Very few kids would say they crave a delicious fiber-rich meal. However, many foods, ranging from fruits and vegetables to McDonald's Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken, are filled with fiber.
Fiber keeps your child’s digestive system moving. It is a natural laxative and, along with enough water, it prevents constipation. Fiber also helps lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Increased fiber intake helps your child feel full and prevents overeating, and it has also been shown to help prevent diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer.
Fiber is an undigested carbohydrate found in food we eat, and it is found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. A healthy diet includes soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps lower cholesterol, while insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation and does not dissolve in water.
The majority of children do not get enough fiber. An easy way to calculate the grams of fiber your child needs per day is to add 5 to your child’s age, and that equals the total number of grams of fiber your child requires. Start looking at the nutritional label of foods. Great sources of fiber have five grams of fiber per serving and good sources of fiber have three grams per serving.
Some Simple Ways to Add Fiber to Your Child’s Diet
- Serve popcorn with minimal salt and butter as a snack.
- Toss uncooked vegetables into a salad.
- Serve crisp vegetables (overcooking them destroys the fiber).
- Add sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, flaxseed powder, chia seeds, and sprouts to muffins, bread, salads, and yogurt.
- Add dates and raisins into baked goods and smoothies.
- Don’t peel the skin. The skin of apples, cucumbers, and potatoes are an excellent of fiber.
Remember, dietary changes are an investment in your child’s health. Dietary changes may take time, but slowly your child will start to learn and benefit from these small changes. Look at each meal your child receives and see how you can maximize the fiber intake.
- Buy cereals that have three grams of fiber or more per serving and contain whole grains
- Serve oatmeal topped with fresh berries
- Whole grain pancakes or buckwheat pancakes served with raisins or fruit
- Switch from white to whole grain toast, muffins, breads, or bagels
- Mix your child’s regular cereal with bran or flaxseed powder and add fresh berries on top
- Switch from white to whole grain breads for sandwiches
- Add bananas and nut butters to sandwiches
- Add a fresh fruit to the lunch box
- Swap school bought lunch for a homemade lunch a few times a week and let your child use the money for something else
- Swap whole grain pastas instead of white pasta
- Switch to wild or brown rice instead of white rice
- Add a variety of beans to rice dishes
- Have a side salad or lentil soup
- Switch to corn or whole wheat soft shell tacos and tortillas
- Make mini pizzas with whole grain English muffins or bagels
- Add flaxseed powder or bran to burgers and meatloaf
- Serve potatoes with the skin
- Use whole wheat flour or add flaxseed powder to cookies and cupcakes
- Top ice cream with fresh fruit, granola, or nuts
- Make a fruit salad with whip cream for dessert
Small, gradual changes will add up to a diet that is enriched with fiber over time. Remember, an investment in your child’s diet is an investment in your child’s health that will lead to a lifetime of healthy eating.