Fiber for kids. How much do they need, what does it do, and where does fiber come from? Here’s what to know about this important nutrient in your child’s diet.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate, or chain made up of sugar molecules. It’s found in plant-based foods, and comes in two types: soluble and insoluble fiber.
Both types of fiber can be found in many plant foods, but certain foods contain more of one type than the other.
Insoluble fiber moves right through the body, helping to clean out the intestines and maintain bowel regularity. Some examples of insoluble fiber are nuts, seeds, whole grains, and corn.
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, dissolves in water and helps to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Some foods that are high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans, lentils, and peas.
All the more reason to make sure your kiddo gets enough of it starting at a young age.
Fiber needs for kids
Did you know that most Americans only get HALF the amount of fiber they need on a daily basis? That’s right – the bare minimum recommendation is 30 grams per day, but most adults are only getting around 15 grams.
When it comes to kids, the stats are unlikely much better.
Fiber needs for kids are as follows:
- Male and female, 1-3 years: 19 grams per day
- Male and female, 4-8 years: 25 grams per day
- Males, 9-13 years: 31 grams per day
- Females, 9-13 years: 26 grams per day
- Males, 14-18 years: 38 grams per day
- Females, 14-18 years: 25 grams per day
Keep in mind that although fiber is an essential nutrient, there is such a thing as having too much fiber.
Too much fiber can be problematic for people in different ways. For some people, it can cause bloating and gas, while for others it can lead to diarrhea.
In some cases, too much fiber can even lead to constipation, which is pretty much the opposite reason we’re all trying to eat more fiber in the first place!
If your child is not used to eating a large amount of fiber – or eating fiber regularly – it’s a good idea to introduce high-fiber foods slowly to prevent digestive upset.
Drinking enough fluid, primarily water, is also important for maintaining regularity when on a fiber-rich diet. For more on that, check out our post on how much water kids need.
How to reduce fiber intake
What if you think your child is getting too much fiber?
Because fiber takes up a lot of room in little tummies and is so satiating, it’s possible for kids on a high-fiber diet to feel fuller more often, more quickly, and therefore eat less overall.
For growing kids who need fat and calories, this can be problematic.
If you’re concerned that your child is getting too much fiber, here are some things you can do to reduce fiber intake:
- Switch to white bread and pasta vs. whole grain/whole wheat
- Remove bread crusts and the peels from fruits and veggies
- Incorporate more canned or well-cooked fruits and vegetables
- Add bulk and calories to meals by incorporating more low-fiber foods, like applesauce or yogurt
Fiber on a plant-based diet
The good news is that, even with the current lack of fiber in the overall population, eating a predominantly plant-based diet is an easy way to meet – and often exceed – your family’s fiber requirements.
Pretty much any plant-based food is going to be an excellent source of fiber for your child.
Here are some examples of high-fiber foods and their content:
- 1/2 cup kidney beans = 6 grams
- 1 slice whole grain bread = 4 grams
- 1/2 cup rolled oats = 4 grams
- 1 medium carrot = 2 grams
- 1 medium apple = 4.5 grams
- 1/4 cup quinoa = 3 grams
- 1/2 cup green peas = 5 grams
- 1 medium banana = 3 grams
- 1/2 an avocado = 7 grams
- 2 Tbsp peanut butter = 2 grams
- 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato = 3 grams
- 1 Medjool date = 1.5 grams
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds = 4 grams
Note: Nutrition information obtained from the USDA FoodData Central database.
As you can see, it doesn’t have to take much too meet your babe’s fiber requirements, especially during the early years.
How to boost fiber intake
Some great ways to sneak fiber-rich foods into meals and snacks include blending them into smoothies, sauces, or casserole dishes.
Riced vegetables can easily be hidden in things like spaghetti sauce, inside enchiladas, or on top of homemade pizza.
Whole grain toast is already high in fiber, but can also be a vehicle for fiber-rich nut butters or seeds.
Here are a few of our favorite high-fiber snack recipes for the whole family:
- Cranberry Energy Balls
- Prune Bars
- Tahini Date Shakes
- Frozen Berry Chia Jam
- Tropical Chia Pudding
- Vegan Gluten Free Waffles
It’s important to pay attention to fiber for kids, but it can be super easy to meet their needs on a predominantly plant-based diet. If you’re looking for ways to boost your babe’s fiber consumption, give the ideas above a shot.
Chime in: What other questions do you have about fiber for your child?
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