Ask the experts: Recovering from illness

Q: "What are you supposed to feed a child (or an adult) who is recovering from a stomach bug? I understand milk is a no-no (but don't know why) and I have a vague recollection of something called the 'brat' diet, which I think meant bananas, rice, apples and toast. Do you know of this? My husband is a big fan of drinks such as Lucozade, and I remember my mother giving me orange juice diluted with water, with glucose added. Can you please clear this up for me?"


A: We asked nutritionist Bronwen King to explain:

"The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, puréed apple, toast) is an historically prescribed treatment for digestive upsets. The foods are relatively bland, easy to eat and digest, and low in fibre. Another version, the BRATY diet, adds yoghurt into the mix.

The American Academy of Paediatrics in recent years has made contrary recommendations, namely that children and indeed all people recovering from gastrointestinal problems should continue as normal a diet as possible, including milk (or formula). However, they do recommend avoidance of high-fat, high-sugar foods, in particular soft drinks, undiluted juices, jellies and pre-sweetened cereals. The BRAT or BRATY diet is fine for a short time, but for a prolonged period it would lead to nutrient and energy deficiency. The best advice is to offer foods that are normally accepted, with the exception of high-fat and high-sugar foods.

Lucozade and electrolyte drinks are fine as they are formulated to the correct dilution/ electrolyte balance. Juice should be served very diluted.

In the end, whatever people will eat will be better than nothing. The best recovery foods in the world are useless if the recovering person won't eat them!"

First published: Aug 2007

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