Fiber is necessary for anyone, but it is especially important for kids. Soluble fiber, that slows blood sugar spikes after eating, as well as insoluble fiber, that moistens and pushes food waste through the digestive tract, are both invaluable. Both of these fibers help children better absorb their food and avoid the common stomach troubles that so often worry their parents.
Grains, nuts, vegetables, and beans are usually the best and most readily available sources of fiber. Getting enough fiber can help control your kid’s weight, prevent constipation, reduce the risk of diabetes, and even lower their risk of cancer. It can also teach them good eating habits that they will carry for the rest of their lives.
Why Your Kids Need Fiber
The first thing to realize about fiber is that, unlike other nutrients, the body doesn’t exactly “digest” it. Fiber acts like bulk or roughage as it passes through the intestines. It helps children extract and digest essential nutrients from all the other foods that they eat, and then it leaves the body in the form of waste.
How much fiber kids need depends on their age. Children between one and three years old need about 19 grams of fiber per day, whereas children who are between four and eight years old need as much as 25 grams of fiber per day.
Fiber has several other health benefits, such as:
Research shows that as many as 10% of children experience chronic constipation at some time or another. Although some of these cases are treated with laxatives, pediatricians prefer nutritional changes like increasing fiber intake as their first remedy. Evidence suggests that fiber can prevent constipation from ever occurring in the first place.
A study of young girls ages seven to 11 showed that increasing their levels of dietary fiber caused a measurable reduction in their visceral body fat. In addition, decreasing fiber intake caused a commensurate increase in visceral body fat levels. This suggests that adequate fiber intake is necessary for managing weight gain and loss as children grow.
Although many studies suggest that fiber lowers the risk of diabetes in adults, fewer studies show the effect on children. However, researchers found that Latino children with symptoms of diabetes most often consumed less fiber than Latino children without symptoms. Early findings suggest that fiber probably has a similar effect on diabetes risk in children as it does in adults.
8 Foods High in Fiber
Check the nutrition label of the foods you buy to see how much fiber they contain. You will almost always find a food’s fiber content listed prominently under the “Total Carbohydrate” label.
Here are eight of the best sources of fiber for your child:
1. Split Peas
Peas are an excellent, affordable vegetable that are packed with fiber. Just one cup of boiled split peas contains as much as 16 grams of fiber, making it one of the highest fiber foods available.
A cup of boiled lentils contains 15.5 grams of fiber, making them an excellent addition to your child’s diet. Lentils are also an important source of plant-based protein, and they’re versatile enough to accompany many different dishes.
3. Black Beans
Black beans are one of the most popular and well-known high-fiber foods, containing as much as 15 grams of fiber per cup. They’re high in protein like lentils, but are also important sources of folate, which promotes cellular growth.
Raspberries are one of the highest sources of fiber among fruits, containing an impressive 8 grams of fiber per cup. Children can eat them in their cereal, mixed with natural yogurt, or even on their own.
Almonds are a delicious, healthy, and popular variety of tree nut, and they just happen to be an excellent source of fiber. A single ounce of almonds, or around 23 nuts, yields as much as 3.5 grams of fiber for your child. They’re also a great source of vitamin E, an essential antioxidant.
6. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are a popular, high-fiber alternative to ordinary potatoes. A medium-sized sweet potato has 3.3 grams of fiber. They’re also a rich source of vitamin A, which is needed for good eye health.
Bananas are very popular among children, and they also have many health benefits. One medium-sized banana has 3 grams of fiber, and they’re also great sources of potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood flow.
One cup of chopped broccoli gives your child 5 grams of fiber. Although some children don’t like the taste of broccoli, it’s a versatile enough vegetable that it can be prepared in many ways for them.