The Best Foods for Sick Kids [By Illness]

food for sick kids


Being sick is hard enough, but watching our little ones suffer is even worse. While we may wish we could magically take away their pain, most often it takes time to pass. There are some steps you can take to manage their symptoms and help ease your worries, and a nutritious diet is one of them.

Illnesses call for extra nutrition to help the body heal and restore itself. If your child is up for eating, give them whatever nutritious foods they can handle. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids eat a normal, balanced diet while sick, which includes a mix of fruits and vegetables as well as protein and complex carbohydrates. Here are some ideas that can help relieve your child’s symptoms and get them back on the road to recovery.

best foods for sick kids by illness - chicken noodle soup for cold and flu

For Colds and Flus

While you can’t “cure” these viruses, you can help ease inflammation and soothe symptoms. Chicken soup or any broth-based (e.g., not dairy-based) soups will help your little one stay hydrated, and they are an effective way to deliver healthy nutrients to ailing bodies.

Homemade fruit popsicles can help soothe a sore throat. If a warm beverage is more enticing, a herbal tea with lemon and honey might offer some relief for scratchy throats.

Citrus fruits are packed with immune-supporting vitamin C, which can help reduce the length and severity of a cold.

best foods for sick kids by illness - yogurt and probiotic foods for stomach bugs

For Stomach Bugs

Ginger has a well-supported reputation for relieving an upset tummy. Be sure to read the label to find a ginger ale that contains real ginger, or make your own homemade ginger ale by mixing up some ginger-infused simple syrup and adding it to plain seltzer water.

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Once your child can keep down solids, some probiotic foods can help to treat and heal a sore tummy. Plain yogurt, tempeh, and fermented foods will help get healthy gut flora back in balance. If these options are unpalatable, probiotics are available in supplement form for kids. Bananas also help replenish potassium stores and can firm up bowel movements.

Keeping kids hydrated is crucial during bouts of tummy bugs, so while most parents avoid liquids, that’s a mistake. Offering the right fluids such as breast milk for infants and toddlers and rehydrating electrolytes for older kids can help replenish what kids lose by vomiting.

If your child has diarrhea that lasts three or more days, a temperature above 102 degrees or is unable to urinate, seek medical attention.

best foods for sick kids by illness - spinach/banana smoothie and leafy greens for aches and pain

For Aches and Pains

Foods high in magnesium are helpful for pain and headaches. Leafy greens such as spinach and chard as well as bananas and sweet potatoes offer relief for pain and the stress that can come with it. Fatty fish such as salmon can also help reduce inflammation and pain.

best foods for sick kids by illness - bananas for constipation

For Constipation

Fiber-full foods such as bananas, apples, dates, and prunes are key to getting things moving and keeping kids comfortable while constipated. Hydration is also key, so encourage them to drink plenty of plain water or low-sugar juices.

A healthy diet will go a long way in keeping your child comfortable and helping their body fight infection. With the right nutrition, they will be back on their feet in no time.

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