This is The Feeding Diaries, a new ongoing series detailing the feeding escapades in my house
There’s something you need to know about dietitians.
We are kind of obsessed with bowel movements. We don’t get grossed out, say, discussing their texture over a meal. I remember during my internship having an instructor drilling us about “how are his bowel movements?” “Formed, liquid or hard?” We have been trained to see what comes out of the body as a sign of how well the body is working. Period.
This means that you have something in common with dietitians because I believe once someone becomes a parent, they too, become more tuned in to bodily functions. Like it or not!
That brings me to one ongoing challenge in my house — keeping Little D’s, who is now 4, bowels moving.
Bowel movements through the years
When both my kids started on solids they went through transient constipation. It freaked me out with Big A but with Little D I expected it and both were short-lived and not a big deal. A key difference between both my kids at age 4, though, is that Big A has always eaten a wide variety of fruit but Little D doesn’t. He eats some fruits and veggies but they are clearly not his preferred foods.
In fact, this boy doesn’t like super sweet foods and drinks. That means no juice, sweet fruits like strawberries or oranges and no sweet candy. But he does love rich desserts that contain chocolate and peanut butter and he absolutely loves cookies and ice cream. He is his father’s son.
What typically happens when he skips over fruits and veggies is he starts to have pebbly poos. This is very dissatisfying to watch as a dietitian and a parent. In fact, it breaks my heart to know that he sits on the toilet for a good amount of time only to see small pieces there.
Fiber, fluid and movement
While hard stools can be the result other factors like stress and holding it, there are generally three food and activity behaviors that can affect it. Fiber, undigested through the GI tract, helps keep food moving. Without enough fluid intake, too much water ends up being reabsorbed in the large intestine causing the stools to harden. And regular activity helps keeps things moving too.
Little D drinks a ton of water and is one active boy so the culprit is fiber. He doesn’t have chronic constipation, which would be hard stools for more than 2 weeks. It’s just, I know he can do better.
The last thing I want to do is nag my boy to eat fruits and vegetables (although I have planted the seed about the connection). So it’s all about presenting them in a variety of ways.
You may have heard that there are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Soluble dissolves in water and adds bulk to stool (keeping them soft). Insoluble doesn’t dissolve in water and has more of that laxative effect. Sources of soluble include oats, oat bran, lentils, apple and oranges. Insoluble includes whole grains, wheat bran, nuts, carrots, dark greens, grapes and raisins. Most fiber-rich foods contain a combination of both fibers. For more, see this WebMD post.
Little D actually gets some good sources of fiber. He eats whole grains, beans and nuts. One of the first things I did was add some high fiber twigs (wheat bran) to his cereal that he eats about three times a week.
Another is to only offer fruit at certain snack times. He loves apples with peanut butter so that may be his snack in the afternoon if it’s been a low fruit day. He also loves my homemade trail mix and is a big raisin fan. I also add fruits and veggies to muffins with some added flaxseed meal. I offer raw veggies before dinner sometimes, which is a time my kids seem to go crazy begging for more!
But my secret weapon, when all else fails, is a smoothie. I add peanut butter, greens, flaxseed meal, frozen blueberries and pear with milk and ice. He loves these smoothies.
After all my work, I admittedly prefer to see the outcome. But the day after my biggest project yet, I was busy doing something so my husband helped my son in the bathroom. I was heading back there, when I heard the dreaded flush.
I look at my husband and said, “I wanted to see…”
And he replied, “The log of your labor?”
I said yes and laughed. My husband promised me it was a good one. Since then, I’ve become more relaxed, as I don’t want to give my son a complex.
How about you? Any challenges in this area? Don’t worry, you won’t gross me out.