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3. Increase fibre intake

Fibre intake in children is often low, especially in fussy eaters. There are two types of fibre in our diet—soluble and insoluble.

  • Soluble fibre: Aids in increasing stool water content and volume
  • Insoluble fibre: Acts as a bulking agent in the stool by trapping water and acting like a sponge

“Both types of fibre help to soften and enlarge the stool, and reduce the time taken for food to move through the digestive tract from the stomach through the small intestine, big intestine and colon, before finally being passed out,” says Jasly Koo, Dietitian, from the Nutrition and Dietetics Department, and the Gastroenterology Service, both from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Fibre is mainly found in fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils and wholegrain food products.

The daily fibre requirement for children is calculated by their age in years + 5g. For example, a 6-year-old should have 11g (6 + 5) of fibre a day.

Also, do not give more than their age in years + 10g fibre a day, to prevent giving the child too much fibre.  This is especially so for young children, and children with poor appetites or who are underweight.

Tips to increase fibre content in your child’s diet include:

  • Offer a wide variety of vegetables with different colours rather than the usual greens. These vegetables, such as mushrooms, corn, red and yellow capsicums, tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, can easily be added onto pizzas and in sandwiches.

  • Add vegetables into one-dish meals such as fried rice, noodles or in pasta dishes (e.g. add shredded carrots and chopped button mushrooms into spaghetti sauce).

  • Chop vegetables up and add into meatballs or patties to add crunch to these foods!

  • Offer salad dressing as a dipping sauce for vegetables to increase acceptance of raw vegetables.

  • Serve fruits as a healthy dessert after meals.

  • Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals or add dried/ fresh fruits to breakfast items (e.g. pancakes with bananas, raisin bread) to help increase fibre intake.

  • Serve skewers of fruit chunks or cherry tomatoes as a snack for older children.

  • Blend fresh fruit with milk into a fruity milk shake

4. Monitor fluid consumption

  • Fluid needs are dependent on the age and weight of the child:

    For a young infant below 6 months of age: Additional water may not be necessary as the infant should be able to meet fluid needs through breast milk or formula (if breast milk is unavailable)

    After 6 months of age, when solids are introduced as developmentally-appropriate: Some fluids may be added to the diet. Up to 60 ml of diluted fruit juice (apple or prune) may be given to prevent constipation

  • Fluid intake does not refer solely to water but also includes milk, soup, other fluids (e.g. barley water or chrysanthemum tea) and juice.

    • For a toddler aged one to three years old: Fluid needs can be estimated as 90ml per kg of his/her body weight. For example, if the toddler weighs 14kg, then he or she needs approximately 1,260ml of fluid per day. This does not refer to solely water, but also includes milk, soup and all other fluids consumed (e.g. barley water, chrysanthemum tea, juice)

    • For children aged 4-6 years: Fluid needs can be estimated as 80ml per kg of body weight

  • FAQ about water and constipation
    Question: Is it alright for young children to drink cold water? Are there any benefits to drinking warm/lukewarm water?

    Answer: Drinking water is beneficial to health. It is a personal preference and there are no nutritional differences between cold and warm/lukewarm water.

See previous page for home remedies to relieve constipation in children.

Ref: N18