This article was contributed by Clara Norfleet. Clara is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist that has a love for all things nutrition and wellness. One of her deepest passions is helping others adopt a healthier lifestyle and relationship with food. She works to equip others with the necessary tools, knowledge, tips and tricks needed to live out a healthy and balanced life.

As parents and caregivers, we strive to provide nutrient dense meals and snacks that fuel and nourish our children. Focus is typically placed on providing an adequate amount of the three basic macronutrients- protein, fat, and carbohydrates- while limiting things like excess added sugar. However, there’s one nutrient that often gets overlooked – fiber! Regular intake of fiber-rich foods has a wide range of benefits for our health, yet many of our kids are not getting the recommended amount. The reason behind this? High intake of sugary beverages and packaged foods. Keep reading to find out what exactly fiber is, why our kid’s need it, how much they need, and how to incorporate more into day to day meals!

What is fiber?

Fiber is a nutrient that is found in carbohydrates that is resistant to digestion. Fiber can be found in many plant foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. There are technically 2 types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Each have specific benefits and are important components to a healthy diet.

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a type of “gel”. This helps to lower cholesterol and increase satiety or the feeling of “fullness”. Good sources are oats, legumes and beans, nuts and seeds like chia seeds, fruits and vegetables.
  • Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and acts like a sponge. It passes through our digestive system relatively unchanged. This helps lessen the chance of constipation. Good sources are bran cereals, whole grains, and vegetables.

Why do kids need fiber?

Just like adults, fiber is an important component of a healthy diet for kids as well.

  • Fiber helps with digestive health and regularity – make sure kids are also consuming adequate fluids!
  • Fiber helps with appetite control and satiety – fiber makes us feel fuller longer. This can discourage overeating and excessive snacking, and in turn help to decrease the chance for obesity.
  • Fiber helps regulate blood sugar – and in turn, mood! When blood sugar is well controlled, kids won’t suffer from crazy mood swings and sugar crashes.
  • Fiber helps to reduce the risk of chronic conditions – fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables also contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that may help reduce the risk of developing conditions like heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

 

How much does my child need?

How can I include more fiber in my child’s diet?

    • Choose whole fruits and vegetables instead of their juice counterparts. Keep the skin on, if edible!
    • Including seeds like chia seeds into puddings, oatmeal and cereal.
    • Choose whole grain bread, pasta and cereal instead of refined.
    • Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour in baked dishes.
    • Use brown or wild rice instead of white rice.
    • Include more plant-based protein options like beans and legumes.

What foods are high in fiber?

  • Lentils (1 cup) 16 grams
  • Black beans (1 cup) 15 grams
  • Lima beans (1 cup) 13 grams
  • Chia seeds (2 tablespoons) 11 grams
  • Broccoli (1 cup) 5 grams
  • Pear (skin one) 9 grams
  • Raspberries (1 cup) 8 grams
  • Avocado (one half) 7 grams
  • Whole wheat pasta (1 cup) 6 grams

Looking for more specific ways to increase your kid’s fiber intake? Check out some meal and snack ideas below!

BREAKFAST

  • Oatmeal with chia seeds, raisins, chopped apple and walnuts
  • Whole grain cereal with berries
  • Peanut butter and banana on toast
  • Whole wheat waffle with banana slices and almonds
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies
  • Yogurt parfait with fruit, nuts and chia seeds
  • Add shredded zucchini or carrots to muffins, pancakes or waffle batter

LUNCH & DINNER

  • Black bean quesadilla on whole wheat tortilla
  • Brown rice and beans with a side of steamed broccoli or carrots
  • Whole wheat English muffin “pizzas”
  • Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with apple slices and yogurt
  • Three bean chili
  • Sweet potato nachos

SNACKS

  • Carrots, broccoli and pita with hummus
  • Celery with almond butter and raisins
  • Health Warrior Chia Bars
  • Fresh fruit (apple, orange, strawberries) instead of juice
  • Whole wheat crackers with cheese
  • Chia pudding with berries