High-fiber foods are packed with nutrients kids need. It also helps kids feel fuller and avoid constipation.
When part of a balanced diet, it helps head off type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol in adults, and may work for kids, too. Diets rich in fiber-filled foods may make heart disease later in life less likely.
How much fiber to get: How much your child needs depends on his or her age, according to the AAP.
Figure your child's daily fiber quota in grams by adding five to his age. For example, a 5-year-old should get 10 grams of daily dietary fiber.
How to get more: Serve a fruit or vegetable (or both) with meals and snacks. Opt for whole-grain breads and cereals, pasta, and other grains.
Also, serve legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and white beans in salads, soups, and omelets. Many of these foods provide potassium and magnesium, too.
Potassium ensures normal heart and muscle function, maintains fluid balance, participates in energy production, and promotes strong bones.
A potassium-rich diet helps head off high blood pressure in adults. Getting children in the habit of eating foods high in it may also help them keep blood pressure in check as they age.
"Kids, just like adults, don't eat enough of the fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are richest in potassium," says Bridget Swinney, RD.
How much potassium to get each day:
- Ages 1-3: 3,000 milligrams
- Ages 4-8: 3,800 milligrams
- Ages 9-13: 4,500 milligrams
- Ages 14-18: 4,700 milligrams
How to get more: Fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, meats, and seafood are good sources. In general, the more processed the food, the less potassium it provides, and the more sodium in a food, the lower the potassium.
To help your child get enough, serve at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack, and encourage your child to eat a balanced diet.
If you think your kids may not be getting enough of the nutrients they need, talk to their pediatrician. A diet low in processed foods and rich in produce, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy can help them -- and you -- get essential nutrients.