Unfortunately, average children in the United States get less than half their recommended daily intake of fiber, mostly because of the lack of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in their diets. Nutrition experts recommend parents follow the “age plus five” rule: take your child’s age and add 5 grams to determine how much fiber your child should have each day.
So how can you get more fiber into your child’s diet? First, try cutting down on the amount of processed grains (like white bread and white flour), and use whole grains instead, like whole wheat bread and flour. Processed grains are bad sources of fiber because the bran where most of the fiber is found is removed during processing. Then, work on introducing high-fiber foods kids enjoy, like pears, apples (with skin), or baked potatoes with the skin. A fresh apricot, for example, has 3.5 grams of fiber, while every tablespoon of peanut butter contains one gram of fiber.
Examples of good “beginning” fiber foods include:
- Carrots (1/2 cup): 1.8 grams
- Apples with skin: 3.6 grams
- Banana (1 medium): 3.1 grams
- Orange (1 medium): 3.1 grams
- Raspberries (1/2 cup): 4 grams
- Cheerios cereal: 2.5 grams
Next, try to introduce high-fiber vegetables, including:
- Baked potato “fries” with skin (3 grams)
- Green peas (4.3 grams)
- Sweet potato with skin (3.8 grams)
- Black beans (½ cup) (6.2 grams)
To get your children to eat more healthy vegetables, try:
- Serving a variety of vegetables.
- Setting a good example by eating more vegetables yourself.
- Serving raw vegetables rather than cooked, or for the younger toddler, blanche vegetables to soften them a bit.
- Steaming your vegetables rather than boiling to preserve their flavor and nutrients.
- Serving vegetables like peas and carrots separate; let kids mix them if they like both.
- Cutting vegetables into small dice for the new eater and progress to handy bite size pieces.
- Letting kids help with cooking—it will encourage them to eat what they make.
Some children react to food color, smells, and textures differently. Be patient! After multiple exposures, children will enjoy their new foods. Make these changes gradually, since introducing large quantities of high-fiber food all at once could cause your child to experience gas and bloating. Also, make sure your child is drinking plenty of water.
- Focus on fiber-rich foods that your kids already like, such as apples, carrots, and cereals.
- Strategically introduce new high-fiber foods.
- Make gradual changes in your food choices and preparation to add fiber.
- Use fruits and vegetables as snacks.