What Is The BRAT Diet—And What Should You Eat With An Upset Stomach? (2024)

For many years, the bananas, rice, applesauce and toast (BRAT) diet was a staple home remedy recommended to ease diarrhea, vomiting and digestive distress. Consisting of just four foods that are easy to prepare and widely available, the diet steadily gained traction over time, especially among parents of children dealing with tummy troubles.

However, despite its widespread popularity, many health experts have since stopped recommending this diet, noting that the risks and downsides may outweigh any potential benefits.

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What Is the BRAT Diet—and Who Is It Designed for?

In the past, the BRAT diet consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast was often used to help treat diarrhea and other stomach issues. The diet was widely recommended for both children and adults, along with pregnant women experiencing issues like morning sickness.

“The BRAT diet was thought to be beneficial because these foods are bland, which can be ideal when experiencing stomach issues,” says Rhyan Geiger, registered dietitian and owner of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian. Geiger goes on to explain that these foods are also fairly easy to digest: “Because there is very little fiber and fat in this diet, it is unlikely to cause any gut irritation.”

Indeed, for some people, the BRAT diet may help with diarrhea, adds Jane Guo, a registered dietitian based in Dallas.“The bland foods on this diet are easier on the digestive system and not likely to cause further stomach upset in most people.”

Additionally, several of the foods recommended on the BRAT diet contain nutrients that may be lost due to vomiting or diarrhea. For instance, bananas are rich in potassium, an important electrolyte that regulates fluid balance and muscle contractions. Similarly, rice and toast are both good sources of magnesium, another key micronutrient needed to maintain optimal health.

In an article in Practical Gastroenterology, researchers state that bananas and rice may possess antidiarrheal properties and have both been associated with improved outcomes in children with diarrhea[1]Duro D, Duggan C. The BRAT Diet for Acute Diarrhea in Children: Should It Be Used?. Pract. Gastroenterol. 2007;31(6). .However, they also note that there are no clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of the BRAT diet specifically.

In addition to easing stress on the digestive system, the BRAT diet also emphasizes foods with binding properties, which can add firmness to stool to treat diarrhea.

The four foods included in the BRAT diet are also widely available and easy to prepare, which may be particularly appealing for those who aren’t feeling well and are unable to spend lots of time on cooking or meal prep.

Why the BRAT Diet Is No Longer Recommended

With all that said, however, the BRAT diet is no longer recommended for children who are experiencing diarrhea, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is because the diet focuses on foods low in essential nutrients necessary to promote recovery, such as fiber and protein.

“Following the BRAT diet for an extended amount of time can lead to inadequate nutrition,” says Guo, noting that the diet is very low in protein, fiber, fats and micronutrients.

In fact, the diet focuses almost exclusively on carbohydrates, which draw water into the digestive tract. This could actually worsen diarrhea and may ultimately do more harm than good when it comes to gut health and regularity.

Instead, Geiger recommends enjoying a variety of gut-friendly foods when you’re not feeling well, including oatmeal, sweet potatoes, low-fiber vegetables and fruits like berries and melon.

“Eating only bananas, rice, applesauce and toast doesn’t give people an opportunity to reach their energy needs each day unless they are eating large amounts,” says Geiger. “When creating a meal, it’s best to have all of your major food groups, even when you don’t feel well.”

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Which Foods Should You Eat With an Upset Stomach?

Though the BRAT diet is no longer recommended by most health care professionals, making modifications to your diet is still useful when you’re dealing with digestive distress.

In particular, a bland diet is also often recommended as a remedy for digestive issues. It encourages foods that are easier to break down and digest, including eggs, broth, lean meats and bland vegetables.

Some examples of foods that are easy to digest and gentle on the stomach include:

  • Saltine crackers
  • Clear broth
  • Cooked cereals, such as oatmeal or cream of wheat
  • Refined grains, including white bread, white rice or pasta
  • Lean proteins, such as tofu, skinless poultry or white fish
  • Steamed or boiled vegetables, including carrots, squash, green beans or potatoes
  • Soft fruits, such as bananas, avocados, pumpkin, melons and canned fruit
  • Creamy peanut butter
  • Pudding or custard

It’s also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or other beverages, such as weak tea, coconut water or apple juice. You can also sip on Pedialyte, which contains added electrolytes to prevent dehydration, or make your own rehydration solution by mixing a bit of salt and sugar with water.

Foods to Avoid When Your Stomach Is Upset

Meanwhile, foods to avoid when you’re dealing with stomach problems include:

  • Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or ice cream
  • Spicy foods
  • Fried or greasy foods
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts

Once your symptoms have improved, you can slowly start to incorporate these foods back into your diet. However, you should continue to eat small meals every few hours and switch back to bland foods as needed if symptoms return.

Here’s a sample menu with some meal and snack ideas you can safely enjoy, even when your stomach is upset:

Day 1White toast with creamy peanut butterGrilled chicken with white rice and steamed carrotsRoasted turkey breast with baked potatoVanilla pudding
Day 2Oatmeal with sliced bananasBaked tilapia with roasted squash and white riceChicken and rice soup with crackersWhite toast with avocado
Day 3Cream of wheat porridge with cinnamonSpaghetti with turkey meatballs and tomato sauceBaked tofu with green beans and mashed potatoesBanana with creamy peanut butter

When to See a Doctor

Guo recommends consulting with a doctor if diarrhea doesn’t improve within one to two days or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a high fever, severe stomach pain, black or bloody stools or excessive thirst, which may be a sign of dehydration.

It’s also important to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids or taking an over-the-counter oral rehydration solution if needed.

You should contact a doctor if your child experiences severe diarrhea (watery bowel movements every one to two hours or more) or symptoms of dehydration, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Additionally, keep in mind that antidiarrheal medications are not recommended for children under 2 years old and should not be given to older children unless advised by a doctor.

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