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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.

FoodPortion sizeFiber content (grams)
Beans (navy, pinto, black, kidney, white, great Northern, or lima), cooked½ cup6.2-9.6
100% bran ready-to-eat cereal1/3 cup or 1 ounce9.1
Split peas, lentils, chickpeas, or cowpeas, cooked½ cup5.6-8.1
Artichoke, cooked½ cup hearts7.2
Pear1 medium5.5
Soybeans, cooked½ cup5.2
Rye wafer crackers2 wafers5.0
English muffin, whole wheat1 muffin4.4
Green peas, cooked½ cup3.5-4.4
Bulgur, cooked½ cup4.1
Mixed vegetables, cooked½ cup4.0
Raspberries½ cup4.0
Sweet potato, baked with skin1 medium3.8
Prunes, stewed½ cup3.8
Shredded wheat cereal½ cup2.7-3.8
Figs, dried¼ cup3.7
Apple, with skin1 small3.6
Pumpkin, canned½ cup3.6
Almonds1 ounce3.5
Greens (spinach, collards, turnip greens), cooked½ cup2.5-3.5
Banana1 medium3.1
Oat bran muffin1 small3.0

*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

Takeaways

  • 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.

References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27
  2. Castle and Jacobsen. Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School. Jossey-Bass, 2013.

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