The Facts About Fiber for Kids
Benefits of Fiber
You've probably heard a lot about the health benefits that come with a diet high in whole grains and fiber. But did you know that most kids today aren't getting the fiber they need? According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fiber is one of four nutrients of concern in the American diet. That's why it's so important that you provide a balanced diet rich in nutrients — including fiber. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) recommends that children age 2 and up adopt a healthy eating style similar to adults.1 In other words, be sure to offer your kids a variety of foods from each food group at every meal, including a variety of fiber-containing foods like whole grains, fruits, veggies, and legumes (dry beans and peas).
Why Is Fiber Important for Kids?
Fiber plays an important role in supporting a healthy digestive system, and it helps keep the body's system clean and running smoothly. Foods that are high in fiber also have the added benefit of being filling, which can help discourage overeating. Plus, when combined with ample fluid intake, fiber helps move food through the digestive system and might reduce the risk of certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and digestive disorders.
Good Sources of Fiber for Kids
A high-fiber food has 5 grams or more of fiber per serving, and a good source of fiber is one that provides 3 grams per serving.
Some of the best sources of fiber include:
- Grains: Whole-grain breads and cereals, oat bran, brown rice, and barley
- Fruits: Apples, oranges, bananas, berries, prunes, and pears
- Vegetables: Green peas, artichokes, baked potatoes with skin, and legumes (e.g., dried beans, split peas, and lentils)
How to Get Kids to Eat Fiber
According to the National Fiber Council, most kids get half or less of the recommended daily amount of fiber. If you're already adding whole grains, fruits, and veggies to your kids' diets, you’re on the right track — but you’ve also probably run into some challenges. Here are some ways you can incorporate more fiber into their diets.
10 Tips for Adding Fiber to Kids' Diets
- Choose whole-grain breads, bagels, and tortillas as opposed to the white variety.
- Pick cereals that list whole wheat or oats at the top of the ingredients list and contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
- Offer whole-grain waffles or pancakes — they're higher in fiber. You can buy them frozen or make your own using a whole-grain or buckwheat mix.
- Go for fiber-filled brown or wild rice instead of white rice. You can add some extra fiber by mixing in veggies or beans.
- For a fiber-rich dinner, serve whole-wheat or quinoa pasta, and then toss some veggies into the sauce.
- Always choose fresh fruit over canned fruit, as the canned kind has less fiber and might contain added sugar.
- Top ice cream, frozen yogurt, or regular yogurt with whole-grain cereal, berries, or almonds for some extra nutrition.
- When serving fruits like apples or pears, remember to leave the skin on because that's where the fiber is.
- Choose oven-baked potato wedges with the skins over regular French fries. This picky eater recipe for Spicy Sweet Potato Fries is great as a side dish.