It wasn’t all that long ago that I was sitting at a restaurant with friends when one began complaining about her toddler’s recent bout of constipation.
Like clockwork, the other women around the table chimed in with tips they’d happened upon when dealing with constipation in their own households.
“Try half prune juice and half water,” one suggested. “Give him some figs — Costco has them on sale,” another added.
Me? I sat there mostly silent. Not because the conversation itself bothered me (as the mother of a toddler myself, I know how often the topic of poop can come up), but mostly because my little one has never really had a problem staying regular.
I know how lucky I am.
I think part of the reason my girl has always had a healthy digestive system is because she has also always been a very good eater. She eats just about everything I put in front of her, which means she gets plenty of fiber.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy for all parents. Some kids are simply picky eaters, and some families don’t necessarily realize the link between fiber and digestion.
In fact, a paper published in Advances in Nutrition calls for increasing education into the benefits of fiber for children. That’s specifically because those guidelines may not be as well-known as they should be.
There are a lot of reasons to encourage fiber in your child’s diet, and to make sure you are getting enough as well! For starters, fiber is filling and it may help to prevent diabetes.
Of course, the most obvious benefits of fiber have to do with digestion. When paired with good hydration, fiber keeps your digestive tract moving along as it should. This prevents, and can even treat, constipation so you don’t find yourself up in the middle of the night with a toddler who is in pain and can’t poop.
How Much Fiber?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, children between the ages of 1 and 18 should be getting between 14 and 31 grams of fiber a day.
But what does that mean, exactly? And how do you know what foods will provide the fiber they need?
High-Fiber Foods They’ll Actually Eat
The best sources of fiber are usually whole food items. That can make it difficult to calculate just how much fiber your child is getting. The good news is that many of these sources are tasty. You don’t have to force vegetables or gritty grains on your child in order to get them the fiber they need!
These 10 food items are great sources of fiber and just so happen to be foods most kids will happily eat. And don’t worry, we’re going to give you an approximate fiber count so that you can begin planning out those daily meals!
- Oatmeal: Start your child’s morning off right with a bowl of oatmeal. This yummy stuff includes about 4 grams of fiber per cup (cooked). You can make it a kid favorite by adding things like cinnamon, maple syrup, and raisins.
- Apples: Every kid loves the crunch of an apple. With 3.6 grams of fiber in a small one, an apple a day really may be the way to go! Add peanut butter for another 1.6 grams and a treat your kids won’t be able to resist.
- Popcorn: Family movie night? Three cups of popped popcorn pack away 2 grams of fiber.
- Carrots: Sure, carrots are a vegetable and plenty of kids scoff at vegetables. But bake some mini carrots with cinnamon, and you have a tasty treat with 2.9 grams of fiber in every 1/2 cup.
- Bananas: With 3.1 grams of fiber in a medium banana, this is a great afternoon snack.
- Whole-grain bread: Whole-wheat and whole-grain bread have an average of 2 grams of fiber per slice, but you can easily find ones with 3 or more grams of fiber. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for weekend lunchtimes and your kids will be ecstatic!
- Berries: Raspberries offer up a whopping 4 grams of fiber for every 1/2 cup. Blueberries and strawberries top out with less, at 1.8 grams and 1.5 grams respectively for the same amount.
- Whole-grain pasta: What about some homemade macaroni for dinner tonight? Whole-grain pasta has 2 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup.
- Pears: Want a treat that really packs the fiber punch? A medium-sized pear (with the skin) provides 5.5 grams of fiber!
- Sweet potatoes: With 3.8 grams of fiber in a medium sweet potato, this tasty vegetable is not just for Thanksgiving!
Recipes You Can’t Lose With
It’s great to know that you can just hand your kids a pear and send them off on their fiber-loving way. But there are also plenty of great recipes that will keep everyone in your family getting the fiber they need.
Check these out, for starters, and consider inviting your kids to do the cooking with you!
- high-protein, high-fiber blueberry muffins
- cheesy bean toast
- homemade breakfast cookies
- quinoa chicken nuggets
- high-fiber and protein energy bites
- oatmeal muffins
- sweet potato and black bean chili
- banana chia breakfast cookies
- crispy crunchy roasted chickpeas
- carrot oat bars
Can You Have Too Much Fiber?
The truth is, yes, you can have too much fiber. So loading your kids up on Metamucil just because you want to make sure they get the fiber they need might backfire in the way of tummy aches and diarrhea.
But a study out of the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that a moderate increase in dietary fiber would do most kids more good than bad. So skip the dietary fiber supplements (unless you’ve been advised by your child’s doctor to use them). Instead, work on infusing your daily menu plan with all the delicious foods that already have so much fiber to offer.
The next time you’re out to dinner with your other parent friends and the subject of toddler constipation comes up, you’ll have plenty of tasty fiber ideas to share!