Food for Sick Toddlers: What to feed your kids when they don’t feel well

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What is the best food for sick toddlers? You’re in the right place to learn what to feed your kids when they are not feeling well. 

Cold and flu season is upon us, and kid germs run abound invisibly taunting us all.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am already tired of the cold and flu season! Our house has recently been through a handful of colds that have cycled through us all. I am bracing for the months ahead.

Cold and flu season is a long haul that can feel like a never-ending cycle of getting sick and recovering from being sick. Kiddo immune systems are still developing until they are about 5-6 years old, so it makes sense that younger children tend to get sick more often than older kids.

Whether you are managing cold symptoms for your kids or caring for a child who is sick with the flu, I will offer you my tips and advice on the best food for sick toddlers.

Food for Sick Toddlers: Keep These Tips In Mind

Focus on Hydration

Water has many important roles within our bodies, and it is especially important when fighting an infection. Kids ages 1-3 years need about 4 cups of water per day. Kids ages 4-8 need about 5-6 cups of water per day. It should be noted that the actual amount of water needed varies depending on their activity level and environmental factors like temperature.

When we are sick, our bodies tend to release water in many ways like sweat, mucus, vomiting, or diarrhea, so it is important to keep hydration at the top of mind. Keep in mind that if your child has been vomiting or has diarrhea, they may need their fluids replenished when they are feeling able to drink fluids again.

If your child has lost fluids from vomiting or diarrhea, make sure to check in with your pediatrician. They may recommend hydrating fluids such as Pedialyte or another electrolyte beverage.

If your child’s urine color is dark amber in color, signifying dehydration, check in with your child’s pediatrician. Dehydration can lead to serious health complications and should be taken seriously. 

Feed Based on Appetite

Follow your child’s lead: When kids are sick, they may not feel like eating very much. Follow their pace and allow them to eat when they most feel like it. If they feel like only eating one thing throughout the day, it is okay! When they feel better, their appetite is sure to return.

Little appetite: If your child doesn’t have much of an appetite, make sure they are staying hydrated and allow them to eat when they are hungry. Offer them small amounts of foods or snacks more often since they may tolerate only a little bit of food at a time. 

Normal appetite: If your child seems to have a normal appetite, allow them to eat what they feel like so that they have energy to fight the infection.

Offer Favorite Foods

Since their appetite may be a little off, when kids are sick, it is a good time to offer some of their favorite foods. This way, they are more likely to eat when they feel up to it. 

Keep Foods Simple

When kids are sick, certainly their bodies need energy and nutrition to fight the infection. However, this is not the time to demand they eat healthy meals. Keep meals simple and easy to digest which will help them feel better.

Ideas of Food for Sick Toddlers

When your child is not feeling well and may not have their normal appetite, it is important to provide them with foods that will feel good on their tummies while also offering fluid replacement and nutrition. Foods that contain a water content are helpful for hydration. Comfort foods, even if in small portions or bites, can offer energy, vitamins and minerals to help fight their illness.


Fruits are rich in antioxidants and have vitamins and minerals that will help your child fight infection. Additionally, they usually have high water content to help keep your child hydrated. Applesauce and bananas usually are well accepted if your child has an upset stomach.

Offer frozen fruit if your child has a sore throat or is feeling like eating something cold.

Use frozen fruit in a smoothie if your child is not very hungry but is feeling like they would like to drink a cold beverage.


Clear liquids work well like water, diluted fruit juice, warm broth, and warm tea (non-caffeinated). Popsicles count too! It is okay to add honey to warm water or tea after the age of 1 year. Offer a straw in a cup to encourage small sips.

Simple Carbohydrates

Foods like bread or toast, rice, noodles, crackers, or dry cereal are easy to digest and offer energy and nutrients.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Keep it classic. The broth in soup is a great source of water and salt, both of which are needed for rehydration. The noodles are easy to chew and digest. Chicken offers protein and calories. Any veggies are a nutrient bonus.

Bonus Tip: Salty Snacks

If your child is dehydrated, they will need to replenish with water and salt. Enter salty snacks! It is important to note that I do not recommend this on a regular basis, and to use this tip with caution. However, if you can think about a time when you were dehydrated and were craving a salty snack, it is because your body needs salt and water to rehydrate properly. If your child is feeling like eating something salty, consider offering lightly salted crackers or pretzels!

What’s All the Hype About Elderberry?

Past evidence demonstrated that Elderberry reduced the duration of flu symptoms. However, recent studies have shown contradicting evidence. Either way, Elderberry will not prevent your child from getting sick. There is no harm in supplementing with Elderberry, but it is hard to say whether it will help ease symptoms and by how much.

Food for Sick Toddlers: Categorized by Illness

Below I have organized the types of food that may work best depending on which kind of illness your family is dealing with. Keep in mind that these foods are suggestions and that you may have to tweak your options depending on what works for your child’s illness, how they are feeling, and what works for your family.

As I mentioned above, it is advisable to check in with your pediatrician to ensure your child’s health if you are concerned.

Food for Sick Toddlers

Take Care of Yourself

Let’s not forget your health! It is not easy to parent while you are sick too. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your family.

Cold and flu season is tough to manage, especially when symptoms align with symptoms of COVID. Remember that your best bet for staying healthy is hand washing, good hygiene, and keeping anyone with symptoms home.

I am here for you! If you are looking for help feeding your family, you are welcome to check out my services to learn what I offer for families.