Do you know if your child is getting enough fiber? It is one of the nutrients, along with vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, that many American children fall short on. Babies do not need a lot of fiber because it interferes with nutrient absorption by speeding up the transit of food in the digestive tract. But after the age of one, you can safely add fiber-rich foods to your child’s diet to prevent constipation and aid digestion by providing food for the beneficial bacteria that support the health of digestive system.
Fiber also helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and increase the satiety factor of meals so your little ones will be less likely to beg for snacks all day long!
But do not be misguided by nutritional labels on popular processed snacks like many granola bars. These are more likely to contain artificially extracted chicory root fiber, inulin, and have none of the beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
How much fiber your child needs?
|6-12 months||No amount specified for children this young|
|1-3 years||19 grams/day|
|4-8 years||25 grams/day|
Some good sources of fiber
- Oatmeal (½ cup cooked, 2 grams)
- Berries (½ cup, 4 grams)
- Whole grain cookies or crackers (at least 3 grams per serving)
- Sweet potatoes with peel (½ of medium, 3.8 grams)
- Sliced apple (1 small, 3.6 grams)
- Almonds/Almond Butter (1 tablespoon, 1 gram)
- Whole Grain Bread (1 slice, 4.4 grams)
- Legumes (½ cup cooked, 6.2-9.6 grams)
Helping kids adjust
Adding a lot of fiber at once may result in digestive discomfort and even constipation, especially if the child does not drink enough water. To make the transition smoother, add only one fiber-rich food a day and make sure there is always water on the table at each meal and snack. To help kids get used to the new texture, you can mix half white and half brown rice, whole wheat and white pasta or high in fiber and low in fiber cereal. For the little ones who eat very limited diets and have trouble adding new foods to their diet supplemental fiber may be necessary, especially if constipation is in the picture.
20 ways I add fiber to my children’s diet
Here are some of the ways I make sure my kids are getting enough fiber. My younger one used to be constipated when she was very small because she was drinking too much milk and not eating enough solids with fiber. After this miserable experience I am trying to stay on top of the game!
1. Including vegetables and/or fruit in every meal and snack.
2. Enjoying whole wheat pasta with olive oil, milk and fruit for breakfast, my kids’ favorite.
3. Making smoothies for dessert or breakfast with frozen berries and yogurt or kefir
4. Using 100% whole wheat flour for baking muffins and pancakes. For pastries and cakes, we use 100% whole wheat pastry flour which has less gluten.
5. We do not eat a lot of breakfast cereal but if I happen to buy one, I make sure it has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
7. We stopped buying white rice many years ago and the kids grew up to appreciate the more hearty flavor of brown rice which is higher in fiber.
8. Baking potato wedges with skin, to preserve the fiber which otherwise gets discarded. To bake a nice batch of crispy potato wedges, scrub potatoes well under running water, cut into wedges about 1 inch thick at the bottom, season with salt, pepper and olive oil and bake in a preheated to 350F oven for about 35-40 minutes. Serve with tomato sauce or your favorite dip.
7. Using unpeeled potatoes and fiber-rich kale in this easy one-pot recipe.
8. Adding a few tablespoons of wheat or oat bran to muffin and pancake mixture.
9. “Fortifying” the cheese sauce we use to make mac&cheese with pureed cauliflower.
10. Adding pureed vegetables like carrots, spinach and canned beans to meat sauce we use for pasta and lasagna.
11. Mixing in vegetables like mushrooms into our meatballs and meatloaves.
12. Using whole wheat tortillas to make quesadillas.
13. Making whole wheat pita chips to go with homemade hummus.
14. Starting a meal with a pureed vegetable soup.
15. Making no-cook fiber-rich chia seed pudding for breakfast, snack or dessert.
16. Packing whole grain salads in lunch boxes.
17. Making pizza at home with whole wheat dough and mushrooms as a topping.
18. Serving fresh fruit instead of fruit juice. An unpeeled apple has about 3.6 grams of fiber but a cup of apple juice (an equivalent of 3 apples) has none!
19. We love popcorn for snack. Here is how we make ours on the stove.
20. Preparing these no-cook fiber-rich fruit- and veggie-based snacks to fuel the little ones between meals.
Tell me, what are your favorite ways to boost your kids’ fiber?