5 Foods to Fight Kids' Colds & Flu

You can help your child battle the toughest bugs with immunity-boosting foods and drinks. Here's what to feed a child with the flu or a cold.

Chicken Noodle Soup Bowl
Photo: Dane Tashima

What's worse than your child bringing home a nasty bug from school that will travel all through your family and leave everyone down for the count and your household in total disarray? Am I right?

There's no doubt that solid sleeping habits and a healthy diet are two cornerstones of an immune system that can defend against illness. But there also are certain foods and drinks that seem to help keep bugs at bay—or if kids are already sick, help them feel a little bit better, a little bit faster.

Here's what to feed a child with the flu or a cold—and all year round to try and prevent them from getting sick.


It's smart to give your kids some kind of probiotic on a regular basis, especially during cold and flu season. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help strengthen the immune system by populating the GI tract and crowding out the bad bugs that can cause illness. Food sources include yogurt and kefir (a cultured dairy drink), or ask your health care provider about a children's probiotic supplement.

Sweet Potatoes

These bright orange spuds are loaded with vitamin A, a key immune system nutrient that helps keep tissue in the mouth, intestines, and respiratory tract healthy. Just a half cup of cooked sweet potatoes has double the A that kids need every day.

What To Feed a Child With the Flu or Cold

Vitamin A is important for the immune system and a good idea to consume when you're sick. Along with sweet potatoes, carrots, red bell peppers, mango, and dried apricots are also packed with vitamin A.

Beef and Pork

Meat is naturally high in protein, a critical component of the immune system. Beef and pork especially are also some of the richest food sources of zinc, a mineral used by the body to make T-cells, which play a starring role in immunity. Other good sources of zinc are cashews, chickpeas, and kidney beans.

Chicken Soup

Your grandma was right: There's something about chicken soup (even the store-bought kind!) that makes you feel better when you're sick. Researchers actually think there may be multiple substances in chicken soup that have beneficial medicinal powers, like anti-inflammatory abilities that can help soothe a respiratory infection.

Warm Drink

Got a miserable, sniffly kid? In research, people with symptoms of colds and flu who sipped on a hot drink said it immediately eased their runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chills, and fatigue. Brew up some decaf tea with a drizzle of honey, which may help make a sore throat and cough feel better too.

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Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest Journal. 2000.

  2. The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu. Rhinology. 2008.

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