Positive Living Series
Understanding and Dealing With Your Medical Condition

Good nutrition is important for everyone. A balanced diet keeps our bodies strong and our immune systems healthy, making it harder for us to get sick. HIV positive people are more susceptible to infectious agents in food and water, so it is especially important to follow safe cooking guidelines, drink water that has been purified, and be careful when dining out. Additionally, it is important for you now to maintain your body weight and muscle. Finally, people with illnesses like HIV and cancer often hear and read about diets which claim to "cure" illness, and though it can be hard to resist these promises, it is important to avoid being taken advantage of.

Individual needs can vary when you have HIV so you may want your medical provider to refer you to a registered dietician who has experience working with HIV positive people. Changes in your health status may require more (or less) calories in your diet. Your dietician can help you achieve this with a balanced diet. In addition, the combination anti-retroviral therapies require a strict regimen regarding food intake, which can greatly affect your individual nutritional needs.

General Nutrition

The "Eating Right Pyramid" (on the next page) shows what we've all been taught about the basic food groups, but in a visual format. The basic message for HIV positive people is to eat a variety of foods and get regular exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight while conserving lean body muscle.


Grains and cereal provide a variety of vitamins and minerals. They also provide some fiber, protein and carbohydrates. Try to get between six and eleven servings per day. One serving is a slice of bread, a cup of cereal, or a half-cup of pasta, rice or grits.

To make oatmeal or grits more interesting add dried fruits, milk, or grated cheese. If you have a freezer and a toaster, frozen waffles make a great quick meal or snack. You can always add fruit on top to help boost your daily fruit intake. Try cold macaroni salad with added vegetables, a chopped hard-boiled egg and dressing. All of these combinations boost protein and might help fight food boredom.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and serve as good cleansers for your intestines. They are full of water, which can help quench your thirst, and research has suggested that eating fresh fruits and vegetables may offer some protection against strokes and cancer. However, cut back on fresh fruits and vegetables if you are having diarrhea.

A good goal is to eat three to five servings of fruit and vegetables each day. A serving of fruit is one piece of raw fruit or a cup of canned fruit; fruit juices are good for you but they don't count as a serving. One serving of vegetables is one half cup of cooked or a whole cup of raw vegetables.