Fighting Through the Flu with Better Foods

It’s that time of year…when everyone is sick.  And it’s not just COVID; it’s everything.  The sniffles, cough, the stomach bug—you name it, someone around you has it.  Have kids?  Just wait—it’s coming for you, too.  This is my first winter during which my daughter is old enough to be having play dates, which has equated to an uptick in our illnesses at home.  Super fun, I tell you.

As I write this, I’m recovering from one of those 24-hour stomach bugs that has you running for the potty like a toddler in training undies.  Thankfully, the rest of the family hasn’t succumbed—yet.  This ‘episode’ has caused me to brush up on some of my stomach bug nutrition info, and I’m looking forward to mixing up a hydration drink soon to start making up for all the fluids I lost today. 

The stomach flu typically lasts for 1-3 days, which means it’s important to start rehydrating even when you or your child may still feel sick.  Dehydration comes with the territory during any GI distress that has you on the toilet or holding a trashcan.  You’re losing all the to-be-absorbed water and electrolytes and likely not replenishing them quickly—if at all—while you still feel sick.  For an adult with a mild bout, it’s probably not a big deal.  However, young children should be monitored closely for symptoms of severe dehydration, which include little to no urine, sunken eyes, cold extremities and drowsiness.  

Enter Pedialyte.  It’s the big name in drinks for kids when they are sick, and that’s because it contains more sodium (a good thing here!) and less sugar than traditional sports drinks.  It also contains the correct proportions of electrolytes, as well as zinc, which supports your immune system.  It’s a great, shelf-stable option to keep in your pantry for when the flu strikes. 

However, a couple things to consider: it does contain artificial dyes and sweeteners, so if you’re trying to avoid those ingredients, there are other bottled drinks to consider.  Recharge is a more ‘natural’ sports drink, which I highly recommend and have found here on Main Street at the EA Co-op, as well as on Amazon.  It has less sugar and no artificial food dyes or sweeteners, and I love the flavor.  Lastly, you can use plain coconut water, which has plenty of electrolytes naturally, or make your own drink!  Mix 1 t baking soda, 2.5 T sugar or honey, ½ t salt and 1 C orange juice with 2 quarts water (Recipe found on  The baking soda helps soothe an upset stomach and the flavor should appeal to the kiddos.

During a stomach bug, there is always that period of time when you feel like you’re on the upswing and might want to try eating something, but you’re definitely NOT ready for pizza and wings.  The BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) applies here, as those foods are easy-to-digest and provide a few calories when your body is pretty depleted.  Additionally, chicken soup really IS a great choice (protein, fat, simple carbs) if you’re ready for that many ingredients.  If not, try drinking just the broth.  It has electrolytes and a bit of protein, which makes it an excellent option when you’re taking sips and hoping for the best.   Other foods that may help when you’re nursing an upset tummy include ginger (perhaps in a tea, juice or even as part of your chicken broth), and plain yogurt.  I’ve been taking bites of graham crackers and dry Cheerios (Can you tell I have a toddler?) and they are hitting the spot.  Foods to avoid include anything crunchy, greasy, acidic or spicy.  (Occasionally, a little spice can help with a head cold, but don’t experiment with it during the stomach bug!)

As I begin to recover over here, I’m reminded to keep these items—like bottled electrolyte drinks and bland foods—in our house for just this situation.  Best wishes for a vomit-free New Year, all!

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