Fiber is an essential part of any healthy diet. It keeps us regular, keeps us feeling fuller longer from a variety of nutritious foods, and has a whole host of additional benefits.
But it can be challenging to know exactly how much fiber to eat, much less how much our children need!
The amount of fiber a person requires does change throughout our lives. This reason is why it’s important to know how much fiber to eat, and at what age, and to work towards those goals gradually.
For a full-grown adult, the current recommendation is 25-30 grams of fiber per day.
To help put that amount of fiber into context, 25-30 grams of fiber equals five whole apples, 1 cup of pinto beans, 15 slices of whole wheat bread, or 3 cups of avocado.
Granted, I don’t recommend eating all your fiber from one type of food!
We all know that the eating habits we have developed over the years began to form when we were little. That means one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child is a healthy appreciation of the place fiber should have in their diet.
Keeping to these guidelines will ensure you’re passing on the right kind of habits that will pay off down the road.
Adding Fiber Into the Diet
This article will examine the recommended amounts of fiber for several different age ranges. Generally speaking, we’re going to start with very little fiber and then build up over time.
One thing to keep in mind is that fiber can be challenging for young eaters to digest when they first try it, or when their intake of it increases.
Whenever you begin to increase the amount of fiber in your child’s diet, try to pair that increase with some extra fluids such as water or milk.
Also, keep in mind that a small amount of gas or bloating is a perfectly normal side effect of the added fiber during those transitions. Slow and steady wins the race in the fiber department. The slower fiber is added to the diet, the easier of a time the body has adjusting.
Newborn to 7 Months
This stage of a child’s development is typically reserved for exclusively breastmilk or formula and the beginning stages of introducing foods.
That is perfectly OK at this stage.
1 to 3 Years
It is recommended for children within this age range to consume approximately 19 grams of fiber each day. This age brings with it lots of changes to your child’s diet, including the introduction of solid food.
During this time, the ultimate goal for your child’s diet is to first introduce a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Then, discover their favorite types of fiber containing foods.
However, keep in mind that cooked or pureed fruits and vegetables don’t provide quite as much fiber as their raw counterparts.
Keep an eye on your child’s reaction to the food they eat, including bowel movements and any noticeable discomfort such as gas or bloating.
This may be a sign that fiber was added a bit too quickly. Try adding about 1-3 grams of fiber every 3-5 days to avoid this little side effect.
4 Years to 8 Years
Children between 4 and 8 years of age are encouraged to consume about 25 grams of fiber a day. By now, your child’s diet has much more variety of fresh and cooked vegetables.
This creates the opportunity to continue to increase the number of foods your child will eat (fingers crossed there are some fiber foods in that list!).
Knowing your child’s eating preferences is vital for creating balanced meals that include fiber-rich foods. And guess what, you’re the expert! So knowing which foods are high in fiber helps make this a little less daunting.
Keep in mind that cooking vegetables generally doesn’t reduce the fiber content dramatically (unless we cook the veggies to mush), so if there’s any preparation that gets your kids on board, give it a shot!
9 Years to 13 Years Old
During this time, the recommendation for growing boys and girls is to consume between 26 and 31 grams of fiber daily. Keep in mind that as children grow, so do their appetites. If their grains come from whole wheat and they eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, this is an achievable goal!
14 Years Old and Beyond
Once children enter adolescence, it is recommended to consume 26 to 38 grams of fiber daily.
Again, eating enough fiber keeps your teen feeling fuller longer! It also helps with weight management and preventing constipation.
Here is an example of what 26 grams of fiber could look like in your child’s diet
- Breakfast: 1 cup whole grain cereal, ¾ cup milk, ½ cup strawberries (4.5 grams fiber)
- Snack: 1 cup sliced red bell pepper and 2 Tbsp. hummus (4 grams fiber)
- Lunch: Sandwich (2 slices whole wheat bread) with meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato, 1 (6oz) yogurt cup (6 grams fiber)
- Snack: 1 small apple, string cheese (4 grams fiber)
- Dinner: ¾ cup cooked pasta, ½ cup marinara sauce, 2-3meatballs and 1 cup cooked broccoli (7 grams fiber)
Work on Those Fiber Goals
Sticking to these guidelines will help your child get the correct amount of fiber at each stage of development.
Remember, any time you increase the overall fiber in your child’s diet, make sure to add a bit more water! Keeping up the fluid intake will ease this transition.
By slowly building up the total fiber in their diet, you can help your child develop a very healthy relationship with this special nutrient.