Ensuring that your toddler has enough fiber in his diet is important for a variety of reasons. It makes potty training easier by avoiding or easing constipation, it helps digestion and sets your child up for a healthy future by regulating cholesterol and possibly preventing diabetes and heart disease. You might hear "high fiber foods" and think heavy whole-grain concoctions that are literally hard to swallow -- healthy, sure, but hardly inspiring, especially to kids. But as it turns out, lots of kid-friendly foods are chock-full of fiber. Look to serve fresh and dried fruit, almonds, beans, sweet potatoes, and even fresh or frozen green peas.
1. Stewed Prunes
Stewed prunes have a bad reputation, but don't knock them until you've tried them. Cook prunes at a gentle simmer with a cinnamon stick, some thinly sliced orange or lemon and just enough water to cover until they are soft. Make sure your prunes are free of pits and cooked. You can always puree them if you like before serving as well. Serve with yogurt or oatmeal.
Speaking of oatmeal, it's another high-fiber food that's also chock full of vitamins and minerals. You can feed it to your child almost from the moment they're eating solid foods. Choose either rolled oats or steel-cut oats -- also known as Irish or Scottish oats -- and cook in water according to package directions. You can finish with a touch of milk as well as prune puree, fresh or frozen berries, diced dried fruit or a spoonful of jam.
3. Whole-Grain Pancakes
Introduce your child to whole-grain goodness with a batch of pancakes. The sweetness of this dish will help balance the flavors. For convenience you can either make a big batch of pancakes and freeze them for future use or create your own pancake mix. Combine whole-wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt with buttermilk, vegetable oil and egg and cook on the stovetop in a skillet greased with butter or oil. You can serve with fresh sliced peaches, fresh berries or simply maple syrup.
4. Apples and Almond Butter
Almonds are a surprisingly strong source of fiber, with a 1/2-cup serving containing about 5 grams of fiber. Apples, too, are high in fiber as long as you don't peel them. So when you want to serve your toddler a high-fiber yet palate-pleasing snack, simply spread a dab of almond butter on slices of apple for a double dose of this important nutrient.
5. Fruit Salad
Several varieties of fruit make for excellent fiber sources, including peaches, apricots, plums, pears, apples, oranges, bananas, blackberries and raspberries. Choose any or all of these, chop and combine into a simple fruit salad. You can add a little sweetener in the form of brown sugar or honey, or you can sauce it with a bit of yogurt, but you can also serve this plain. Leave the peels on pears and apples.
Kids love frothy, thick smoothies. Plus they're easy to prepare as a snack or quick breakfast and endlessly variable too. Use yogurt, milk or apple juice as your base and combine in a blender with ice and fresh fruit -- peaches, pears, apricots, raspberries, blackberries, oranges or bananas -- alone or in combination. Add a touch of sweetener to taste. You can also mix in a spoonful or two of wheat bran, wheat germ or raw oatmeal for an extra dose of fiber.