You’ve probably heard about fiber and how increasing your fiber intake is good for your health. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested and is found in plants. Most carbohydrates get broken down into glucose after being consumed, but fiber goes through the body undigested. So, what’s so great about fiber? Fiber helps make us full and keeps things moving in the digestive tract. A diet that includes good sources of fiber may help prevent constipation. These foods are also good sources of nutrients and vitamins that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, and obesity.
Fiber recommendations vary based on energy needs, age, and weight, so a simple guideline to follow to ensure your children are getting enough fiber is to make sure they are eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. If you want exact numbers, the Daily Reference Intakes (RDI) provides the following recommendations:
- Children (1-3 years old) = 19 grams per day
- Children (4-8 years old) = 25 grams per day
- Girls (9-13 years old) = 26 grams per day
- Boys (9-13 years old) = 31 grams per day
- Girls (14-18 years old) = 26 grams per day
- Boys (14-18 years old) = 38 grams per day
Dietary fiber is found in a variety of food sources such as fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Nutrition facts can tell you all about the nutrients and ingredients in foods, including fiber. Look at the back of food labels for “Dietary Fiber” to know exactly how much fiber the product contains per serving. When you are checking food labels, note that a high fiber food has 5 or more grams of fiber per serving and good sources of fiber foods have 2.5-4.9 grams per serving.
To give you an idea of how much fiber is in food, take a look at the following list:
- 1/2 cup of beans or legumes = 6 grams of fiber
- 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables = 2 – 4 grams of fiber
- 1/2 cup of chopped fruit or 1 small piece of fruit = 3 grams of fiber
- 1 slice of whole wheat bread = 2 – 4 grams of fiber, compare labels and choose bread with higher fiber
- 1/2 cup of whole grain cereal = 5 grams of fiber
- 1/2 cup whole grain pasta = 2 – 4 grams of fiber
- 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice = 2 grams of fiber
It is best to increase your fiber intake slowly in order to reduce your chances of experiencing excess gas and bloating, but by making small changes in your diet intake to increase your fiber intake, soon you and your child will get the added benefits of fiber and be on the right track of eating healthier!
Easy Ways to Increase Your Child’s Fiber Intake
- Make smoothies instead of giving your kids juice! Most of the fiber is in the skin of the fruit.
- Choose whole grains instead of refined white products since whole grains contain more fiber.
- Top cereal or oatmeal with fruit
- Add berries, almonds, and beans to salads
- Add lentils to homemade soups
- Eat the skin on your baked potato
- Include vegetables in every meal
- Make air-popped popcorn
- Leave the peels on fruits and vegetables since most of the fiber is found there
- Snack on fruits or vegetables
- Add fiber to your own baking by adding oats, using whole wheat flour, or adding berries to various baked goods