Does Your Child Need to Be on the BRAT Diet?

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It can be difficult to know what to do when your kiddo has an upset tummy. You want to make sure they’re comfortable, first and foremost. But also, we worry about them not eating or getting dehydrated from vomiting or having diarrhea. For years, pediatricians prescribed the BRAT diet for kids when they have diarrhea. The diet, which consists of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast was believed to “bind” and cause constipation. Theoretically, eating those foods would stop diarrhea. But we’ve come a long way since those days. Now, doctors are saying that a special diet during illnesses like rotavirus aren’t necessary. So, if you’ve got a sick kiddo, does your child need to be on the BRAT diet?

The short answer is: no!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children with diarrhea continue to eat a normal diet while they’re sick. This can include formula, breast milk, and even regular dairy milk for younger children. Even the Centers for Disease Control recommends a diet of semisolid or solid foods while your child recovers.

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Eating a diet of “binding” foods isn’t going to stop your child from having diarrhea. When they have the stomach flu or rotavirus, it’s the virus that makes them sick. And until it runs its course, there’s not a whole you can do to stop it! What’s more, the BRAT diet isn’t terribly nutritious. It’s low in protein and fat, so it could actually make it harder for your kid to recover.

So how can you help your kiddo when they’ve got a bad tummy?

The most important thing you can do is keep them hydrated. Pedialyte and Gatorade can help replace lost electrolytes, but sometimes good old-fashioned water is the way to go to prevent dehydration. Continue to offer foods you think they might like, but keep in mind some foods could make them feel worse.

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Avoid foods like carbonated beverages, drinks loaded with sugar, and even jello. Also, heavy fried foods don’t feel great when your stomach is rolling. Stick to lighter fare like fresh fruits and veggies, and try to keep things bland during the worst of the illness.

Does your child need to be on the BRAT diet? Not for a passing illness, no! Just let it run its course, and keep your kiddos hydrated and comfy.

(Image: iStock / M-image)