What is the BRAT diet? BRAT is an acronym for “Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast,” says Stacy Cavagnaro, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition. Some physicians recommend the BRAT eating regimen for people who are suffering from an upset stomach.
“These particular foods are selected due to their low-fat and low-fiber content,” Cavagnaro says. “Therefore, they are easy to digest and absorb.”
Because the foods on the BRAT diet are easily digestible, they’re less likely to contribute to stomach problems such as:
— Abdominal pain.
When and How to Follow the BRAT Diet
If you’re battling the stomach flu or dealing with diarrhea, you might find that eating the soft, bland foods that are part of the BRAT diet won’t upset your digestive system, says Lana Nasrallah, manager of clinical nutrition at UNC Health, a not-for-profit integrated health care system based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s owned by the state of North Carolina.
Health care providers typically recommend giving your stomach a rest for the first six hours after vomiting or diarrhea, drinking small amounts of water frequently to avoid dehydration and then later progressing to clear liquids like apple juice, flat soda and gelatin.
“The following day, you can begin to incorporate foods from the BRAT diet and other bland foods, like crackers and oatmeal,” Nasrallah says. “By day three, you can reintroduce soft foods, like soft-cooked eggs, white meat, chicken or fruit. Avoid using strong seasonings.”
After the third day, people can transition back to a normal diet as tolerated, Nasrallah said.
Foods You Can Eat on BRAT
Here are types of foods you can eat on the BRAT diet:
Vegetables. All veggies should be cooked until they are soft, to the point you can cut them with a fork.
Lower fiber options include:
— Cooked carrots.
— Green beans.
— Peeled zucchini.
Fruits. As with vegetables, all fruits should be able to be cut with a fork.
Good, low-fiber options include:
— Peeled and baked apples.
— Peeled peaches and pears.
— Mandarin oranges.
— Soft melons.
Starches. Many starchy carbohydrates are good choices under the BRAT eating regimen.
— Cream of wheat.
— Instant oatmeal.
— White bread, white pasta and white rice.
— Low-fiber cereals, such as rice cereal.
Proteins. Some proteins are fine to consume, if they are bland enough.
— Lean white meat chicken.
— Lean white meat turkey.
— Flaky fish.
— Low-lactose dairy foods, such as Greek yogurt and kefir.
Fats. While incorporating some fat is needed for a well-rounded diet, it’s best to limit your consumption of them, Cavagnaro says.
Among the macronutrients your body needs — carbs, fat and protein — fat is the most slowly digested. Greasy foods typically contain high levels of fat, which slow the stomach from emptying and can cause bloating, stomach pain and nausea.
These fats, in moderate amounts, can be part of a BRAT diet:
— Almond butter.
— Coconut milk.
— Olive oil.
— Sunflower seed butter.
Foods to Avoid on BRAT
In addition to consuming bland foods, there are certain types of foods — including some that are healthy — that you’ll want to avoid for a while. For example, it’s typically good to consume foods high in fiber, like certain fruits and veggies, but fiber can cause bloating and stomach pain. Consuming alcohol causes your stomach to produce more acid than it typically does. The additional acid can inflame the stomach lining and cause stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting.
Foods to avoid on the BRAT diet include:
— Alcohol, caffeinated beverages and soda.
— All raw vegetables.
— Potato peels.
— Citrus fruits, including pineapples, oranges and grapefruit.
— Dairy products.
— Greasy or spicy foods.
— High-fat foods, including red and processed meats.
— Whole nuts, whole seeds, corn and popcorn.
While the BRAT diet can be effective if you have an upset stomach, it’s important to keep in mind that many of the foods in the regimen lack essential nutrition, says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia. “The BRAT diet can work as a temporary eating solution, but wouldn’t be very good long-term because it doesn’t provide enough nutrients,” Jones says.
If you follow the BRAT diet, you may not get enough of the following nutrients:
— Vitamin B12.
It’s important to keep in mind that the BRAT diet may not remedy nausea, vomiting and diarrhea for some. “If you are vomiting or having diarrhea for more than a day or two and aren’t feeling any better, you should contact your health care provider for medical advice,” Nasrallah says.
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Update 04/01/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.