Flavor-boosting tip: Serve it with hot
pepper sauce and stir in chopped fresh cilantro and thinly sliced
scallions at the table.
Christine Palumbo, a
mother of three, is a registered dietitian in Naperville and
an adjunct faculty member at Benedictine University.
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The woman's voice over the phone was urgent. "My
4-year-old grandson tends to get constipated. What can I do to
Constipation afflicts up to 30 percent of children. It
tends to run in families, leading some researchers to look at
genetics or simply a poor diet in common. In addition, picky eaters
who thumb their noses at fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole
grains may become constipated.
It's not uncommon for those who eat few high-fiber foods
to also be excessive milk drinkers. Little ones who fill up and
obtain a majority of their calories from milk may eat very little
actual food, leading to the problem.
Constipation may also result from undiagnosed celiac
disease, according to Chicago pediatric feeding specialist Lara
Field, MS, RD, who blogs at feedkids.com. "Celiac disease,
sometimes labeled gluten intolerance, has about 300 associated
symptoms, one being constipation." Field says it's vital for proper
testing purposes to determine if this diagnosis can be made prior
to initiating a gluten-free diet.
There are three periods in a child's life to look out for,
according to Field, mom to a toddler and an infant.
Whether or not constipation is a problem, children should
consume at least three to five servings of fruits and vegetables
every day-and as many whole grain foods as possible.
Serve whole fruit rather than juice. Fruit can be fresh,
frozen or canned. Fruits especially high in fiber are raspberries,
blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. Buy frozen-they are
easy to keep on hand for smoothies, stirred into yogurt, as
toppings for hot cereal or on top of pancakes or waffles. Pears are
also fiber rich.
Abandon refined starches, such as goldfish, pretzels and
crackers that are made primarily from white or "wheat" flour, Field
recommends. Look for whole grain choices instead. She says children
can be taught to enjoy whole grains. Choose brown rice (there are
several brands you can cook in 90 seconds), whole grain pasta and
whole grain cereals.
Beans are great finger foods for tots and are wonderful
choices to toss into pasta and soup.
Serve veggies and dip, such as hummus, as a snack or part
of a meal.
If your child does become "stuck," here are a few
Serve two ounces of fruit nectars, such as pear or
apricot, or prune juice two to three times per day.
Offer your child a probiotic-rich yogurt, such as
Limit cheese as it can be constipating for
As to the worried grandmother? I reassured her that her
grandson's problem was not uncommon and suggested she seek out a
registered dietitian to review his diet.
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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