Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that, unlike other carbs (such as sugars and starch), are not digested in the small intestine, so it reaches the large intestine or colon where it helps to clear the bowels of other waste products. It helps to prevent constipation in children.
Dietary fiber is found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
Benefits of fiber
Some of the benefits of a diet rich in fiber include the following:
- Lowering cholesterol levels
- Preventing diabetes and heart disease
- Reducing the chances of developing some kinds of cancer
- Preventing or relieving constipation
- Inducing the feeling of fullness, which may help with weight control
How much fiber does Your Child need?
There are different recommendations for children, depending on energy needs, age, or weight. Here are two general rules you may follow.
Add 5 grams to your child’s age: You can estimate how much fiber your child needs by adding 5 or 10 to your child’s age. For example, a 5-year old should get about 10 grams of fiber every day; a 10-year old should get 15 grams each day.
Eat 5 servings: Another way you can ensure your child is getting enough fiber is the number of servings of fruits and vegetables they take each day. For instance, if your child is eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day along with other foods that are good sources of fiber, there would be no need to count fiber grams.
Good sources of fiber
Foods that are naturally rich in fiber include:
- Whole grains, such as 100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruit and vegetables
- Cooked dried beans, such as black beans, lentils, and split peas
It is best if your child gets all their fiber needs from foods rather than from pills and other supplements.
How to make fiber a part of your family diet
- Go for whole fruit instead of juice
- Include fruit and vegetables with every meal and aim for, at least, 5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day
- Choose whole grains instead of refined grains — for example, try brown rice instead of white rice
- Read nutritional labels to find out how much fiber is in foods, and choose foods with 3 grams of fiber per serving or more
You can also add more fiber to Your Child’s snacks and meals by trying the following:
- Add little beans to soups, salads, or the spaghetti sauce
- Offer whole-grain crackers, fruit, or vegetables as healthy snack options
- Put vegetables, such as tomato or avocado, in sandwiches
- Top yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal with fruits and nuts
More about fiber
Encourage Your Child to drink plenty of water because it helps move fiber through the intestines. You should also know that too much fiber can cause bloating, gas, and cramps.
Talk to your doctor if your child has diarrhea, constipation, or belly pain or if you have questions or concerns about your family’s diet.