What To Feed A Sick Toddler Who Won’t Eat

Every parent gets worried when their sick child won’t eat anything. It is common for children to lose appetite during an illness and parents should let the child follow his hunger cues without pressure to eat. Parents too should stop feeling guilty about their child falling sick. In-fact did you know, children can catch 7-8 colds per year until age 5?

Their body is building immunity in the growing up years and is good at recovering quickly with a little rest and good hydration.

And while at that here are some ideas on what to feed a sick toddler who won’t eat?

Foods to feed sick toddlers

Hydrating foods and drinks

Hydration is key during illness. The toddler may be coughing, sneezing, having a runny nose or suffering diarrhea. Getting sufficient amounts of fluids in during this time helps with the recovery process.

Water: Plain water or fruit-based water are a great place to start. Some easily accepted fruity waters are lemon water, mint and cucumber water, water with a few thin slices of strawberries.

Soups: Clear chicken soup, clear vegetable soup, broccoli soup, pumpkin soup, lentil soup, chicken and corn soup.

Smoothies: Smoothies can act as mini meals when the sick toddler won’t eat. But if milk is not accepted, soy milk or almond milk can also be used to make smoothies. Keep it simple with a berry smoothie or a mango smoothie. Something that is sweet and nourishing for the sick toddler.

Water rich fruits: When we think hydration many of us forget about fruits. But water rich fruits like oranges, sweet lime, watermelon, grapes, pineapples, muskmelon and berries are all a great way to get some water into the sick toddler’s diet. Many toddlers also prefer fruit over other foods as its light on the stomach and sweet tasting.

Easy to digest foods

A mix of simple carbs and starchy foods can help when recovering from a stomach infection. 

Porridge made with rice, semolina, ragi, or sago. If your toddler is suffering from diarrhea rice conjee and sago porridge can be easy on the stomach. These are prepared using more water to rice/sago ratio which also helps with hydration.


BRAT diet foods like lightly buttered plain white bread, rice, apples and bananas. To add some extra protein to these simple foods use nut butters or seed powders depending on how the child’s stomach feels at that moment.

Simple foods like baked potato or sweet potato are also easy to digest when recovering from a stomach bug.

Vit C rich foods

Vitamin C is an important vitamin and antioxidant that supports immune health. Foods like oranges, strawberries, limes, broccoli, and Indian gooseberry (amla) can be included in a sick toddler’s meals.

Spices and honey

Spices like turmeric powder, ginger, garlic, black pepper powder, cumin seeds, carrom seeds and honey are used in many home remedies to support the healing process. 


Turmeric and honey mixture as a throat ache soother

 Carrom seeds in hot water (ajwain pani) to relieve congestion and stomach ache, 

Ginger-garlic, cumin seeds, black pepper in soups, 

Crushed ginger-honey-turmeric mixture as a throat ache soother. 

How to make carrom seed water (Ajwain water)

Heat a cup of water and add 1 tbsp of carrom seeds. Let these seeds steep in the hot water.

Once the water has cooled down a bit but still warm to drink, strain out  the seeds and offer 3-4 sips to the toddler at a time about 4-5 times a day.


If the child is taking milk, turmeric milk is a good way to give a warm drink to the child that also contains some protein. Many cultures also make warm milky porridge for children to eat during colds.

If warm milk is not a favorite try protein rich smoothies that include almonds or peanut butter. 

Protein rich foods

Once the initial vomiting and stomach upset is over focus on adding protein rich foods to the diet like lentils, eggs, fish, chicken and beans. Add gradually and check how much the child is accepting.

Ways to include protein into a sick child’s diet can be through smoothies, warm drinks like almond pez, pancakes, meat patty, and soups.

Fermented foods 

Once the child has recovered, add fermented foods to the diet in order to get good bacteria established in the gut once again after the antibiotics course. Foods like homemade yogurt, buttermilk and sauerkraut are easily accepted by most toddlers. If your child takes to kefir, tempeh, homemade pickles, that’s great too.

Things to remember when feeding a sick toddler.

  • Children will lose appetite when sick, it is best to give them space to listen to their own body and not force food down. 
  • Usually during an illness, you will notice a pattern of a low eating period followed by a period of intense hunger. The child’s body knows it has to make up for lost calories. Trust in the child’s hunger cues.
  • Keep the toddler hydrated especially during a fever, when vomiting or experiencing diarrhea. 
  • Try out a variety of combinations of foods and drinks and follow the child’s cue for what works. 

Examples of foods to feed depending on illness

Illness                 Examples of foods to feed

Fever               hydrating foods and liquids like water, soups, smoothies, fruit and porridge

Cold                 warm foods and hydrating foods like water, soups, porridge, mild curries, home remedies for colds and cough preparations like ajwain paani, honey and turmeric mix, ginger-honey-turmeric mixed together. 

Vomiting         warm lemon water, plain crackers or chips, watery soups, rice congee.

Diarrhea          rice porridge, plain bread, apples, banana, baked potato, WHO certified ORS liquids.

Constipation    prunes puree, raisins, apricot, beans, lentils, flaxseeds, chia seeds, strawberries, pears and mangoes.  

Hope these ideas come handy the next time your child is going through an illness. Pin this post to refer to in the future.

what to feed a sick toddler who won’t eat

What foods do you offer when your child is sick? Any new ideas and combinations? Do leave us a comment in the comment section below. 

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About Me

I'm Ophira, mama during the day and blogger by night. I love teaching parents how to raise healthy eaters who not only love the food on their plate but also respect their hunger cues. On this blog you will find all the evidence based information you need to help you feed your toddler, easy toddler friendly recipes and lots of tips and tricks to help your picky eater.

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