Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Constipation in Children

What should my child eat and drink if he or she is constipated?

Have your child eat enough fiber. Have him or her drink plenty of liquids to help the fiber work better.

Fiber

Depending on your child’s age and sex, he or she should get 14 to 30.8 grams of fiber a day.2 Fiber guidelines are not available for infants less than 1 year old. Your child’s doctor can tell you what kinds of foods your infant should eat and whether you can try making changes to his or her formula or breast milk.

Talk with your child’s doctor to plan meals with the right amount of fiber for your family. Be sure to add fiber to your family’s diet a little at a time so everyone gets used to the change.

Good sources of fiber are

  • whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, and bran flake cereals
  • legumes, such as lentils, black beans, kidney beans, soybeans, and chickpeas
  • fruits, such as berries, apples with the skin on, oranges, and pears
  • vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, green peas, and collard greens
  • nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and pecans

Plenty of water

If your child is dehydrated, have your child drink plenty of water and other liquids, such as naturally sweetened fruit and vegetable juices and clear soups, to help the fiber work better.

Drinking enough water and other liquids also helps avoid dehydration. Staying hydrated is good for a family’s overall health and can help avoid constipation. Ask your child’s doctor how much liquid your child should drink each day based on his or her size, health, activity level, and the climate where your family lives.

Two children eating breakfast with their mother in the background.
Have your child eat enough fiber and drink plenty of water and other liquids.

What should my child avoid eating or drinking if he or she is constipated?

To help prevent or relieve constipation, your child should avoid foods with little to no fiber, such as

  • chips
  • fast food
  • meat
  • prepared foods, such as some frozen meals and snack foods
  • processed foods, such as hot dogs or some microwavable dinners

References

May 2018
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.