A few weeks ago, our little daughter seemed less than enthusiastic about her favorite mac and cheese meal at dinnertime. My wife and I exchanged worried glances. One of the first signs that our little one is not feeling well is the loss of her typically hardy appetite. After our pediatrician diagnosed her with a mild flu bug and we had her settled back home comfy and cozy on the couch, our concerns went full circle from illness . . . back to her eating. How do you make sure your toddler receives the calories and nutrients she needs even when she can’t stomach the thought of a meal? After another quick call to the pediatrician and a little more research, we learned the following about how and what to feed children when they are under the weather.
Understand that loss of appetite is normal. And actually, it’s not always a bad thing. For instance, with a flu bug, our little Aubrey’s stomach was sensitive and needed a rest from food and the digestive process to feel better. So if solid foods were not the answer, what could we do?
Focus on the fluids. When your child is not ready for solid foods, it is important to keep her hydrated with fluids. That includes juices, soups, gels, and frozen-juice desserts. This will typically help to provide her with the much-needed hydration and energy she needs until she can shortly ease back into solid foods. Of course, as with any illness, if this phase persists for too long, consult with your pediatrician.
Start slowly on the solids. When your little one seems up to it, slowly reintroduce solids back into her meals. Start with light, bland foods – crackers, toast, soups – anything like this that she has a taste for. If she only has a taste for one thing, that’s okay. The important thing is that she begins to eat and is receiving much-needed energy for recovery.
Your child determines the pace. When your child is ill, never force her to eat. Her eating patterns will naturally be more erratic when she is sick and eventually she will be back on her normal eating schedule. Once again, if her disinterest in eating solids persists for too long, consult your pediatrician just to be safe.
Feel-good foods. So what specific foods are good for your little one during various illnesses? Here’s a quick review:
Diarrhea – Oatmeal, cooked vegetables, soups
Constipation – Unpeeled fruits, beans, sweet potatoes, bran muffins
Fever – Juices, soup, mashed potatoes, pudding
Colds – Chicken soup, eggs, yogurt, apple sauce
Sore Throat – Soup, broth, hot chocolate, warm jello
Be sure to consult with your pediatrician and help your toddler ease back into comfortable eating patterns. The key is to be patient – by following smart dietary guidelines, your little one will feel better soon!