When your child doesn’t feel well, neither do you. To make things worse, the appetites and eating habits of children change when they’re ill (usually for the worse), and parents may struggle to get an ailing child to eat. Although your parents may have subscribed to the “feed a cold, starve a fever” philosophy, that advice has been replaced with recommendations that a child continue to be fed throughout an illness, rather than have her foods restricted.
Mary Silva, MS, RD, says that the best way to get a sick child to eat is to offer small, frequent meals in a gentle, encouraging manner. No matter how worried you become, do not try to force her to eat — that approach can backfire.
Offer up some comfort and warmth with foods and drinks that soothe kids from the inside out:
Chicken soup, of course, is the classic remedy for colds and sore throats. Research has shown that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties, reducing the movement of neutrophils — immune cells that stimulate the release of mucus. Both homemade and canned soups — even just the broth — are effective. If your child has an appetite, try adding some crumbled-up whole-wheat crackers or cooked macaroni.
Tomato Soup with Milk
Tomato soup is a great way to feed your child without her realizing that she is eating with a sore throat. Cut tomato soup’s high acid content (which may not feel good on her throat) with milk. Simply dilute the tomato soup with milk rather than water. Your child will drink the creamy, delicious concoction right up.
When it’s chilly outside, nothing warms your child up like a cup of warm cider. Make your own using water, cinnamon, apples and allspice, or warm up some diluted apple juice and throw in a few cinnamon sticks for flavor.
Canned Chicken Broth
Shake a can of chicken broth well and heat it up for your child. The heat will help soothe the throat, and your child will get some nutrition from the chicken broth. You might even want to float a few tiny saltine cracker bits in the cup. Your child will enjoy trying to catch the tiny, soggy morsels as he drinks the warm broth.
Warm, Fresh Lemonade
Use an old-fashioned juicer to squeeze pulp from the fruit. Mix the fruit juice well with sugar to make a syrup. Add warm water and stir well to make a warm lemonade. This warm drink hydrates the body and soothes sore throats. This drink also serves as a source of vitamin C.
Orange juice/ginger ale
This isn’t an either/or: It’s orange juice mixed with ginger ale — half and half — over ice, because, for some reason, orange juice tastes the worst just when you need it most. The ginger ale cuts the acidity, and its bubbliness adds some fun to a time when not much is interesting to your child.
While these may not top the list of “most nutritious snacks,” add an oatmeal and raisin cookie to your child’s lunch. It’s great comfort food, healthier than most other cookie options, and is sure to put a smile on any sick child’s face.
No matter which strategies you choose, don’t forget extra cuddle time!
More about sick kids & comfort foods
Staying healthy at daycare
5 warm lunch ideas