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Pediatric Healthy Eating: When Your Child Becomes Constipated (196)

Pediatric Healthy Eating: When Your Child Becomes Constipated (196) - Clinical Hub, Patient Education, Health and Nutrition Facts For You, Nutrition


When Your Child Becomes Constipated
In this handout you'll find some ways to help your child return to a normal bowel
movement pattern. Constipation can be caused by a buildup of dry, hard stools or very
large size stools. This can happen when food moves too slowly through the body. As a
result, bowel movements are less frequent and hard to pass.
Some factors that add to constipation are:
ξ Not being physically active
ξ Not drinking enough fluids
ξ Diet low in fiber or "roughage"
ξ Irregular bowel habits
What is fiber?
Fiber is what remains after the plant food we eat has passed through the digestive tract.
There are two types of fiber:
ξ Soluble fiber dissolves in water and affects digestion and absorption of food.
Good sources of soluble fiber include: whole grain oats, oat bran, pectin in fruits
(ex. the inside of an apple), dried beans and peas, barley, and vegetables.
ξ Insoluble fiber or 'roughage’ promotes regularity. It absorbs water to soften and
add bulk to the stools. This promotes faster movement through the gut. Thus, it
helps relieve constipation. Good sources of insoluble fiber include: whole grain
breads and cereals, wheat and rice bran, dried peas and beans, vegetables (ex. the
skin of a baked potato) and nuts*.
Fiber and water work together to help prevent and relieve constipation. Liquids add fluid
to the colon and bulk to stools, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass. Help
your child to drink 6-8 cups of fluid per day as you increase the fiber in their diet.
*Peanuts, nuts, and popcorn should not be given to children under 2 years of age. Young
children may choke on these foods.
Tips to help your child return to a normal bowel pattern:
ξ Plan meals at set times. Allow plenty of time for the meal.
ξ Set aside a time of day for using the toilet when your child won't be rushed or feel
embarrassed to use the toilet.
ξ Give your child plenty of fluids. Six to eight cups each day is the goal. Water,
milk, fruit juices, yogurt, pudding, ice cream, gelatin, and popsicles are all fluids.

ξ Warm liquids often start the action of the bowel. Warm lemon water in the
morning or at night may be helpful.
ξ Provide choices of foods high in fiber such as raw fruits and vegetables, whole
grain breads and cereals, popcorn*, and bran. These can be served at meals or as
snacks. Raw vegetables or fruits may be grated into salads or gelatin.
ξ Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of bran or wheat germ into cooked cereals, casseroles,
cookie dough, pancake batter and other baked goods. Add nuts* and dried fruits
to baked goods or cereals.
ξ Prunes or pears and their juices may be used for their laxative effect.
ξ Light exercise will also help stimulate bowel activity.
Guidelines for Increasing Fiber Intake
ξ The amount of fiber your child should have each day is at least the child's age
plus 5 grams. For example, a 6 year old should take in 6 grams plus 5 grams for a
total of 11 grams of fiber per day.
ξ Gradually increase your child's dietary fiber to avoid bloating or gas. Increase
higher fiber- foods slowly over 3-4 weeks.
ξ Write down a couple days of intake and add up the amount of fiber to see how
much your child is eating. Read labels to find out the grams of fiber in foods.
High Fiber Fruits (Approximate fiber content)
Fruit Serving Grams
Pear with skin 1 medium 4.3
Strawberries 1 cup 3.9
Figs, dried 2 3.5
Orange 1 medium 3.1
Kiwi 1 2.6
Apple 1 medium 2.0-2.5
Avocado ½ 2.0
Blackberries 1/3 cup 2.0
Cantaloupe 1-1/2 cups 2.0
Fruit preserves 5 Tbsp. 2.0
Raisins, seedless ¼ cup 1.9
Banana 1 medium 1.8
Prunes, dried 3 1.8
Grapefruit ½ 1.6
Peach with skin 1 medium 1.4
Pineapple ½ cup 1.2
Grapes, seedless ½ cup 1.0
Watermelon 1 cup 0.6

Ideas for increasing fruits in your child's diet:
ξ Slice fruit into slices or coins and serve with nut butters, yogurt, or low-fat
pudding dips
ξ Spread with crunchy peanut butter
ξ Use quick fruit cup snacks in ready-to-use containers
ξ Add dried or fresh fruit to muffin mixes, pancake batter, cereal, salads, quick
breads, and cookies
ξ Make fruit kabobs on Popsicle sticks
ξ Make trail mix with dried fruit
ξ Leave peels on when possible
High Fiber Vegetables (Approximate fiber content)


Potato, baked w/skin 1 medium 3.6
Carrots ½ cup 3.4
Sweet potato w/skin 1 medium 3.4
Broccoli ½ cup 2.5
Spinach ½ cup 2.5
Carrots 1 medium 2.3
Green beans ½ cup 2.1
Spinach, as greens 1 cup 1.9
Popcorn 2 cups 1.8
Zucchini (raw) ½ cup 1.8
Cabbage, shredded 1 cup 1.7
Asparagus ½ cup 1.6
Tomato 1 medium 1.6
Mushrooms, sliced ½ cup 1.5
Cauliflower ½ cup 1.3
Lettuce, Romaine 1 cup 1.0
Celery 1 stalk 0.6
Cucumber, sliced ½ cup 0.5
Ways to increase vegetables in your child's diet:
ξ Grate vegetables and add to pancake batter, quick breads, cookies and muffin
ξ Add corn, peppers and tomatoes to tacos
ξ Serve vegetable sticks with low fat dip
ξ Add chopped vegetables to salads, soups, and sandwiches
ξ Spread with crunchy peanut butter or cream cheese
ξ Add to omelets or stir-fries
ξ Bake sweet potatoes like french fries and sprinkle with cinnamon

High Fiber Protein


Black-eyed peas, canned ½ cup 8.5
Black beans ½ cup 7.7
Kidney beans ½ cup 7.3
Baked beans, canned ½ cup 7.0
Refried beans ½ cup 6.0
Lentils ½ cup 3.7
Green peas ½ cup 3.6
Soybeans ½ cup 3.0
Peanuts*, dry roasted ¼ cup 2.9
Peanut butter, crunchy 4 Tbsp. 2.0
*Peanuts should not be given to children under 2 years of age unless ground
Ways to increase legumes to your child's diet:
ξ Try adding beans to rice or have a "Mexican night" using refried or pinto beans
ξ Try three bean salad or bean or lentil soup
ξ Try frozen burritos made with beans
ξ Make or buy bean dip or hummus for snacks like nachos and raw vegetables
ξ Sprinkle chopped soy nuts or peanuts on yogurt or sundaes
ξ Offer baked beans on a regular basis
Breads, Grains, Crackers, Chips
(Read labels closely as fiber content varies greatly from product to product)
Grains Serving Grams
Bagel, wheat
cinnamon raisin
1 whole
1 whole
1 whole
1 whole
Barley, cooked ½ cup 3.0
Bran muffin 1 1.2
Bread, whole wheat
1 slice
1 slice
Bulgur, whole wheat, uncooked 1 Tbsp. 2.0
Cereal bars
Fiber One™ bars
1 bar
Corn taco shells 2-3 2.0

Crackers, Triscuits®
Triscuits® Thin Crisps
Wheat Thins®
English muffin, whole wheat 1 whole 3.0
Rice, brown, cooked
wild, cooked
½ cup
¼ cup
Sun Chips® 10 2.0
Tortilla, soft flour
whole wheat
2 medium
1 medium
Waffles, Nutragrain 2 3.0
Wheat germ 2 Tbsp. 2.0
Ways to increase grains in your child’s diet:
ξ Spread whole wheat bread or rolls with fruit preserves with seeds
ξ Add seeds or crushed high fiber cereals to bread or pancake mixes
ξ Use some whole grain flour for part of white flour in baking
ξ Use 1 slice whole wheat and 1 slice white bread for a sandwich
ξ Use whole wheat bread for French toast and whole wheat pancake or waffle mix
ξ Mix brown and white rice; try wild rice in soup or as a side dish
ξ Add wheat germ to baked products. Sprinkle it on ice cream, yogurt, pudding or
Cereals Serving Grams
Fiber One® or All Bran® 1/3 cup 8.5
Bran, 100% ¼ cup 7.0
Frosted Mini Wheats® ¾ cup 5.0
Raisin Bran® ½ cup 4.0
Multibran Chex® ½ cup 3.5
Honey Nut Clusters® 1 cup 3.0
Grape Nuts® ¼ cup 2.5
Crunchy Corn Bran® ½ cup 2.2
Cream of Wheat®, multigrain
or fruit, instant
1 packet 2.0-3.0
Cheerios®, multigrain
2/3 cup
1 cup
Cracklin' Oat Bran® ½ cup 2.0
Grape Nut® Flakes ½ cup 2.0
Quaker® "Life" ¾ cup 2.0
Raisin Bran Crunch® ½ cup 2.0

Wheaties® 2/3 cup 2.0
Wheaties® and Raisins ½ cup 2.0
Shredded Wheat®
Honey Nut, bite size
Spoon Size
Wheat 'n' Bran

½ cup
½ cup
½ cup

Ways to increase cereal fiber in your child’s diet:
ξ Use Grape Nuts®, bran or crushed cereals to top yogurt, ice cream or canned fruit
ξ Mix high and low fiber cereals
ξ Make Krispie treats with part high fiber cereal; include wheat germ, peanut butter
or nuts
ξ Make homemade trail mix using high fiber cereals, nuts and dried fruit
ξ Add bran cereals, bran or wheat germ to cooked cereals
ξ Use high fiber cereals to make cookies or muffins
ξ Add oatmeal or bran cereal to meat loaf
ξ Have a small bowl of high fiber cereal
Oatmeal-Raisin Muffins
1 c. rolled oats
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ c. applesauce
2 tsp. salt
¼ c. oil
½ c. packed brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup raisins*
In a large bowl combine the oats and buttermilk, let stand for 30 min. Preheat oven to
350 degrees F. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
and set aside. After oats have soaked, stir oil, sugar and eggs into oat mixture and blend
well. Stir in flour mixture and raisins to moisten. Do not over mix. Divide batter among
12 greased muffin cups (about ¾ full). Bake 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in
center of muffin comes out clean. Makes 1 dozen muffins.
*can also use chopped apricots, craisins, or chopped nuts.


Low fat Blueberry-Bran Pancakes
1 c. Fiber One® or All Bran Cereal®
2 egg whites or 1 egg
1-1/4 c. skim milk
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 c. all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries or 1 can, drained
Crush cereal. Beat egg whites or egg in medium bowl. Stir in milk, oil, and cereal. Let
stand 5 minutes or until cereal is softened. Stir in remaining ingredients except
blueberries; beat with wire whisk until smooth. Gently stir in blueberries. Heat griddle
or skillet over medium heat or to 375 degrees F. Grease griddle if necessary. Pour about
¼ c. batter for each pancake. If batter is too thick, stir in additional milk, 1 Tbsp. at a
time. Cook pancakes until puffed and full of bubbles but before bubbles break. Turn and
cook other side until golden brown. Makes 10 (5 inch) pancakes.
Prune Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c. pureed prunes (see recipe)
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
2-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips
1 c. walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix pureed prunes, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well
blended. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in separate bowl. Stir in dry ingredients to
prune mixture with a heavy spoon (this makes a heavy dough). Add chocolate chips and
nuts. Spoon by tablespoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove
from pan immediately and cool on flat surface. Makes 4 dozen cookies.
1 cookie=100 calories and 1.5 grams of dietary fiber
Prune Fudge Brownies
½ c. baby food prunes or Lighter Bake fruit puree
½ to 1 c. sugar
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
½ c. cocoa powder
¾ c. whole wheat flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ c. walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix pureed prunes, eggs and vanilla. Stir in dry
ingredients. Pour into greased 8" X 8" x 2" pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Makes 12
1 brownie=120 calories and 2.6 grams of dietary fiber.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Crunchers
2 c. All Bran or Fiber One cereal
¾ c. packed brown sugar
½ c. peanut butter
¼ c. margarine, softened
1 egg or 2 egg whites
¾ c. all purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
6 ounces chocolate chips (or use dried fruit instead)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Crush cereal (place in plastic bag and crush with rolling pin or
blend in food processor). Mix brown sugar, peanut butter, margarine and egg in a large
bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoonful about 2 inches apart
onto greased cookie sheet. Flatten in crisscross pattern with fork dipped in sugar. Bake 6
to 7 minutes or until light brown around edges. Let stand about 1 minute before
removing from sheet. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Teach Back:
What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?

What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?

If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions please contact UW Health at one of the
phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition

Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s
Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.

Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at: (608) 287-2770

The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #438.

Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call
if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with
your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical
condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on
your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©
1/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Clinical
Nutrition Services Department and the Department of Nursing. HF#196