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Feeding Children When They Are Sick

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN

Published: January 27, 2021

Reviewed: January 13, 2021

How to Feed Children When They Have a Cold
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In spite of all your efforts to stay healthy, your child has caught a bug. Did you know children, on average, get between eight to 10 colds per year? That is generally until kindergarten when they’ve built up their immunity. Although there are no cures, there are some things you can do to keep little ones comfortable and well-nourished while they’re fighting the virus.

Children should get plenty of rest and sufficient fluids. But what are your best bets for feeding kids when they are mildly sick with a little sneezing, a cough and a runny nose?

Diluted fruit juices, water, soup and broth are great ways to replenish fluids. If your child has a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, follow your pediatrician's recommendations for replacing fluids. Older kids may benefit from herbal teas with honey and lemon.

Give Them Some Fruit

There may be no solid evidence to suggest vitamin C will cure a cold, but its antioxidant properties can't hurt. Good sources of vitamin C include lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit and berries.

Offer your child a variety of soft fruits; they are not only full of vitamins and minerals to support good health and immunity, but also contain a good deal of water to help support your child's fluid needs. Frozen sliced fruits are convenient and easy to thaw, and they won't spoil as quickly as fresh fruit. Here are a couple of ways to serve them:

  • Slightly thawed fruits, such as blueberries or strawberries, offer a cooling sensation on the throat. Another option is to make or purchase frozen fruit bars (look for those with little or no added sugars.)
  • Blend frozen fruit chunks into a smoothie using low-fat or fat-free milk or fortified soy beverage.

Delight Them with Their Favorites

But don't overdo it. A sick child may have a poor appetite so serve up mini meals based on their favorite types of foods. Frequent small meals are easier to digest and will help meet their energy needs. Steer clear of rich, fried, greasy foods and lean toward simple starches such as rice and noodles, as these are easy on the stomach. Try bananas, rice, applesauce or toast if they are a bit queasy. If you can get in some vegetables, go for it, but focus more on getting kids nourished.

Try Chicken Soup

Try making your own from last night's roasted chicken or buy low-sodium stock. Soup is warm, soothing and an accepted remedy. It also will help provide for your child's fluid needs. For a more filling soup, add some rice or noodles and cooked, chopped vegetables. A couple tablespoons of oat flour can be used to thicken soups while heating.

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