Fiber and Your Child: What Do You Need to Know?
Fiber is a part of the plant-derived foods we eat. It is found in vegetables, fruits, and grains. Fiber is the part of the plants that we can’t digest, and it goes all the way through your intestines.
There are two main types of fiber. One kind can be dissolved in water, called soluble fiber. This kind of fiber slows digestion. Foods high in soluble fiber include certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, barley, oat bran, and psyllium.
The other kind of fiber is insoluble fiber, which cannot be dissolved in water. Insoluble fiber makes food travel faster through the intestine and makes stool more bulky. This fiber is found in wheat bran, whole grains, and some vegetables.
When adding fiber to a diet, it must be done slowly. Changing fiber intake drastically can cause cramps, gas, and bloating. If it is added into a diet slowly, fiber can actually lessen gas and diarrhea.
How Much Fiber Do Children Need?
The average American diet supplies 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day. You need about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories of food you eat. An adult who eats 2,000 calories a day needs 28 grams of fiber to balance out their diet. Most people are not even close to getting enough.
Toddlers ages 1 to 3 years old need 19 grams of fiber. Girls ages 4 to 8 need 17 to 25 grams per day. Because boys tend to weigh more than girls, boys ages 4 to 8 need 17 to 28 grams per day. The higher amounts for boys are a reflection of the fact that they tend to weigh more than girls as they get older.
Another way to figure out how much fiber your child needs every day is the “age plus five rule.” After age two, add five grams to your child’s age. This means a 7-year-old should eat 12 grams of fiber per day.
It is difficult for small children to take in enough fiber through their diet, so parents must make an effort to find fiber-rich foods.
How Can I Get More Fiber Into My Children’s Diet?
Fiber should be added to the diet slowly. One easy way to add fiber is to replace white starches with brown, whole-grain starches. This includes whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, bran muffins, and multi-grain cereals.
Fruits and vegetables high in fiber should also be eaten. Beans, spinach, artichokes, pears, berries, dried fruits, apples, and oranges are also all high in fiber.
When you look at the nutrition label on food boxes, find cereals and other products with at least five grams of fiber per serving.
You can add fiber by slowly adding extra bran, berries, and other fruits to your children’s cereals. Use granola with fiber for snacks. Try to get your kids to eat whole-wheat spaghetti and bread.
What Effect Will Fiber Have On My Kids?
Children often get constipated. Eating more fiber, as well as drinking more water, helps prevent and treat constipation. Fiber promotes regular bowel movements, as well as digestion in general. Higher fiber intake can lead to fewer of the symptoms that go along with constipation.
Fiber helps lower cholesterol, makes you feel fuller, and helps you eat less. Because it lowers cholesterol and helps prevent diet-related problems, like type-2 diabetes, heart attacks, and some cancers, it is best to start children eating fiber at a young age so that they continue to do so as they get older.
Getting into the habit of eating enough fiber will yield health benefits for life.