You’ll Benefit From Nutrition Information, Education and Referral If You:

  • Want to learn more about which foods will help your immune system.
  • Want to improve your health with a balanced, nutritious eating pattern.
  • Have a medical condition such as HIV, diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure.
  • Want to evaluate and track weight and muscle loss, maintenance or gain using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA).
  • Have questions about food safety.
  • Have lost or gained weight without trying.
  • Take vitamins and minerals or wonder which if any, might be right for you.
  • Exercise regularly or want to begin a strengthening program.
  • Experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Notice that you have poor appetite.
  • Have mouth soreness or problems swallowing.
  • Want to eat better if you are thinking of becoming pregnant.
  • Want help to plan healthful meals on a budget.
  • Have questions about your medications and their effect on your diet.
  • Want to support your recovery from drugs and alcohol.

Nutrition Information, Education and Referral Will Help You Learn How To:

  • Develop nutritious eating patterns that will support your health.
  • Identify changes in your eating habits to strengthen your immune system.
  • Minimize bouts of diarrhea or other symptoms by helping you choose food that your body can tolerate.
  • Establish and maintain a healthful lifestyle through the ups and downs of life with HIV.
  • Apply current medical and nutrition research to your needs.

Project Open Hand Nutrition Services include:

  • Free nutrition assessment, education and information materials.
  • Measurement and tracking of body composition (muscle, fat and water) using BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis) technology to evaluate weight loss, maintenance and gain. (By appointment only)
  • Information and referral for nutritional resources in your community.

For more information, email our dietitian.

Good Nutrition varies according to individual needs. For people living with HIV it means eating well balanced meals that are usually high in calories and protein. Your desired body weight is 5-10% higher than that for the general population. Ideally this is gained by increasing muscle tissue.

Calorie: A measure of energy in food.

Nutrients: Components of food that help nourish the body. Nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fluids.

Carbohydrate: The scientific name for sugar, starch and fiber. They are an essential energy source, and supply fiber.

Proteins: Compounds that build, maintain and repair muscles, ligaments, antibodies, hair, nails, etc.

Fats: Oily components in foods which help maintain body functions and supply calories in a concentrated form.

Vitamins and Minerals: Chemical substances found in foods that are necessary for proper bodily functions.

Fluid: Any water-containing liquid.

Diet: A plan of meals that provides all essential nutrients and fiber in sufficient amounts to maintain the health of an individual.

A well balanced meal means eating a variety of foods from each group every day. The seven food groups are:


2-3 Servings Daily (3 ounces or 1/2 cup)

  • All types of meat
  • Poultry
  • Beans, nuts
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Tofu

Other Fruits & Vegetables

3+ Servings Daily

(1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw or 1 medium)

  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Bananas
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Apples
  • Grapes


6-8 Servings Daily
(1 slice, 1/2 cup or 1 medium)

  • Bread
  • Cereals
  • Tortillas
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Muffins
  • All other types of bakery and grain products

Dairy Foods

2-3 Servings Daily
(1 ounce, 1 glass or 11/2 cups)

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Milkshakes
  • Ice Cream
  • Pudding

Vitamin A Rich Foods

1 Serving Daily
(1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw or 1 medium)

  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Yams
  • Beets
  • Bok choy
  • Pumpkins
  • Apricots


In Moderation

  • Oil
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Cream
  • Bacon
  • Shortening
  • Dressings
  • Mayonnaise

Vitamin C Rich Foods

2+ Servings Daily

(1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw or 1 medium)

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines, grapefruits)
  • Mangos
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Green peppers
  • Tomatoes

A well-balanced diet should have about
(in calories)…

  • 50-55% carbohydrates (mainly of complex carbohydrates)
  • 18-20% protein
  • 25-30% fat

For example a 2800 calorie diet should have around…

  • 1450 calories or 365g of carbohydrates (52%)
  • 560 calories or 140g of protein (20%)
  • 800 calories or 89g of fat (28%)

If your appetite decreases and you think you are not eating enough for a couple of days, some specific supplements may be needed. Consult with your dietician to evaluate your intake and to recommend appropriate supplements. Meanwhile, it is important to try and eat as much as you can comfortably and to choose foods that are high in protein and calories.

Eating small, frequent meals eases digestion and usually increases your caloric intake.

To stimulate appetite, try eating in a nice environment, get together with other people for any event that may spark interest in eating, and/or go for a short, pleasant walk before eating.

Project Open Hand’s Comprehensive Nutrition Information, Education and Referral Services

Good nutrition can make a difference in how you feel today and can help you live a longer and healthier life. Eating well isn’t complicated, but takes into consideration the special needs of HIV disease, and it can be confusing. That’s because most of the general information on diet and nutrition that is available isn’t specific for someone with HIV/AIDS. To feel your best and stay at your healthiest, learn as much as you can about nutrition and make changes early.

Eating Well Without a Kitchen

A lot of people don’t have a kitchen. When you don’t have a place to cook, it’s hard enough to think about how you are going to eat, let alone how to eat healthy. But there are still a lot of things you can do to eat well and stay healthy. Whether you shop at a super market, food pantry, or corner store you can still get the food you need without spending a lot of money.

Take advantage of free grocery and meal programs, like Project Open Hand. Ask about “no cook” groceries.

If you don’t have a kitchen:

  • If you can, get a hot plate, electric kettle, toaster oven, small microwave or refrigerator. You’ll have even more eating options.
  • Get a can opener, knife, and vegetable peeler.
  • Keep your living space as clean as you can. Store food in plastic bags or containers. Throw out leftovers. Keep food off the floor.
  • Eat one meal out every day. Burritos, pizza, and Chinese food can be healthy choices and don’t cost a lot.
  • Buy foods that keep at room temperature and will store longer, like bread, cereals, crackers, canned beans, chili, soup, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, peanuts, raisins, oatmeal, dry milk powder, and fruit (oranges and apples keep well.)
  • No Cook Menu (When you don’t have a stove, oven or refrigerator.)

Multigrain bagel with peanut butter
Piece of fruit
Glass of milk

Mixed nuts or granola bar
Piece of fruit

Tuna fish sandwich (with lettuce and tomato) on whole wheat bread
2 glasses water

Celery or carrot sticks
2 glasses water

Dinner (Eat Out)
Chicken burrito with rice, beans, salsa, and guacamole
Tortilla chips
Large glass of milk or milk alternative

Raw carrot sticks
Peanut butter and crackers
2 glasses water

Set and keep a regular schedule for taking your medicines and meals. Try to eat at the same time every day.

New treatments and combination therapies are good news for some people living with HIV. But taking any medication can be confusing. Special directions can be hard to follow, and medicines can have many side effects, especially in the first few months you take them. The foods you eat might help lessen side effects.

Whatever therapies or medications you take, it’s important to eat well.

To help make the medicine you take work for you:

  • See your doctor regularly. Be sure to take your medication as directed.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any special directions for the medicine you are taking. For example, should it be taken with food or on an empty stomach?
  • Work closely with your doctor, nurse, or dietitian to find the right balance between the foods you eat and the medicine you take.
  • Don’t start or stop taking any medication on your own. Talk to your doctor or nurse first.
  • Drink plenty of fluids with your medicine and throughout the day.
  • Set and keep a regular schedule for taking your medicines and meals. Try to eat at the same time every day.

Body composition refers to your body make up: muscle, fat, water, and bone. Finding out what percentage of your body is made up of muscle, fat, and water can help you make healthy changes. For example, you may need to get more exercise, improve your diet, or make choices about medicines.

There are some easy ways to measure body fat and muscle mass. You can get these tests at your medical center/clinic, gym, or by seeing a dietitian.

Things to remember:

  • Get advice about how to eat better and how to keep or reach a weight that feels right for you.
  • Ask your doctor or case manager where to find a dietitian.
  • Some common tests for body composition include bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) and skin-fold calipers. Be sure to check your body composition every 3 to 6 months for changes.
  • Project Open Hand offers free nutrition information, education and referral to all its clients.

Getting regular exercise can give you more energy, build stronger muscles, help you sleep better and feel good about yourself. Exercise also helps you deal with stress.

You should exercise at least 30 minutes most days. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, and you don’t have to do it all at once. A ten minute walk in the morning, a short stint of gardening in the afternoon, a bike ride to the store, and before you know it, you’ve done a half an hour of exercise.

  • Make exercise part of your day. Start slow, be realistic, and don’t overdo it.
  • Remember to drink plenty of fluids when you do any kind of exercise.
  • Listen to your body and rest when you need to.

Keep it simple:

  • Take the stairs.
  • Walk to the store.
  • Walk your dog.
  • Go out dancing or dance to your favorite music at home.
  • Walk the mall or commercial district.
  • Go window shopping before the stores open.
  • Rent or buy an exercise video. Make sure it’s a safe workout that’s right for you.

Will taking steroids help me build strong muscles? Losing muscle mass is a common problem. Research shows some steroids help people with HIV build muscle, especially if they exercise, too. Testosterone, oxandralone, and human growth hormone help some people’s appetites and may help put on muscle weight. But steroids can have harmful side effects, so talk to your doctor before you take any medication.

Eating well is important when you have HIV. Whether you already have symptoms or have just been diagnosed, it’s never too early to start eating well. Eating healthy food and keeping a healthy weight helps your immune system and body fight infections. Whether you cook at home or eat out, choose food that tastes good and is good for you.

Here are some basic things you can do to feel better and stay healthier longer:

  • Eat enough food to keep at a weight that’s right for you.
  • Eat more food with protein to build muscles and repair damaged tissues.
  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids. Replace any fluids you’ve lost.
  • Keep food and drinks safe from harmful germs that can make you sick. Be careful when you shop for, fix, and store food.
  • Get the exercise you need.
  • Eat enough food each day to give you the energy, vitamins, minerals, and other things you need to keep your body strong.

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