Feeding a Sick Toddler

As much as we try to prevent it, it is inevitable that children become ill at some point. When a little one is battling a cold food is usually the last thing on their mind however they still need some calories for energy to fight off this illness.

While their appetite might not be at its peak during this time it is still important to offer foods to your little one. Some things to prioritize during this time are:


Staying hydrated during a cold is essential but not all hydration has to come from liquids. In fact, many fruits and some veggies have very high water content.


To keep your toddler hydrated during a cold make sure to offer:

  • Filtered Water
  • Diluted Juice
  • Breastmilk, if available
  • Bone Broth (after age 1)
  • Coconut Water, unsweetened
  • Herbal Tea
  • Applesauce, unsweetened
  • Smoothies
  • Homemade Popsicles
  • Soup
  • Watermelon
  • Berries
  • Cucumber
  • Oranges
  • Bell Pepper
  • Kiwi
  • Grapes (quartered for children under 4)
  • Cantalope

Vitamin C Rich Foods

Vitamin C is important because it helps boosts the immune system and keeps infections at bay. It helps form and repair red blood cells, bones, and tissues.

Luckily, many of the hydrating fruits also have a very high vitamin C content! Such as strawberries, only 3 medium strawberries can meet a toddlers vitamin C needs for the day.


Protein and Healthy Fat

Although carbs are a quick and easy source of energy it is important to offer simple foods with both fat and protein to help keep your child full for longer. This is espeically important when they are lethargic and sleeping long periods. Both protein and fat take longer to breakdown allowing for longer lasting fullness.

Proteins to consider offering:

  • Hummus
  • Hemp Hearts
  • Chickpea Pasta
  • Chicken
  • Lentil Pasta
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Nut Butter
  • Nuts (chopped for children under 4)

Fats to consider offering:

  • Avocado
  • Hummus
  • Nut Butter
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Nuts (chopped for chidlren under 4)
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Grass fed butter

It is great that so many foods with protein also offer healthy fat!

Raw Honey (after age 1)

Raw, local honey is known for it’s medicinal properties. However, honey should NOT be given to children under one year old for a risk of infant botulism. After one year old it is safe to offer in small amounts. I primarily save it for cooking or times like this when a little one is ill. Honey can help to soothe a sore throat, reduce a cough, and as a potenint antibacterial agent. (1)


Medicinal Spices

For thousands of years different herbs and spices have been used for their medicinal properites. Modern science has proved many of those to truly have properties that can help our bodies.

  • Turmeric is a good source of curcumin, an antioxidant that eases inflammation. (3)
  • Ginger helps to ease an upset stomach and combat nausea. (2)
  • Cardamom is also known to soothe an upset stomach, and lab studies show it may also help fight inflammation. (4)


Elderberry is one of my favorite products and the first thing I grab when I think Jax or I are begin to become ill. While elderberry is an amazing antiviral prodcut that helps to boost immunity, it is not ideal for everyone. (5) You can read more about elderberry here in my blog post.


Meals for Sick Toddlers

  • Lentil or Chickpea pasta topped with marinara sauce or tossed in an oil or butter
  • Homemade Popsicles
  • Oatmeal with nut butter or berries
  • Sick Toddler Turmeric Milk (recipe by @my.little.food.critic)
  • Fruit Plate with Healthy Fruit Dip
  • Cucumber slices with hummus
  • Whole wheat toast with nut butter and a side of applesauce
  • Chicken Soup with cracker
  • Smoothies with veggies
  • Steam Roated Veggies with oil or butter
  • Whole grain english muffin with mashed avocado
  • Chicken and Rice
  • Yogurt with honey and fruit

When making meals for your sick toddler try to be kind and considerate and offer foods that will be easy to eat and digest. Think soft, cold, hydrating, or slightly warm (especially for sore throats) when making meals for you sick little one. Your child’s eating patterns will naturally be more erratic when feeling sick but eventually should return back to their normal eating schedule. However, if their disinterest in eating solids persists for too long, consult your pediatrician just to be safe.

Even though they might not feel up to it, it is important to continue to make opportunities for your little one to eat while they are sick. Rest and hydration are top priority but also offer foods to help hydrate and fuel your little one to recover!


**The author of this site encourages you to consult a doctor before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition. No information on this site should be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. For more information please read our full disclaimer here.**


(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20842754

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19594223

(4) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-healthy-herbs-and-spices#section4

(5) https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-434/elderberry


Published by snackswithjax

Sarah is the creator and mom behind "Snacks with Jax", a social media community of over 85,000 parents/caregivers, where she shares her son's meals, nutrition information, and evidence-based tips for feeding children. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist with a Bachelor's degree in Nutrition emphasizing in Wellness from Texas Woman's University and years of experience as a culinary instructor working with ages 2+. She has coached hundreds of parents & caregivers through the journey introducing solids to babies and also navigating picky eating with toddlers and older children. Her focus is on establishing a life-long healthy relationship with food for children while also empowering, encouraging, and educating their adult caregivers.

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