary beverages that are full of unnecessary calories.
- Eat meals and snacks full of fiber to keep you feeling full between meals and also support regular bowel movements.
- Have fun with your meals by adding colorful vegetables and spices. Cooking with herbs such as mint, garlic, and rosemary can keep your diet tasty and fun.
- Prevent yourself from eating unless you are truly hungry. Eating out of boredom, hopelessness, and anger can cause you to overeat poorly.
- Talk to your doctor or dietitian before adding any vitamin supplements to your diet.
Healing from a burn injury includes eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. As you continue to recover, your diet will be like it was before the injury. For more information, contact your local burn center to speak with a dietitian who will build a nutritious diet to meet your specific lifestyle and nutrition goals.