Constipation is one of the leading causes of concern for parents of young children. And it’s no wonder! There’s so much going on with eating, development, and toilet habits at this time. Children are learning to eat new foods, rejecting once reliable foods, becoming more independent with eating and drinking, and training to use the toilet independently.
When constipation sets in, a lot rides on getting through that phase as quickly as possible. Constipation, if not managed, can lead to more constipation and more complications. For families who deal with constipation, finding a solution that works is invaluable.
One of the gold standards for treating constipation is using diet modifications, such as increasing fluid intake and the fiber content of the diet. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many children do not meet the mark for daily fiber consumption; in fact, they fall significantly behind the goal.
The average American toddler or preschooler is consuming about 11 grams of fiber per day. Yet, the goal for fiber intake is:
Toddlers 1-3 years old: 19 grams
Preschoolers 4 years old: 25 grams
If you believe your toddler or preschooler is not getting enough fiber in his or her diet, or he or she is experiencing bouts of constipation, it’s time to bump up the fiber-containing foods.
Here are 22 foods that will help you get the job done.
|Food||Portion size||Fiber content (grams)|
|Beans (navy, pinto, black, kidney, white, great Northern, or lima), cooked||½ cup||6.2-9.6|
|100% bran ready-to-eat cereal||1/3 cup or 1 ounce||9.1|
|Split peas, lentils, chickpeas, or cowpeas, cooked||½ cup||5.6-8.1|
|Artichoke, cooked||½ cup hearts||7.2|
|Soybeans, cooked||½ cup||5.2|
|Rye wafer crackers||2 wafers||5.0|
|English muffin, whole wheat||1 muffin||4.4|
|Green peas, cooked||½ cup||3.5-4.4|
|Bulgur, cooked||½ cup||4.1|
|Mixed vegetables, cooked||½ cup||4.0|
|Sweet potato, baked with skin||1 medium||3.8|
|Prunes, stewed||½ cup||3.8|
|Shredded wheat cereal||½ cup||2.7-3.8|
|Figs, dried||¼ cup||3.7|
|Apple, with skin||1 small||3.6|
|Pumpkin, canned||½ cup||3.6|
|Greens (spinach, collards, turnip greens), cooked||½ cup||2.5-3.5|
|Oat bran muffin||1 small||3.0|
*Adapted from: Castle & Jacobsen: Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, Jossey-Bass 2013.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019
- Most young toddlers and preschoolers do not get enough fiber in their diet.
- Add more fiber-containing foods to the diet if your young child is constipated.
- When adding more fiber, bump up the fluids as well to encourage regular bowel movements.