Is the BRAT Diet Necessary for Your Child's Diarrhea?

Diarrhea Basics

Boy eating banana

Allen Donikowski/Getty Images

Many parents restrict their children's diet when they have diarrhea, like when they have rotavirus or "stomach flu." That usually means no milk or any of their kids' other favorites. However, while it might make some sense to you to not let your kids eat certain foods when they have diarrhea, the BRAT diet is now considered rather old-fashioned advice.

Experts now believe that children should continue their regular diet when they have diarrhea. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that 'most children should continue to eat a normal diet including formula or milk while they have mild diarrhea.' The CDC recommends that 'children receiving semisolid or solid foods should continue to receive their usual diet during episodes of diarrhea.'

Yogurt with active cultures, which contain acidophilus, may also be helpful when your child has diarrhea.

Foods to Avoid When Kids Have Diarrhea

Not all kids want to eat their regular diet when they are sick and have diarrhea, though. And there are some circumstances in which giving kids their regular foods might make them feel worse, which is why it can be a good idea to avoid certain foods when your child has diarrhea, including:

  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Fruit juice and liquids with a lot of sugar
  • Gelatin desserts

If milk or other foods increase your child's symptoms including vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, or worsening diarrhea, it is probably a good idea to get in touch with your child's ppediatrician to see if they would recommend a temporary change to your child's diet.


Although starting a BRAT diet is popular among parents when their kids have diarrhea, it is important to remember that it is usually not necessary.

So what is the BRAT diet? It includes limiting your child to:

Since some of those foods, especially bananas and rice, are 'binders' and are considered to be constipating, they might help diarrhea. But the BRAT diet alone won't help your child get better faster when he has diarrhea. And since this restrictive diet is low in fat, protein, and energy, it might actually make it harder for your child to recover from an illness.

Misconceptions About Treating Diarrhea

In addition to restricting a child's diet, another common misconception about treating children with diarrhea is that Pedialyte or other electrolyte solutions will make diarrhea go away. These drinks aren't a cure for rotavirus and other causes of diarrhea. Instead, they just help prevent your child from getting dehydrated.

Most children experiencing diarrhea from a simple viral infection can continue on their regular unrestricted diet. Supplementing their fluid intake with Pedialyte, as well as other electrolyte-based fluids, can be useful to prevent dehydration when your child is passing frequent, large, and watery stools.

The only time that you may wish to give only an electrolyte solution is when your child has a lot of vomiting. In those circumstances, very small amounts of an electrolyte solution (like a teaspoon or tablespoon) given every five or ten minutes until he is keeping fluids down can help prevent dehydration. 

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Probiotics.

  2. Hill P, Muir JG, Gibson PR. Controversies and Recent Developments of the Low-FODMAP Diet. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2017;13(1):36-45.

  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. How to Treat Diarrhea in Infants and Young Children.

Additional Reading
  • Bass, Ellen S. Rotavirus. Pediatrics in Review, May 2007, 28 (5) 183-191.
  • CDC. Managing Acute Gastroenteritis Among Children. November 21, 2003. MMWR/ Vol. 52/ No. RR-16

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.