Constipation is an all-too-common problem among kids and a top source of belly pain. There are several culprits, including "withholding" (resisting the urge to go) and not getting enough physical activity. But diet plays a big role too. Unfortunately, the stereotypical American diet—high in processed food and fast food and woefully low in fruits and vegetables—makes matters worse.
If you're looking for a natural way to keep your child regular, fiber is your friend! That's because fiber makes stools softer and bulkier, so they're easier to pass. Be sure your child is also drinking plenty of water, which naturally softens stools too. If your child's diet is low in fiber now, remember to add these foods slowly (and in small portions at first)—since a lot of fiber at once can trigger gas and bloating.
It's recommended that kids get about 20 grams of fiber per day. If your child is eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it adds up fast—especially when you serve these 11 fiber-rich, kid-friendly foods with meals or snacks:
With eight grams of fiber per cup, this berry is one of the highest-fiber fruits. Whether they're fresh or frozen, you'll still get the benefits.
Skip fries in favor of baked, boiled, or steamed potatoes. One medium spud has nearly four grams of fiber (keep the skin on for a small fiber boost).
A quarter cup of shelled edamame has three grams of fiber, and kids love popping the nutty-tasting beans out of the pods and into their mouths.
A packet of plain, instant oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber. Top it with sliced fruit for an extra dose of fiber and a little honey or maple syrup for sweetness.
5. Whole-wheat pasta
There's a whopping six grams of fiber in a serving of whole wheat pasta. If your kids are used to white, mix half white and half whole wheat and call it "zebra pasta."
6. Refried beans
All beans are a good source of protein, fiber, and iron. Spread refried beans on quesadillas or stir them into your burrito filling. A quarter cup has about three grams of fiber.
Buy ground flaxseed (or grind it yourself) to get the health benefits of these tiny nutrition powerhouses. Flax boasts healthy fats and about three grams of fiber per tablespoon. You can add flaxseed to muffin and waffle batter and blend it into smoothies.
A quarter cup of mashed avocado has three grams of fiber, plus heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and some salt for an easy guacamole to serve with chips, or spread some on whole-grain toast.
Serve this crunchy kid favorite at snack time—it's actually a whole grain. Make it yourself on the stove (here's an easy recipe).
One medium pear (with the skin on) has five grams of fiber—that's a quarter of what kids need each day!
11. Pomegranate seeds
These sweet little seeds have three grams of fiber per half cup. Eat them out of hand or put them on yogurt or oatmeal.
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author ofThe Snacktivist's Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook Twitter Pinterest, and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.