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By: Michelle Ronholm   Date: 11/9/09

I put my son on a diet today. He's a healthy weight five year-old who’s very physically active. (And I mean very physically active.) So why is he on a diet? Because today he has an upset stomach. And when that happens, I immediately put him on the BRAT diet.
 
BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. I learned about this nifty little feeding approach from my son’s pediatrician early on in my parenting career and many veteran parents are very familiar with it. When he had his first tummy ache before his first birthday, I left out the toast, but mashing up bananas and mixing a little rice cereal with breast milk or formula did the trick. He was up and crawling about in no time.
 
Luckily, I have plenty of the BRAT diet foods on hand and I expect that he’ll be up and about pretty soon after this little episode as well. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why the BRAT diet works, so I asked my friend and dietitian, Elizabeth Rahavi, why these foods may be helpful when the little guy is under the weather. Here’s what she had to say:
 
          Bananas: When children are sick with an upset stomach and other symptoms come with that, dehydration can become a problem. Bananas provide potassium, which is an important electrolyte that can become depleted when dehydration occurs.  

          Rice and Toast: Part of feeling better is feeling like you have more energy. White rice and toast are good foods when you are under the weather because their lower fiber content makes them easier to digest, their flavor is easy on the taste buds, and they provide additional energy, in the form of carbohydrate which can help the body recover faster. This is one time where you might want to consider skipping the whole grain-version in lieu of the easier to digest white rice and bread.
 
          Applesauce: The good news here is that one cup of applesauce provides one fruit serving, so when your kid is sick you can take some solace in the fact that they are getting some fruit in their diet. Applesauce is also an easy to digest carbohydrate that provides potassium. Certain brands of applesauce also contain vitamin C, which help support immune function.

          Electrolyte Replacing Drinks: While the BRAT diet is helpful, sometimes it can be difficult to get your kids to eat anything when their tummy is upset. In this case you may have more success getting them to drink something. Water should be encouraged. Also look for drinks that contain potassium and sodium, as these are the important electrolytes that need to be replaced to help fend off dehydration.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that there have been no controlled trials proving the efficacy of the BRAT diet, but agree that it is a safe approach to feeding for the short term. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children resume an age-appropriate diet within 24 hours.
 
So, I’ll keep my little guy on the BRAT diet for the rest of the day and see how he’s doing in the morning. I expect he’ll be up and running out the door for kindergarten full of his usual spirit and energy. Illness is quickly forgotten by the five year-old set. 
 

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