When it comes to your child's diet, fiber is a very important nutrient! Dietary fiber has numerous health benefits, including contributing to a healthy digestive system and regular bowel movements. But the benefits of fiber don't end with their digestive tract. The risk of many other diseases, including heart disease, can be associated with fiber intake. (ref)
The Benefits of Fiber
Fiber is one of the main things we recommend to help keep your child’s bowel movements regular. Plenty of fiber along with plenty of water and movement can go a long way towards helping constipation. For some specific tips on helping with constipation, head to this post.
Fiber for Babies
A high fiber diet can be good for many age ranges, but it is actually not something we recommend for babies under the age of one. Fiber is generally a low calorie food, and is bulky. Meaning that it can make babies feel full and slow their digestion if they get too much fiber.
Under one, you baby has very high energy needs for their size. If their digestion is slowed down from a lot of fiber, they likely will have a harder time meeting their other nutritional needs.
This doesn't mean that you need to avoid any amount of fiber for them! We do want them to get used to the taste of whole wheat breads and whole grains in general.
But you don't need to prioritize fiber, and it is a good idea to incorporate refined grains like white flour in their diet alongside whole grains. Alternate between white and whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta and white.
Exposing them to all sorts of different flavors without exclusively relying on one nutrient is the way to go.
Need help with mealtimes?
Mealtimes are about so much more than just the food. And they don't have to be full of battles over food or behavior! For help with how to structure meals so they are not a dreaded part of your day, grab the course Mastering Mealtimes!
Fiber for Kids
Once your child is one, we want to start focusing more on offering plenty of high-fiber foods. Many kids do not get enough fiber in their diet. This is especially true for those young children that parents might consider picky eaters.
Fiber is primarily found in things like whole grains, beans, and fruits and veggies. For parents of picky eaters who might resist a lot of those foods, meeting daily fiber recommendations might be a bit more difficult.
But the good news is that one of the easiest sources of fiber for children's diets is fruit! It is often much easier for a child to accept multiple servings of fruits to help meet their daily fiber intake needs than it is vegetables.
Fresh fruits are such good sources of fiber that something like a cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber in it. That is almost half the amount of fiber a toddler needs in a day! And most kids have no problem eating that amount of fruit without batting an eye.
How Much Fiber Do Kids Need?
It can be really easy to get bogged down in the number of grams of fiber on a nutrition facts label. But there really is no need to get that specific with it. Instead, one of the best ways to handle it is to focus on just offering fiber-rich foods to your child whenever you can.
For those of you looking for a number, though, here are the daily reference intakes recommended. Kids between the ages of 1 and 3 should be aiming for 19 grams of fiber a day. For older kids between the ages of 4-8 years the goal is 25g a day.
This may seem like a lot, but focusing on offering whole foods including grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans can get you there easier than you think.
Fiber-Rich Foods for Kids
Fiber is found in plant foods, and is essentially the indigestible parts of plants. There are two types of fiber, insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Most foods have some of both in them.
Instead of focusing on which one a food has more of, I find an easy way to look at it is simply by thinking of it all as dietary fiber. One type or another, it is all beneficial!
Here are some ideas for foods that are a good source of fiber for kids. Any of the fruits or vegetables that have edible skins should be served with skins to maximize fiber amounts.
Pinto or Black Beans
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat pasta
Lentil or Chickpea Pasta
Berries (especially raspberries)
Fiber Supplements for Kids
While most kids admittedly aren’t getting enough fiber in their diet, there is really no need to introduce a fiber booster to their diet.
Unless you are specifically advised by your dietitian or doctor, it is better to get the fiber your child needs from foods. The foods listed above are a great start, but you can also find fiber in so many other places! From nuts and seeds to fruits and veggies and whole grains, focusing on whole unprocessed foods is often the way to go.
For some more tips and food ideas for foods with fiber, as well as all the top food sources of the other nutrients that are important for your baby or toddler, be sure to grab the Grow Baby Grow ebook! It takes an extensive look at all of the nutrients that are necessary in the first two years of life, and helps you get a handle on how to use food to meet your child’s needs.
Get the toddler course
From how to set up mealtimes so they aren't stressful, to how to quickly and easily get food on the table that meets all their needs. Grab the course to set your toddler's relationship with food up for life!