During our adult years, most of us have learned the benefits of eating a diet rich in fiber. When it comes to our children and growing up, most children are not focusing on eating high fiber foods and are not getting enough of this essential nutrient. And unlike your adult friends who want to opt for a salad at Sweetgreen, Modern Market, or Snap Kitchen, kiddos are unlikely to go for the greens and whole grains during mealtime. So what’s a parent to do? Let’s take a look at what fiber is, the benefits, and ways we can sneak fiber into your kid’s diet.
What is fiber and why is it important?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not digested in the body by digestive enzymes. It passes through your digestive system as roughage.
There are two types of dietary fiber:
Soluble Fiber dissolves in water and is found in mainly fruits and vegetables. It forms a gel-like substance and helps to soften your stool in the body. Soluble fiber is what helps lower blood glucose levels and lowers cholesterol.
Insoluble Fiber does not dissolve in water and is found in whole grains and cereals. This type of fiber helps food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation.
A diet high in both types of fiber provides many health benefits, including:
- Helps prevent or relieve constipation
- Increase feelings of fullness
- Provides rich nutrients and vitamins
- Lowers cholesterol
- Helps prevent heart disease and diabetes
Good sources of fiber come from many different fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, blueberries, pears, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potato, and squash. Fiber is also found in legumes, beans, and certain cereals like garbanzo beans, lentils, buckwheat, brown rice, and barley. If you are working towards eating a healthy, whole foods-based diet, you will naturally find these foods are higher in fiber compared to more processed foods.
How much fiber does your child need?
For children, dietary fiber needs are based on age. A way to estimate how much fiber your child needs is to take their age and add 5 to 10 to it. For example,
- A 5-year-old should get about 10-15 grams of fiber every day
- A 10-year old should get about 15-20 grams of fiber every day
- A 15-year-old should get about 20-25 grams of fiber every day
Once you are an adult, your total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day from food.
Making Fiber a part of your Family’s Diet
When you are first starting to increase the amount of fiber in your child’s diet, start off slowly and gradually increase the amount over the course of a few weeks. If you add fiber too quickly to someone’s diet, you may cause gas, bloating, and cramps. During this time, it’s also important that they drink plenty of water, which will also help the fiber move through the intestines.
Another great way to help kids eat more fibrous foods is to include these types of foods at family mealtimes. Opting for brown rice or whole-grain pasta during dinner time or having different fruit and vegetable options for kids to snack on throughout the day are great ways to start incorporating these into their everyday life.
Fiber RichMeal and Snack Ideas
- Top yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal with fruits and nuts
- Add beans to soups and salads during meal times
- Offer different snacks options like air-popped popcorn, fruits, and vegetables as a healthy snack
For something quick and high in fiber that your child is sure to love, consider trying our banana pancakes or our best-selling chicken tenders with turnip mash. Do you have any tips and tricks to get your child to eat their fiber? Let us know in the comments!