Feeding Children When They Are Sick

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In spite of all your efforts to stay healthy, your child has caught the bug. Did you know children, on average, get between eight to 10 colds per year? That is generally until kindergarten when they’ve built up their immunity. Although there are no cures, there are some things you can do to keep little ones comfortable and well-nourished while they’re fighting the virus. (This advice is good for the rest of us, too!)

Children should get plenty of rest and sufficient fluids. But what are your best bets for feeding them when they are mildly sick with a little sneezing, a cough and a runny nose?

Diluted fruit juices, water, soup and broth are great ways of replenishing fluids. If your child has a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, follow your pediatrician’s recommendations for replacing fluids. Older kids may benefit from herbal teas with honey and lemon.

Give Them Some Fruit

There may be no solid evidence to suggest vitamin C will cure a cold, but its antioxidant properties can’t hurt. Good sources of vitamin C include lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit and berries.

Offer your child a variety of soft fruits; they are not only full of vitamins and minerals to support good health and immunity, but contain a good deal of water to help support your child’s fluid needs. Frozen sliced fruits are convenient and easy to thaw, and they won’t spoil as quickly as fresh fruit.

Here are a couple of ways to serve them:

  • Slightly thawed fruits, such as blueberries or strawberries, offer a cooling sensation on the throat. Another option is to make or purchase frozen fruit bars (look for those with little or no added sugar.)
  • Blend frozen fruit chunks into a smoothie using low-fat or fat-free milk or fortified soy beverage.

Delight Them with Their Favorites…but don’t overdo it. A sick child may have a poor appetite so serve up mini meals based on their favorite types of foods. Frequent small meals are easier to digest and will help meet their energy needs. Steer clear of rich, fried, greasy foods and lean toward simple starches such as rice and noodles as these are easy on the stomach. Try bananas, rice, applesauce or toast if they are a bit queasy. If you can get in some vegetables – go for it, but focus more on getting them nourished!

Try Chicken Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

Try making your own from last night’s roasted chicken or buy low-sodium stock. Soup is warm, soothing and an accepted remedy. It also will help provide for your child’s fluid needs. For a more filling soup, add some rice or noodles and cooked, chopped vegetables. Please note that clear broth type soup is best for us when we are sick. As we improve a thicker soup might be yummy and satisfying.

There are few more essential recipes in an accomplished cook’s repertoire than a basic white sauce. Called a béchamel in France, it’s the start of any number of recipes, from a cheesy mac ‘n cheese to a creamy chicken pot pie. This white sauce is one of France’s four “mother sauces,” and it’s a perfect complement to many dishes. Pair it with vegetables, turn it into a creamy casserole or ladle it over seafood or sliced chicken.

How to make a Classic White Sauce:

White Sauce

White Sauce

Thin White Sauce:

-1 T butter      -1 T flour       -1 cup hot milk

Medium White Sauce:

– 2 T butter      -2 T flour      -1cup hot milk

Thick White Sauce:

– 3 T butter. -3 T flour       -1 cup hot milk

Melt butter and stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Slowly add the milk and cook to desired thickness.

The medium white sauce may be used to create the canned “cream of___” soup that many recipes have as a “store bought, HIGHLY processed food”. If you are concerned about reducing your sodium or want to avoid Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) then this recipe may be a great help. It is easy to prepare and may save you a little money and another trip to the grocery store as well.

Basic White Sauce to replace canned soups:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup milk

On range top:  In 1 1/2-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Gradually stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; boil and stir 1 minute.

Microwave directions: In a 4 cup measuring cup add butter and heat on 40% POWER until melted (about 1 minute). Add flour and stir and microwave for one minute on HIGH. It will look crumbly but, that is okay. Add milk and heat two minutes on HIGH. Stop and stir and repeat until it is thick and creamy. Add salt and pepper and stir.

After creating the Classic White Sauce you may create the following:

To use as a Cheese Soup: stir in ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese and a few drops of hot sauce. (Optional: may add ¼ teaspoon of dry mustard with the flour)

Tip: This may be used as a cheese sauce stirred up with hot cooked macaroni, poured over toasted tortilla chips for a homemade nacho platter, or spooned over simple omelets.

To use as Cream of Mushroom Soup in recipes: Stir in ½ cup cooked, chopped mushrooms.

To use as Cream of Chicken Soup in Recipes: Stir in ½ cup of chicken broth and ½ cup of finely chopped cooked chicken.

To use as Cream of Celery Soup in recipes: add ½ cup of cooked, finely minced celery. Chopped fresh celery may be cooked in ¼ cup water until tender and then add to White Sauce.

To use as Cream of Broccoli Soup: add ½ of cooked, finely chopped broccoli florets. Chopped fresh broccoli florets may be cooked in ¼ cup of water until tender and then add to White Sauce.

Sources for this article NC Extension Food and Nutrition educational program. For more information about the Foods and Nutrition please contact Louise L. Hinsley, Extension Agent, Family Consumer Science at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Beaufort County Center,  155 Airport Road, Washington, NC 252-946-0111.