However, this diet is helpful for anyone who suffers from nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) was once an integral part of most pediatricians’ recommendations for children with an upset stomach. The idea was that it gave the intestines a chance to rest and reduce the amount of stool. Experts now say that the BRAT diet may not be the best option for sick children.
A short-term gastrointestinal (stomach or bowel disease) requires a change in diet to initiate the recovery process. The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apples, toast) is often recommended for patients with diarrhea or stomach flu. In addition to these foods, you can also consume other bland foods that facilitate the gastrointestinal tract, such as brine, oatmeal, or boiled potatoes. The bland diet is sometimes referred to as the BRAT or BRATT diet.
BRAT is an acronym that stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. If you’re on a bland diet, you can include these four foods in your meals, but there are plenty of other options to choose from. A report published in 2003 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the BRAT diet is extremely restrictive and provides a suboptimal diet. The BRAT diet is an old-fashioned recommendation for children and adults struggling with diarrhea, but it is extremely restrictive and lacks adequate nutrients.
But many of the foods included in the BRAT diet lack essential nutrients. So is it safe to use? And does that really make you feel better? The BRAT diet focuses on avoiding sugary, high-fat, spicy, or dairy-containing foods immediately following symptoms. In addition to bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, other foods recommended for the BRAT diet include soups made with clear broth (such as chicken or vegetables), apple juice, water, decaf tea, canned peaches and pears, sweet potatoes, crackers, wheat cream, eggs, and gelatin. Foods to avoid on the BRAT diet include dairy products, alcohol, fried foods, pork, salmon, sardines, raw vegetables, citrus fruits such as lemons and limes, tomatoes, extremely hot or cold drinks, coffee, and caffeinated drinks such as lemonade, as well as added sugar and sweets.
The theory behind the BRAT diet was to give the digestive system a break by consuming easy-to-digest, bland foods that also promoted the formation of solid stools. In the late 1990s, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) refrained from recommending the BRAT diet because it lacked nutrients, particularly fiber, fat, and protein. Family medicine specialist Sarah Beers, MD, explains what the BRAT diet is, whether it’s safe, and when it’s best to use it. As a temporary solution for a day or two, the BRAT diet may be useful, but should not be used as a daily type of diet, for weight loss, or as a solution for people with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), or diverticulitis.
In addition, the report notes that sticking to the BRAT diet for too long (more than a few days) can ultimately lead to malnutrition.