I meal-prepped ahead of my COVID-19 vaccine and the 2-day fever that followed. Here's what worked - and what I would do differently.

I meal-prepped ahead of my COVID-19 vaccine and the 2-day fever that followed. Here's what worked - and what I would do differently.
I meal-prepped ahead of my second shot of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, and I'm so glad I did.Mia de Graaf
  • I had my second dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, and I had a fever and chills for 36 hours after.
  • My side effects were common, and a sign that the immune system is learning from the vaccine.
  • I prepared meals in case I got sick. Two nutritionists analyzed my meal plans, and said what they would change.

I got my second Moderna shot last week, and, yes, it took me out for about 36 hours.

I knew this might happen - I've heard from plenty of people who had fever, chills, and muscle aches for a couple of days after the second dose.

As experts have thoroughly explained, side effects like mine represent a natural immune response. An mRNA vaccine like Moderna's sends messenger RNA into your body, teaching your immune system to practice attacking the coronavirus. With the second dose, your body is prompted to remember its first lesson, and puts up a fight.
Advertisement
Living alone and nowhere near family, I was not looking forward to a couple of days of sickness on my own. (Talking to people on the phone when you're feeling low isn't quite the same kind of comfort.)

So I decided to set everything up ahead of time - I did my laundry, tidied up, and, most importantly, I meal-prepped. It worked so well for me that I've been recommending it to everyone.

To make sure my advice is sage, I asked two dietitians, Vanessa Rissetto, RD, CDN, and Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, to review the meals I stocked up on, bracing for a two-day fever.
Advertisement

They told me what really works for fever, chills, and nausea, what I could have skipped, and what they would add to the mix.

My side effects

Around five hours after my shot, I started to feel fatigued. Then I had light fever and chills throughout the night - not wildly uncomfortable, I was just drifting in and out of sleep feeling waves of hot and waves of cold. The next day (around 15 hours after my shot), a more intense fever, chills, and muscle aches really kicked in.
Advertisement

Throughout the day I generally felt weak and shivery, with a few bursts of feeling absolutely fine and a couple of dips where I felt really shivery and sick.

I felt feverish and weak the rest of the night, and I woke up with chills at 6 AM the next morning, but they subsided by around 8 AM (40 hours after my shot).

What I meal-prepped

I meal-prepped ahead of my COVID-19 vaccine and the 2-day fever that followed. Here's what worked - and what I would do differently.
Jess Lessard Photography/Getty Images
Advertisement

As a dietitian, Taub-Dix is always pro meal-prep. But she was particularly adamant that even the most devout takeout-orderers should stock up ahead of their second COVID-19 shot.

She and her husband had barely any side effects to their second shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. Their kids, however, had the same reaction as me. (Thankfully for the kids, their dietitian mom was armed with vegetable-filled broth.)

"It's a good idea to have food in for your second vaccine, because you just don't know" how the side effects will hit you, Taub-Dix, creator of BetterThanDieting.com, author of "Read It Before You Eat It," said.
Advertisement
Here's what I made - it took me about an hour total on the day of my shot, but you could do it the evening before:
  • Breakfast: I made three jars of overnight oats, with oats, oat milk, banana, sliced up apple, and some walnuts
  • Lunch and dinner options: A big batch of chicken and rice soup (enough for two to three portions), plus a big salad with carrots, cucumber, peppers, avocado, and quinoa
  • Snacks: Chopped up carrots to nibble on, apples, and bananas
  • Drinks: Orange juice and plenty of water (I skipped coffee and alcohol in the two days after my vaccine)
  • Extra: A bottle of acetaminophen/Tylenol

What worked well

I meal-prepped ahead of my COVID-19 vaccine and the 2-day fever that followed. Here's what worked - and what I would do differently.
I made three batches of overnight oats, stored in jars. It looks unappetizing, but it genuinely tastes nice.Mia de Graaf

The oats: My favorite thing about the overnight oats was that I didn't have to make anything. When I peeled myself out of bed, feeling relatively frail, I had a nice breakfast already made that I could eat then roll back into bed.
Advertisement

Convenience aside, Rissetto, acting director of Dietetic Internship at New York University, endorsed eating oatmeal during a post-vaccine fever since oats are "helpful for immunity and also calming."

Taub-Dix also loves oatmeal, as a comforting, nutritious meal that's easy to digest. "It doesn't take work to break down, it's soothing, and it makes you feel good."Lots of water, and no coffee or alcohol: On the recommendation of the nurse who administered my vaccine, I was drinking a lot of water. I also skipped coffee and alcohol from the moment I had my vaccine until I was clear of side effects.
Advertisement

Hydration is supremely important to hurry along your recovery if you, like the many other vaccine recipients, get a fever. Your increased body temperature dehydrates your body, and your body will be running on empty if you don't replace those fluids.

The soup: Hydration brings me onto soup. If I could recommend one thing above anything else it would be the soup. Both times during my fever when I felt really awful and shivery, I had a bowl of soup and felt better pretty much instantly. It's hardly a novel idea, but there is plenty of research showing that the calories, nutrients, and, crucially, fluids packed into chicken soup are ideal for someone with a fever.

"It has good-for-you properties, and it does have protein, but it's shredded so it doesn't feel like a lot of work for your body to eat it," Taub-Dix said.
Advertisement

The carrot drumsticks: Then, there was the surprising benefit of my chopped-up carrots. There were a couple of points when I felt a little nauseous and shivery, and didn't have energy to brew a cup of tea, so I nibbled some carrots. To my surprise, it did the trick - I soon felt better.

Taub-Dix said there's merit to that: When you're nauseous, your body doesn't want liquids as it's trying to stabilize itself. However, it does need nutrients, and chewing can be grounding. So, small bites of veggies can help, giving your body an extra boost of vitamins and energy.

What I could have skipped

The salad: When it came to it, I did not need (or want) the salad when I was feeling rough. It felt too cold, crunchy, and fresh, when I had plenty of comforting oatmeal and soup to get through.
Advertisement
Taub-Dix was not surprised. "A lot of people don't realize that when you don't feel well, your body actually tells you what you need more or less of," she said. "When you're sick your body is telling you that it doesn't want to work very hard. It doesn't want foods that take a long time to break down, like salads, even though they're good for you."

What the body wants is carbs - toast, pasta, rice, potatoes - or bite-size morsels of vegetables.

The orange juice: I found the orange juice to be a nice comfort and sugar boost, and Rissetto agreed, saying it's a good source of vitamin C when you're feeling low.
Advertisement

I asked Rissetto if it would have been better to swap out the OJ, which is filled with sucrose. Instead, I thought, I could have gone for a hydrating electrolyte-rich drink, such as Gatorade. Rissetto disagreed.

"They both have a fair amount of sugar so they're the same," she said of orange juice and Gatorade. However, "if you have gastrointestinal disturbances you could cut the Gatorade or orange juice with water."Another option, Taub-Dix said, is strawberries: you only need eight strawberries to get your daily fill of vitamin C, and they're in season. "Stock up on strawberries ahead of your vaccine, and you can even put them in your freezer, to later use in a smoothie or oatmeal."
Advertisement
{{}}