Why Fiber for Toddlers is so Important

Toddler hands eating bowl of fiber-rich cereal with bananas

If you have little ones, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about their poop! While fiber for toddlers is so important for easing their constipation, you might be surprised to know that fiber plays a huge role in their overall health and development.

Why fiber for toddlers matters

As a mom of two who seriously struggled with potty training, I can tell you firsthand that there is nothing worse than dealing with a constipated toddler. I’ve spent countless hours researching and talking to my pediatrician about how to ease constipation and keep things moving down there. Increasing fiber intake is always the first recommendation. And from experience, I can tell you, it works!


How much fiber do toddlers need?

According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, toddlers need around 14-19 grams of fiber daily, depending on their age. 

We asked family health dietitian Cheryl Anderson about why fiber for toddlers is so important. She explains that fiber is such an important nutrient for overall health, but many of us aren’t getting enough each day. 

To be sure that your toddler is getting enough, Anderson recommends that you include lots of fruits, veggies, and plant-based proteins in their snacks and meals. More specifically, fiber can be found in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. 

There are two types of fiber, insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. 

Insoluble fiber, also known as roughage, helps add bulk to stool, making it move more easily through the digestive tract. You can find insoluble fiber in fruits and vegetables (especially the skins), nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance when eaten which plays an important role in blood sugar regulation and maintaining a healthy gut. It can be found in oats, barley, beans, peas, and citrus fruits, to name a few.

Fiber-rich bowl of yogurt with chia seeds, berries, bananas and granola

The benefits of fiber for toddlers

Just like with adults, there are so many ways that fiber can be beneficial for your toddler’s health and development.

Constipation prevention and relief

Fiber helps to hold onto water and add bulk to stool, increasing the weight and softness to allow stool to move easily through the colon. This makes for stools that are less dry and easier for toddlers to pass, maintaining bowel health and reducing constipation. This can be of particular importance during potty training, as stool that is painful to pass can lead to withholding bowel movements and potty accidents.

Good for the gut!

It is scientifically well established that eating fiber is important for our gut health. This is because fiber ferments in our colon to feed the beneficial bacteria that lives there. Having diverse and thriving bacteria in your child’s gut is crucial for a healthy digestive system and immune system. 


Keeps them fuller for longer

Fiber-rich foods slow down the digestion process and the uptake of sugars into the blood. This helps to keep kids feeling fuller for longer stretches of time. 
Anderson explains that when we eat low fiber meals and snacks, such as refined grains or food high in added sugars, we tend to be hungry soon afterwards. This can result in our kids eating more calories than their body needs. The bottom line is that when you offer higher fiber foods at meals and snacks, it may help keep your little ones from begging for snacks constantly, which is a win in our books: full toddlers = happier toddlers!

Regulates blood sugar

Eating higher fiber foods helps to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates. “Carbohydrates break down in our digestive tract into sugar molecules which enter the bloodstream to be used by cells,” says Anderson. When the digestion of carbohydrates happens too quickly, too much sugar can enter the blood causing a blood sugar spike. Most parents have likely experienced the high, and resulting low, after their kid had too much candy or cake at a birthday party!

High fiber foods can help slow down this process, allowing the sugar to enter the blood at a slower pace, preventing those dreaded sugar spikes and crashes.


Lowers cholesterol

You may be wondering, isn’t worrying about cholesterol for older adults? Not necessarily, high levels of bad cholesterol is not good for anyone’s health, young or old. Anderson suggests that all family members should eat a diet that contains plenty of fiber because it can help lower LDL (aka bad cholesterol) levels. LDL cholesterol is the type that can lead to plaque buildup on artery walls, eventually leading to blockages and other heart health complications later in their lives.

Granola filled with fiber in oars, nuts and berries


Tips when increasing your toddlers fiber intake

Anderson recommends that parents increase their child’s fiber intake slowly, as too much too quickly can cause uncomfortable tummy symptoms like gas, bloating, and cramping. Introduce a new serving of a higher fiber food every 3-5 days, so your child’s body can get used to the increase. As higher fiber foods are introduced, be sure that your child is drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day to avoid constipation caused by dehydration.