A diet that’s rich in fiber has wide-ranging health effects for children. With both short-term and long-lasting benefits, fiber can help your child grow into a healthy young adult.
In the short-term, increasing your child’s intake of insoluble fiber — a type of fiber that can’t be digested and is found in foods like whole wheat, seeds, nuts and broccoli — can ease constipation by promoting regular and well-formed bowel movements. Fiber that can be digested, known as soluble fiber, is found in many fruits, vegetables, beans, and oatmeal.
In the long term, studies have shown that increasing intake of soluble fiber lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and improves blood sugar levels by slowing digestion and the release of glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream. In children, eating lots of fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity. In adults, a high-fiber diet has been linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases.
So how much fiber should your child get each day? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the “age plus 5” rule: your child’s age plus five grams of fiber daily. For example, a 10-year-old would need a minimum of 15 grams of fiber a day.
Other health experts, including the Institute of Medicine, recommend a child eat 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories they eat. So a toddler who eats 1,000 calories a day would need 14 grams of fiber daily, while an older child who eats 1,400 calories a day would need about 19 grams of fiber daily.
Eating a high fiber diet in childhood lays the groundwork for healthy eating habits. Unfortunately, studies have shown that children in the United States aren’t getting enough fiber, so it’s a good idea to look for ways to increase fiber in your child’s diet.
- Fiber can help prevent childhood illnesses like diabetes and obesity.
- Insoluble fiber can ease constipation and promote regular bowel movements.
- Use the “age plus 5” rule to ensure that your child is getting at least the minimum amount of fiber in their diet each day.
- Starting your child off with high fiber at a young age helps generate healthy eating habits as they get older.