Nurse Sharon: Let’s Talk About Fiber

Consuming the recommended daily intake of fiber is vital for optimal health! This indigestible plant nutrient has the power to ward off constipation, certain cancers, high cholesterol, heart disease, and hunger pains! Even though it’s speculated most Americans do not eat nearly enough fiber, it’s easier than you think to incorporate the superfood group into your diet and more importantly, your kid’s diet!

How much fiber do kids need anyway?
This answer is almost too easy. Just add 5! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends adding 5 grams to your child’s age to come up with an easy-to-remember fiber goal for the day. For example, if your child is 7, they should eat at least 12 grams of fiber per day. If your child is 2, they should eat at least 7 grams of fiber. Get it?

Another simple recommendation is just to eat 5. Encouraging your kiddo to eat at least 5 fruits or vegetables each day is a guaranteed way to make sure they’re getting more fiber! I know many juices claim to have a substantial serving of fruit or vegetables, but eating the whole food is always preferred over the juice form. Many juices have added sugar and are not necessarily a good source of fiber. Be an informed consumer and always read the nutrition label.

What are good sources of fiber and how can I get my child to eat more of it?
In addition to fruits and veggies, good sources of fiber include beans, peas, nuts, and basically everything with whole-grains. If the fiber-source has a food label (cereal, bread, etc.), look for foods that have at least 3 grams of fiber. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, look for foods that have 5 grams.

Increasing a child’s fiber consumption sounds amazing and all, but how do we get an already picky eater to eat black beans and almonds? Here are 5 semi-creative ways to sneak more fiber into your child’s diet:

  1. Swap white flour for whole-wheat. From making gravy to baking brownies, I only use whole-wheat flour. If your child has particularly sensitive taste buds, you can add half whole-wheat and half white flour. I promise they won’t be able to taste the difference!
  2. Hide it in a smoothie. You can easily sneak in two or three servings of produce into a morning smoothie and if you add some uncooked oats, you can really pack in the fiber. My favorite smoothie at the moment is ½ cup of mixed berries, 1 banana, 1 cup of spinach, 1 cup of unsweetened original almond milk, and 1 very generous tablespoon of peanut butter (unsalted and unsweetened). It’s seriously delicious and has around 7 grams of dietary fiber.
  3. Hide it in a soup. Same idea as a smoothie, but warm and very hardy on a cold, wet winter day!
  4. Give them a choice. Instead of asking your child, “Do you want broccoli?” ask, “Do you want broccoli or carrots?” Giving them a choice will help them feel empowered and autonomous while ensuring they’re eating 5 fruits of veggies daily.
  5. Serve the fiber first! Teach your kiddos to eat their vegetables before anything else on their plate. Start most meals with a fresh and colorful salad!

Click here for a teaching sheet with more information on fiber! The sheet contains general information only. Talk with your child’s doctor or a member of your child’s healthcare team about specific care for your child.