Toddlers should eat a diet high in fiber to promote gastrointestinal health and avoid problems such as constipation -- a common issue at this age. Constipation can complicate potty training as well as cause general discomfort in your child. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends that your toddler get at least 19 grams of fiber a day.
Serve your toddler cooked beans. Beans are one of the foods richest in fiber, not to mention protein and vitamins. You can cook them whole and serve them as finger food, or mash them into a chunky puree or dip. Provide tortilla chips or whole-wheat crackers for dunking. Also consider serving pureed bean soup. A half-cup of beans has an average of 6 grams of fiber.
Offer cooked sweet potatoes to your little one, either in cubes, spears or slices, or in mashed form. Prepare by baking, roasting or steaming. Leave the peel on. One medium sweet potato contains almost 4 grams of fiber.
Serve peas. Toddlers are often fond of fresh or frozen green peas due to their sweet taste. They also make a fine finger food with which toddlers can practice their pincer grip and thus develop their fine motor skills. Green peas have about 4.4 grams of fiber per half-cup.
Stew some fruit. Dried fruit is a strong source of dietary fiber, but it's not suitable for feeding to toddlers straight. Because it's so sticky and chewy, it poses a choking hazard. You can address this by poaching or stewing dried fruit, which softens their texture and makes them easier to eat. You can puree stewed dried fruit for extra ease of serving. The amount of fiber in dried fruit depends on the fruit in question -- 1 tablespoon of raisins has 1 gram of fiber, 3 prunes have nearly 2 grams of fiber and 2 halves of dried apricot contain 1.7 grams of fiber.
Add flaxseeds. Flaxseeds are rich in fiber and they're easily added to a toddler's fresh fruit and yogurt smoothie. Or sprinkle them between the layers of a nut butter and jam sandwich. Ground flaxseed can also be stirred into oatmeal, baked into homemade granola or swirled into soup. A tablespoon of flaxseed contains 3 grams of fiber.
Choose whole grains. Whole-grain and multigrain cereal make great finger food for toddlers learning to feed themselves. Whole-grain crackers can help with teething. Serve whole-grain pancakes, waffles and English muffins for breakfast and make lunch sandwiches on whole-grain bread. Try serving whole-grain pasta plain, as finger food, in place of standard white-flour pasta as well. A cup of whole-wheat pasta contains 5.7 grams of fiber and a single whole-wheat English muffin comes with 3.7 grams. A cup of bran flake cereal contains 5 grams of fiber.
Feed your toddler raspberries. Raspberries are sweet, soft and easy to pick up with little fingers. Many toddlers will happily gorge on as many as you can offer. Raspberries are also quite high in fiber, offering 4 grams of fiber per half-cup.
Serve oatmeal. A half-cup of oatmeal contains 3 grams of fiber as well as a host of essential vitamins and minerals, plus some protein to boot. Many toddlers love its bland, slightly chewy texture, especially when served warm.
Eat more bananas. Mash or slice one and serve it to your toddler. You can freeze whole bananas as a frosty treat to serve in place of popsicles; you can also whiz frozen bananas in a blender to make a slushy dessert. Add banana slices to a nut butter sandwich in place of jelly. One medium banana comes with 3 grams of fiber.
Apples and pears have more fiber when served with the skin on. The same is true of potatoes.
Don't neglect opportunities to combine high-fiber foods for greater nutritional impact. You can spoon stewed fruit over oatmeal, for example, or serve whole-wheat pasta plus fresh peas as a main course.
With toddlers you must always be cautious of choking hazards. Cut food into pieces no larger than 1/2 inch and make sure the texture of the pieces is soft.