4 Most Reliable Foods for Easing Constipation in Kids
This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids. Join us over on Instagram for more!
Cubby. Real solutions for unreal times.
Join us for a weekly dose of fresh, modern ideas for life at home with your kids.
We’ve all been there at least once: desperate to go, but unable to make it happen. For toddlers and young kiddos alike, constipation is all the more irksome — it can really, truly, define the word crappy experience (sorry.) What’s a frazzled parent to do?
First: I learned while reporting this story that, while encouraging lots of water drinking and fibrous foods certainly helps, there are, unfortunately, no quick fixes or easy answers to the dreaded C word. When I first began my deep dive into constipation research, I had hoped the pros would offer up instant solutions that picky eaters would actually enjoy. “Make these prune cookies that don’t taste like prunes!” “Try watermelon cut into cute shapes!” Etcetera, etcetera.
But what I found was that the reality is a lot more nuanced — and finding solutions that work is entirely dependent on your kiddo and their specific digestive system, which may be experiencing anything from a genetic predisposition towards constipation to too much dairy, or anything in between.
What the experts had to say
“The issue isn’t going to be solved by eating certain foods!” advised Suzanne Schlosberg, Bend, Oregon-based mother of twin 14-year-old boys and one of the experts, alongside Dr. Steve Hodges, M.D., behind BedwettingAndAccidents.com. “Our culture’s highly processed diet is definitely responsible for a lot of constipation, but 1.) there aren’t ‘unexpected foods’ that will undo the damage, and 2.) there’s also a significant genetic component to constipation.”
Schlosberg recommended parents avoid doing something it’s all-too-easy to get hooked on in America: processed foods. “What matters most is not particular foods but the child’s daily eating habits. Kids who live on [sugary yogurts] and chicken nuggets and burgers and fries are a lot likelier to get clogged up than kids who regularly eat lots of fruits, veggies, and beans. No doubt if more kids ate ‘real food’ as opposed to processed crap, there’d be a lot less constipation. It doesn’t really matter whether the child eats an apple or a pear or a peach — it’s all good.” For issues like chronic constipation, you’ll want to consult a doctor or two. “Plenty of children who love kale and broccoli nonetheless end up constipated because they are genetically predisposed and/or because they were potty trained too early and developed the holding habit,” Schlosberg says.
Expert-approved, constipation-easing ideas
While there are no easy edible fixes for constipation, Amy Palanjian, a Des Moines-area mother of three kids ages 2, 5, and 9 who runs the popular website Yummytoddlerfood.com, has found a handful of dishes and ingredients can help.
“Include some of these sorts of foods regularly too, rather than just waiting until there’s an issue,” she says. Here, a few ingredients Palanjian recommends trying:
“One of the things parents often miss when troubleshooting is fat — we need fat in the mix to help all that fiber move. Avocado is a great option. We like it in this Avocado Chocolate Pudding best.”
Other recipes to try:
“My kids love pears and a ripe one is packed with fiber and hydration. Canned pears or Pear Sauce can work too!”
Full fat coconut milk
- “Along with avocado, this is a great option since it’s loaded with fat. We like it best in our Coconut Chia Pudding.”
Another recipe to try:
A smoothie is a perfect vehicle for hydration, healthy fats, and fiber, which is a trifecta that can help kiddos stay regular. You can add avocado, hemp seeds, flax, or fish oil to any smoothie or try our Constipation Smoothie. If making a smoothie for a constipated kiddo, you could try using kefir at the base to add a dose of probiotics.”
Other recipes to try:
My personal advice: calling smoothies something fun, like Monster Mash, and drinking it as a family gets wee ones excited about trying something that’s grass-green. Sometimes I’ll even play the 1962 hit song by Bobby (Boris) Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers to dance to as we sip. Fun *and* functional!