More Fiber for Your Children?
Yes! Here’s Why and How.
Fiber is an important nutrient that most children (and parents) are not getting enough of each day.
As parents, you do your best to feed your family healthy foods, but you may need help with choosing good sources of fiber.
Read on for more information about fiber.
- How much fiber do children need?
- Why is fiber important?
- What are some ways to give meals a fiber boost?
- How do you read Nutrition Facts?
How much fiber do children need?
There are different fiber recommendations for children based on energy needs, age, or weight.
A simple way to make sure your children are getting enough fiber is by making healthful food choices. If your children are eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day along with other foods that are good sources of fiber, there is really no need to count fiber grams.
If you find it helpful to keep track of numbers, add 5 to your children’s age. For example, a 5-year-old would need about 10 grams of fiber each day. Note: The total daily recommended amount of up to 25 grams for adults can be used as a general guideline for children.
Why is fiber important?
Fiber helps make us full and keeps things moving in the digestive tract. A diet that includes good sources of fiber may help prevent constipation. These foods also are good sources of nutrients and vitamins that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, and obesity.
Good sources of fiber include vegetables, fruit, beans, peas, nuts, and fiber-rich whole-grain breads and cereals.
Did you know?
Constipation is a common childhood concern.
One symptom of constipation is abdominal pain (stomachaches, cramping, nausea). Constipation happens when stools (poop) become hard, large and sometimes painful to pass.
Bowel patterns vary from child to child just as they do in adults. What’s normal for your child may be different from what’s normal for another child.
If you have any concerns about constipation, talk with your child’s doctor.
What are some ways to give meals a fiber boost?
There are simple ways to add fiber to your family’s diet. But getting your children to eat what is served may not be as easy. Keep in mind that it may take many tastes before children will like a new food. And even if they never learn to like broccoli, there are many other choices.
Breakfast for starters
It’s important to start each day with a healthy breakfast. Breakfast gives children energy to carry through an active morning. Studies have shown that children who don’t eat breakfast have trouble staying alert and concentrating during the first hours at school.
- Choose whole-grain cereals and other whole-grain foods that have at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 10 to 12 grams of sugar per serving.
- Add fruit to a bowl of fiber-rich whole-grain cereal.
- Add vegetables to a breakfast wrap made with a whole wheat tortilla.
Top it off with fruit or nuts
- Top salads with fresh fruit, nuts or dried fruit.
- Top plain yogurt with nuts or fresh fruit. Fiber-rich cerreal also goes well with yogurt.
- Top low-fat frozen yogurt or ice cream with nuts or fresh fruit.
- Toss together a handful of raisins, fiber-rich whole-grain cereal, and nuts for an on-the-go snack.
Make it whole grain
- Switch to foods made with whole grains. Or try to make half your grains whole grains.
Bring on the beans
Beans and peas are part of 2 food groups. They can be counted as a vegetable or protein. As a vegetable, they are sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium. As a plant protein, they are sources of zinc and iron.
Beans and peas can be a main or side dish and added to soups or salads. They are low cost and add lots of nutrition, texture and taste!
Eat your veggies
- Keep precut raw veggies like carrots, celery and broccoli on hand for snack. A little salad dressing on the side might make the veggies more appealing.
- Add vegetables to pizza, salads, soups and sauces.
How do you read Nutrition Facts?
Nutrition Facts can tell you all about the nutrients and ingredients in a food. Nutrition Facts can help you choose foods that provide the nutrition that's right for you, including fiber.
Dietary Fiber is a nutrient listed under "Total Carbohydrate" on the Nutrition Facts label.
- Excellent sources of fiber have 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.
- Good sources of fiber have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
(If a food company makes a claim about the fiber of food, the grams of fiber must be listed under "Total Carbohydrate." "Whole grain" on a food label means that some whole grain is included. Remember to select foods with whole grains that are also good sources of fiber.)
Look at the list of ingredients if you want to know if a food is made with whole grains.
- Not all foods labeled as "whole grain" are a good source of fiber. Grains vary widely in fiber content. For example, whole-grain wheat has more fiber than whole-grain brown rice or whole-grain oats.
- The amount of fiber in a whole-grain food can vary by brand.
- Whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole oats, whole rye, and wild rice.
For more information
If you want to know how much fiber is in a food that does not have a Nutrition Facts label, you can look it up on Nutrition.gov at www.nutrition.gov/whats-food.
This information is from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Healthychildren.org.