Are they really sick, or are they trying to get out of chores/school/eating Sunday’s roast? This question pops up often during cold and flu season, even more when we have more than one child.  How do you both honor when your child is actually sick, and avoid giving in to little white lies?

Enter the Broth Sick Policy!

What is the Broth Sick Policy?

The broth sick policy is our household sickness policy. In our home if you are too sick to do your responsibilities, we want to ensure that you are getting the nutrition, fluids, and electrolytes your body needs to heal itself.

The rule is simple: If you opt out of doing something because you are sick, you must drink a mug of broth before you have your meal.

The broth sick policy continues for 1 meal after we’ve returned to being able to do our responsibilities, because good nutrition is important for newly-recovered bodies as well.

This is especially true if you are missing school because you are sick. I’m happy to keep you home so you can rest and recover, but because you’re feeling so run down, we need to provide a good source of nutrition.

Because I’m the mom, and I’m in charge, I decide how big the mug is based on how much I think the child is faking.  A truely sick child often gets our little bird mug half filled before they have a few bites of dinner.  A child I suspect is looking to opt out of a math test or seeing if they can watch TV all day rather than fold their laundry gets a bigger mug.

As with all my mealtime parenting, we don’t negotiate- whether it’s the size of the mug or anything else.  The children know what’s expected of them up front, and our broth really is delicious anyway, so I feel no guilt requiring this of them.

Why broth?

Broth is the number one super food in our home! When you boil meat and connective tissue and especially bone marrow into water, the amino acids from the meat become broken down and dissolved into the water for super easy digestion by the gut!

Add in a squeeze of lemon for both flavor and vitamin C, and a pinch of salt again for flavor and electrolytes, and you’ve got yourself the best sickness remedy ever!

Broth vs Stock

I use both terms interchangeably on this website. I know some people say that broth is long-simmered bones and stock is more of a short simmer with meat and connective tissue, but it seems that the definitions vary based on the source.

For my family, the broth that they respond best to is made with meaty bones (osso bucco for beef or wings/drumsticks with the skin for chicken) browned and then simmered for a few hours or pressure cooked in the Instant Pot for 90 minutes. I add salt to the whole pot, and a squeeze of lemon to each cup right before serving.

Homemade vs store-bought

When we make broth, we’re using real meat, and hopefully marrow too.  Don’t confuse homemade broth with the meat-flavored water that you can buy in cartons at the store. Homemade broth is rich in protein and fat, the store-bought (or worse yet, bouillon cubes!) is flavored of meat, but void of most of the nutrition.

If you want to have some store-bought on hand for traveling or when you’re in a pinch, I recommend Kettle & Fire. It’s homemade broth, in a carton.  Kettle and Fire has  flavored broths, and soups (watch for GAPS illegal ingredients if you’re on GAPS) that are delicious and nourishing as well!

Broth is super easy to make – if you can make pasta, you can make broth.  It’s also inexpensive! I make a gallon of broth weekly with about $2.00 of organic chicken wings or drumsticks.

Here are some recipes to get you started: 

What if my child won’t eat at all?

This depends if it is a medical issue or not. Of course I’m not advocating starving out your children or allow them to become dehydrated. But  I do question the validity of getting kids to eat ‘anything’ when they are sick rather than very little.

That said, I allow my children to skip meals and rest while they are sick.  And once they are up to eating again, they get broth before every meal until they feel better.

Yes, they do lose weight. In my experience, all children that are ill lose weight – and giving a few calories of popsicle or sugary treat really doesn’t change that but may very well prolong how long they are sick.

When I’m sick my appetite is much lower as well. This lowered appetite allows the body to have more energy for fighting off the illness, and always returns for my children following an illness.

Often parents are so afraid of their children not eating for the time they are sick that they push sugary popsicles, soda, and crackers on them – anything that they’ll eat. I’ve never done this, and I’m perfectly comfortable allowing my children’s naturally lowered appetite during true sickness to run its course.

Of course this is dependant on your child and your family situation, and won’t work for everyone.

Some foods I do serve my children when they are sick, after their broth:

What if my kiddo loves broth so much that they’ll claim to be sick?

Give them all the broth, no sickness policy needed!  Broth is so nutrient dense and inexpensive, that I would never withhold broth from a child. It’s full of proteins and healthy fats, and it’s easy to make and easy to serve.

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