Children eating soup at home in a story about recipes for sick kids
14 Recipes For Sick Kids When Everyone's Tired Of Canned Soup & Crackers

Even chicken and stars gets old.

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When your little one is feeling crummy, you’ll do anything to help them get back to feeling their best again (even if you enjoy the extra snuggles on their sick day home from school). So, you may be wondering, are there any recipes for sick kids that will actually help them heal faster? It turns out there are a few things you can serve that will help their bodies beat whatever bug is ailing them.

Best foods for kids with a cold, cough, or sore throat

Why do we always default to eating and serving chicken noodle soup when we’re sick? Turns out chicken soup isn’t just comforting; it’s a home remedy that works. The broth helps with hydration, and the chicken contains an amino acid (called cysteine) that studies show has anti-inflammatory effects, according to Providence Health.

“It’s the perfect expectorant — it gets that phlegm out better than Mucinex,” says Dr. Randolph “Randy” Thornton, a pediatrician with Jacksonville Pediatrics and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Chicken soup is still one of my favorite remedies for coughs. Grandparents have preached it or generations and there’s actually science behind it.”

Pediatricians also say honey is one of the best things you can give a child who’s dealing with a cough.

“While it won’t make the cough go away, honey is at least as effective as over-the-counter cough medications but is easier to get, much cheaper, and most importantly, avoids the many nasty side effects that make them not recommended in young children under 6,” says Dr. Paul Scalici, pediatric hospitalist at Children’s of Alabama. One note: honey should never be given to a child under 12 months of age due to the risk of botulism, Scalici says.

If your child likes warm drinks, stir honey into them, or add it to foods they already enjoy, like oatmeal or yogurt.

Aside from these two things to incorporate, Thornton says the best foods to feed your sick kid are, well, whatever they’ll actually eat.

“We always recommend a healthy diet, but when they’re sick, keep them hydrated and let the child be the judge. If they’re hungry, let them eat. There are no strict things about what to hold off on.”

Best foods for kids with upset stomach

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping kids who are vomiting on a liquid diet for 12 to 24 hours, letting them have water, electrolyte drinks (like Pedialyte), and popsicles. Parents might wonder, what about the infamous BRAT diet?

“For diarrhea we used to preach the BRAT diet — bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast — but we’ve gotten away from that,” Thornton says. “It’s really just about decreasing the milk and dairy products. If they’re vomiting, in general we recommend no solids until they stop vomiting for eight hours, with sips of clear liquids until then.”

“Age-appropriate drinks are usually OK — formula and breast milk for infants, or water and milk for toddlers and young children — though giving smaller and more frequent volumes are helpful if there is significant vomiting,” adds Scalici. “With diarrhea, I recommend avoiding sweetened beverages (such as sports drinks) and juices due to the high sugar content in them, which can make diarrhea worse.”

So, the best recipes for sick kids, if they’re dealing with a stomach bug, are no recipes at all. When they are ready to get back to solids, do try to keep food on the bland side until you’re sure they’re able to keep it down.


Chicken noodle soup from scratch

Chicken noodle soup is a staple when you’re sick at any age. If you want to make a nutrient-dense, lower sodium version for your kid to eat the next few days, try Wholefully’s recipe for chicken noodle soup. It includes instructions for making your own noodles, but you won’t miss out on any of the cough-relieving benefits if you buy those from the store.


Homemade bone broth

If your child likes soup broth but always leaves their chicken and noodles behind, bone broth might be a helpful alternative. Providence Health says a bone broth made at home contains more calories, nutrients, and protein than a canned soup, and drinking it warm can help ease congestion and a sore throat. You can make bone broth at home in a slow cooker with leftover bones, veggies, and herbs with this recipe from Budget Bytes.


Warm apple cider with honey

There’s something so pitiful about a kid with a sore throat. Some warm apple cider will soothe the pain, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends honey as a natural cough remedy for kids (but only give it to children 1 year and older). For kids ages 1 to 5, try half a teaspoon of honey. Give one teaspoon to kids between 6 and 11, and two teaspoons for kids 12 and up, the AAP says.


Cantaloupe & cherry frozen yogurt pops

When your kid needs to stay hydrated but has a sore throat, popsicles are the way to go. Cantaloupe is high in water content, making it a delicious way to stay hydrated when you're sick. These cantaloupe and cherry frozen yogurt popsicles from Brown Eyed Baker also include a little yogurt, which is full of vitamin D and good bacteria to help your immune system fight illness.


Fresh ginger limeade

Ginger is an all-natural way to help settle an upset stomach. Thanks to its chemical makeup, it speeds up the process of digestion and emptying the stomach, Providence Health says. A Cozy Kitchen's ginger limeade recipe is easy to make at home and delicious to drink. You may have to adjust the amount of ginger a bit for a kid’s palate, so don’t hesitate to experiment.


A stomach-settling apple juice

If you want the benefits of ginger but there’s no way your kid is drinking lime-flavored anything, try this apple turmeric ginger juice from Food Heaven. Turmeric is said to have anti-inflammatory properties, and the apple and maple syrup flavors will help make it all these beneficial ingredients more palatable to a kid.


An iconic duo for cold, sick days

When your kid is sick and just doesn’t feel like eating, you need an ace in the hole. A homemade grilled cheese with tomato soup is warm, comforting, and appetizing without being too filling. Just be mindful — all the acid in the tomatoes and dairy in the grilled cheese may not be suitable for kids with upset stomachs.


Homemade mashed potatoes

If your little one is just not on board with fancy juices or popsicles, giving them something they know, love, and find comfort in may be the best way to get them to eat. Enter: a starchy, uncomplicated bowl of homemade mashed potatoes, like this classic recipe from Simply LaKita.


Fluffy scrambled eggs

Sometimes all your stomach and throat can handle are some extra soft scrambled eggs. I Am A Food Blog's slow scrambled eggs recipe is short on the ingredients list, but definitely doesn't fall short on flavor and comfort. Serve with toast or a banana for a filling breakfast that won’t stress out an already upset stomach.


A smoothie with lots of nutrition

If your little one has been on antibiotics and needs some help getting their gut health in order, this smoothie from Food Heaven ought to help. It’s got Greek yogurt for some probiotics, a banana base so it’s gentle on the tummy, and almond milk so there’s not too much dairy.


Easy vegetable soup

This easy vegetable soup recipe from Simply Delicious is perfect for anyone feeling under the weather. It’s simple to make, super flavorful, and can be topped with croutons and cheese. It also red bell peppers in it, which are immunity boosters packed with vitamin C.


Lemon chicken & rice soup

If your little one is more of a rice fan than a noodle person, this lemon chicken and rice soup from Damn Delicious is going to be just what the doctor ordered. It includes some more grown up-tailored flavors, like dill, that are easy to sub out or skip if your child is more particular.


Chicken & dumplings

So your little one’s not into soup, huh? Perhaps some comforting chicken and dumplings are in order instead. This recipe from A Cozy Kitchen relies on some pantry staples for the dumplings, and classic chicken and vegetable combos for the rest. Even the sickest kids will feel better in no time after a bowl of this.


Japanese clear soup

For kids who love going to hibachi dinners, surprising them on a sick day with the same soup they’d get at the restaurant feels special and comforting (and will actually get them to eat). This Japanese clear soup from A Spicy Perspective is a go-to sick kid recipe for hydration and nutrients without trying to convince your kid today’s the day to eat the carrots in their soup.

Getting your child to eat at all when they’re sick is an accomplishment, so if you’re not whipping up any homemade dumplings or healing juices, that’s OK. Just focus on keeping them hydrated and comfortable while their immune system works its magic.


Dr. Randolph “Randy” Thornton, a pediatrician with Jacksonville Pediatrics and Wolfson Children’s Hospital

Dr. Paul Scalici, pediatric hospitalist at Children’s of Alabama

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