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What is a BRAT Diet?

By Phil Shepley
Updated Feb 05, 2024
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In the unfortunate case that a person, adults or especially children, is suffering from gastrointestinal distress — for example diarrhea or dyspepsia — a good way to slow down the effects of these illnesses is through the use of a BRAT diet. The name is an acronym for the four foods of the diet, which are bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, and these four foods are a good prescription for someone who is under the weather.

The foods of a BRAT diet are easier to digest than typical foods while being low in fiber. Low fiber foods are less likely to cause the gastrointestinal problems to get worse simply because they are less likely to cause gas. In a similar way, the four foods of the diet can make diarrhea less severe when supplemented with additional protein. An additional element of this diet that is found in the applesauce is pectin, an ingredient that further fends off constipation and diarrhea.

For children, a BRAT diet should come at the recommendation of a pediatrician or a family doctor, and when prescribed it will often be in addition to a normal diet, which will vary depending on the age of the child. As is the case in a normal child’s diet, when on the BRAT diet, children should avoid drinks that are carbonated or high in sugar, as this will typically make the symptoms worse.

There are many alternate diets that are used when someone is sick or having gastrointestinal difficulties, all of which work to varying degrees depending on the situation. There are also variations on the BRAT diet, for example some include tea and yogurt in addition to the bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. The use of any diet to regain ones health should be used at the discretion of a doctor or physician, and he or she should be seen promptly when the symptoms worsen or don’t go away.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By EarlyForest — On Nov 18, 2010

How long can you keep a child on the BRAT diet? My daughter has been throwing up on and off for almost a week now, and I've been keeping her mostly on the BRAT diet, along with some crackers and a little bit of fruit.

I've made sure that she's getting a lot of water, and I've been having her drink some apple juice and Gatorade too when she can keep it down, but she keeps getting sick.

Do you have any idea what could be going on, or what I could to do help her feel better? She seems to be doing OK, except for the fact that she can't keep anything down.

What should I do?

By rallenwriter — On Nov 18, 2010

The BRAT diet is good for adults too. Of course, you can make some substitutes -- for example, I like to substitute saltine crackers for the bread and toast just because I like to have a little more crunch.

I would also really recommend adults to drink tea when they have an upset stomach. Chinese or herbal tea is the best, although English tea is OK too -- just try to drink it straight, without sugar and milk.

In fact, it's really best to avoid all dairy products when your stomach is upset, since they're really not the easiest foods to digest anyway.

These are just a few things that I've learned over the years through my bouts with indigestion and intestinal issues -- and remember, you can modify it for yourself too. Just make sure you avoid the dairy and sugar, and stay hydrated.

By Planch — On Nov 18, 2010

I am a big fan of using the BRAT diet for an upset stomach -- whenever my kids start feeling queasy I start stocking up on the applesauce and bread.

One other good substitution that you can make with the BRAT diet is low-sugar, high electrolyte sports drinks. Many parents forget how important it is to keep your kids hydrated after they've been throwing up or having diarrhea, but dehydration can actually cause some really serious problems, especially in kids.

So make sure you either keep them continuously sipping on water (if they can keep it down), or apple juice (pure, not sugar-addled!), or sports drinks that are high in electrolytes. It will get them feeling better faster, and keep them hydrated.

By icecream17 — On Jul 21, 2010

I just want to add that the BRAT diet also suggests avoiding corn, onion,oranges and milk because these foods are harder on the gastrointestinal tract.

Eating mash potatoes made with water instead of milk could be a nice substitution for the rice.

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