Is the BRAT Diet Necessary for Your Child?

Diarrhea Basics

Mother feeding baby boy (9-12 months) bananas, baby smiling
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Many parents continue to restrict their children's diet when they have diarrhea, like when they have rotavirus or the 'stomach flu.'

That usually means no milk or any of their kids' other favorites.

While it might make some sense to you to not let your kids eat certain foods when they have diarrhea, the BRAT diet is now considered rather old-fashioned advice.

Experts now believe that children should continue their regular diet when they have diarrhea.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that 'most children should continue to eat a normal diet including formula or milk while they have mild diarrhea.' And the CDC recommends that 'children receiving semisolid or solid foods should continue to receive their usual diet during episodes of diarrhea.'

Yogurt with active cultures, which contain acidophilus, may also be helpful when your child has diarrhea.

Foods To Avoid When Kids Have Diarrhea

Not all kids want to eat their regular diet when they are sick and have diarrhea, though.

And there are some circumstances in which giving kids their regular foods might make them feel worse, which is why it can be a good idea to avoid certain foods when your child has diarrhea, including:

  • carbonated soft drinks
  • fruit juice and liquids with a lot of sugar
  • gelatin desserts

What about milk?

If milk or other foods make your child worse, causing vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, or worsening diarrhea, then you might call your pediatrician to see if you need to temporarily change your child's diet.


Although starting a BRAT diet is popular among parents when their kids have diarrhea, it is important to remember that it is usually not necessary.

So what is the BRAT diet?

It includes limiting your child to:

  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Applesauce
  • Toast

Does it help?

Since some of those foods, especially bananas and rice, are 'binders' and are considered to be constipating, they might help diarrhea.

The BRAT diet alone won't help your child get better faster when he has diarrhea. Since this restrictive diet is low in fat, protein, and energy, it might actually make it harder for your child to recover from an illness.

Misconceptions About Treating Diarrhea

In addition to restricting a child's diet, another common misconception when treating diarrhea is that Pedialyte or other electrolyte solutions will make diarrhea go away. Pedialyte isn't a cure for rotavirus and other causes of diarrhea, though. Instead, they just help prevent your child from getting dehydrated.

Again, in most cases, when your child has diarrhea from a simple viral infection, you should usually continue him on his typical, unrestricted diet and just give extra Pedialyte when he has a large, watery diarrhea.

The only time that you usually have to switch to giving only small amounts of Pedialyte is when your child has a lot of vomiting. And then you give very small amounts, like a teaspoon or tablespoon, every five or ten minutes until he is keeping fluids down.

You can then slowly advance how much he is drinking as he vomits less and eventually start him back on his regular diet as tolerated.

Keep in mind that you should usually avoid giving your child just Pedialyte unless instructed to do so by your pediatrician, for more than about 12 hours.


Bass, Ellen S. Rotavirus. Pediatrics in Review, May 2007, 28 (5) 183-191.

CDC. Managing Acute Gastroenteritis Among Children. November 21, 2003. MMWR/ Vol. 52/ No. RR-16

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