These foods to help constipation are full of fiber, which helps keep kids regular (and healthy). Here’s how to serve them in meals and snacks.
I’m not a fan of potty talk (no fart jokes at the dinner table, please), but here’s where I make an exception: Talking to my kids about what goes on in the bathroom. I’m not standing outside the door waiting for a detailed account. But if they complain about bellyaches, I almost always ask whether they’re constipated.
In learning more about kids and constipation these last few years (thanks in large part to Dr. Steven Hodges), I’ve had lots of lightbulb moments.
Constipation is the number-one cause of belly pain among kids.Constipation is a hidden cause of bed-wetting and daytime accidents. (read: 12 Signs Your Child Is Constipated and check out the book It’s No Accident.)
Constipation can be triggered or worsened by too-early potty training and later, strict bathroom policies at school.
I’ve also come to learn more about the treatments for chronic and severe constipation, and I know that food isn’t always the solution. (read: Why a Healthy Diet May Not Be Enough To Cure Constipation In Kids)
But what your kids eats day to day can definitely play a role in how smoothly their systems run. And the average American diet of hyper-processed foods (and fast food) isn’t doing them any favors.
Fiber-rich foods to the rescue! Fiber is key because it makes stools soft and bulky, so they’re easier to pass through the body. Young kids need 19-25 grams per day and older kids 25-30–but most kids get closer to 13 grams a day. These ten foods are especially rich in fiber and can help keep kids regular and healthy. I’ve also provided some easy recipes that use them.
10 FOODS TO HELP CONSTIPATION
1. Raspberries: This berry has one of the highest amounts of fiber of all fruits, with eight grams per cup. When they’re not in season, find them frozen and add to oatmeal and smoothies.
2. Oats: Each cup of cooked oatmeal has four grams of fiber. Skip the pre-sweetened packets if you can and flavor it yourself with a teaspoon of honey and maple syrup–plus fresh or frozen fruit for even more fiber. And whether you buy a tub of old-fashioned or quick oats, they’re all whole grain.
3. Whole wheat pasta: Switching from white to whole wheat pasta can give your kids a fiber boost–from just 2-3 grams per serving for white pasta to 6-7 grams for whole wheat. Ideally, kids will get familiar with the stronger flavor and chewier texture from the start. But if your kids are stuck on white pasta, mix them half-and-half and brand it Zebra Pasta.
4. Potatoes: Thanks to French fries, potatoes are often cast as some kind of nutritional villain. But potatoes are actually rich in nutrients, including (surprise!) vitamin C. And one medium spud has about a quarter of the fiber a young child needs in a whole day. Keep the skin on, since some of the fiber lives there too. (And it goes without saying, but eat them boiled, baked, roasted, and mashed way more often than fried.)
5. Flaxseed: Buy ground flaxseed (you won’t get any benefits eating it whole) and sprinkle a few teaspoons into oatmeal and smoothies as an easy way to fit in more fiber. You can add it to baked goods, swapping out a quarter of the flour in recipes for quick bread and muffins (here’s how to use flaxseed in place of eggs in baking). Flaxseed also has the omega-3 fat ALA, which may help keep the heart healthy. Recipe: Whole Wheat Waffles
6. Pears: Slice these up for your kids as a sweet after-school snack, and keep the peel on for maximum fiber. Each medium pear has six grams of fiber–that’s about a quarter of what kids need in the day.
7. Refried beans: All beans will deliver fiber, plus protein and iron. Refried beans are an easy and kid-friendly way to serve them, spread on quesadillas or mixed into ground beef for burritos. A quarter cup has roughly three grams of fiber. Recipe: Baked Turkey Tacos or Freezer-Friendly Burritos
8. Popcorn: Kids love it, and it’s a surprising natural source of whole grains. Each cup has about a gram of fiber, and research has found that people who eat popcorn regularly eat 22 percent more fiber than those who don’t. Recipe: No-Fail Stovetop Popcorn.
9. Lentils: A one-half-cup serving of cooked green lentils has nine grams of fiber! Your kids will also get tons of protein, the same amount they’d get in two ounces of beef. Red lentils have less but are still a fine source (and I think they’re a good starter lentil for newbies because they tend to dissolve in recipe). Recipe: Turkish Red Lentil Soup or Lentil Cookies
10. Apples: Keep the skin on since both the skin and the flesh have fiber. There are four grams of fiber in a medium apple, plus lots of water to hydrate.
Just remember that if your child isn’t used to eating high-fiber foods, go slowly to avoid gas and bloating. And be sure your kids also stay hydrated with plenty of water.
SIGNS OF CONSTIPATION IN KIDS
Constipation is so common among children but can be missed by parents and pediatricians.
Here are some signs your child may be constipated:
Belly painInfrequent bowel movements (but your child can still be constipated even if she goes every day)
Hard, pellet-like stools
Skid marks on underwear or an itchy bum