We have all received the message that fiber is important. Kids often snicker when I explain to them what fiber does in digestion (“It helps you poop!”). This is the truth. Insoluble fiber helps move things along more quickly and it is the non-digestible “roughage” found in many fresh vegetables and whole grains. Soluble fiber helps bulk up stool, which also stimulates the digestive tract to push things along. This type of fiber is found in foods, such as oatmeal, applesauce, bananas, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes and legumes.
How Does Fiber Help?
Both types of fiber help reduce serum lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides). Soluble fiber helps promote satiety, which can prevent unnecessary over-eating. It also helps keep you feeling full until the next meal or snack. Furthermore, soluble fiber binds bile acids during digestion, which is formed by cholesterol. Soluble fiber indirectly lowers cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber prevents constipation. Food is moved through the gut more quickly in which reduces some absorption. In addition, foods that contain insoluble fiber are low in calories and fat.
Here is a list of recommended dietary fiber needs for kids*:
Age: 1-3 years Fiber/day: 19 grams
Age: 4-6 years Fiber/day: 25 grams
Age: Girls 9-13 years Fiber/day: 26 grams
Age: Boys 9-13 years Fiber/day: 31 grams
Age: Girls 14-18 years Fiber/day: 29 grams
Age: Boys 14-18 years Fiber/day: 38 grams
Here are some ideas to incorporate fiber into your family’s meals and snacks:
- Oatmeal with fresh or frozen berries on top
- Whole grain cereal (more than 3 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving is ideal) with a banana.
- Yogurt-granola-fruit parfait
- Smoothie made with yogurt, berries, banana and spinach
- Sandwich using whole grain bread with spinach and tomatoes
- Lentil soup
- Salad with greens, variety of veggies, lean meat, tuna or hard boiled egg
- Bean burrito with whole grain wrap and brown rice.
- Baked garbanzo beans seasoned with garlic powder and salt (Use canned garbanzo beans- drained, rinsed, spread out on cookie sheet, seasoned and baked at 400 degrees for approx imately30 minutes or until light brown and crunchy)
- Ants on a log (celery with crunchy nut butter and raisins lined upon it)
- Sliced veggie sticks and hummus
- Apple slices and crunchy nut butter
- Stir fry with a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables
- Baked potato topped with steamed broccoli (served as a side)
- Fresh side salad
- Brown rice, quinoa or whole grain pasta served as a side or accompaniment
- Chili made with diced tomatoes, green and/or red peppers, corn, onions, garlic, spices, kidney beans and black beans
Do an experiment at home and read labels to determine how many grams of fiber are in the foods your kids consume throughout the day. If the food does not include a label (such as with fruits and vegetables), you may find the information on www.calorieking.com by typing the food into the search bar. Add up the amount of fiber that your child is eating to see how it compares to the recommendations that are shown in the table above.
For additional information about nutrition, meal planning, or addressing issues such as constipation or weight management, schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitians today.
*Texas Children’s Hospital Pediatric Nutrition Reference Guide, 8th Ed.
American Heart Association. References 4/11/07.
2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans