Vitamin and mineral deficiencies aren’t the major problems in most Americans’ diets. It’s Fiber. Adult women should consume 25 grams per day, while men should consume 38 grams, according to experts. Despite this, our average weight is only 15 grams.
Our children aren’t faring any better. Children aged 1 to 3 should consume at least 19 grams of fiber per day, and children ages 4 to 8 should consume at least 25 grams. According to the AHA, girls between the ages of 9 and 18 require a minimum of 26 grams, while boys between the ages of 9 and 18 require 31 to 38 grams. The majority of children’s diets fall far short of their nutritional requirements.
Why be concerned?
Fiber provides numerous health advantages.
- High-fiber meals fill bellies while consuming fewer calories, so eating a lot of them is essential for keeping a healthy weight.
- Fiber has been demonstrated to lower blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of a heart attack. (These aren’t huge dangers for a 6-year-old, but good eating habits now can help your child live a long and healthy life.)
- It also appears to protect against type 2 diabetes, which is becoming more prevalent among youngsters in the United States, and some malignancies.
- Fiber relieves constipation, which is a less frightening but still unpleasant condition.
The Bottom Line
Increasing your child’s fiber intake is one of the best things you can do to help him thrive. (As a bonus, the many other critical nutrients included in most fiber-rich foods will enhance his health.) Nutritionists advise starting cautiously because the digestive system needs time to adjust to the extra roughage. Gas and bloating can result from consuming too much food too rapidly. Encourage your youngster to consume extra fluids, particularly water.
Here’s how doctors recommend getting more fiber into your child’s diet:
More fruits and vegetables should be served.
Dietary fiber can only be obtained through plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Aim for at least 2 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day, according to experts.
However, not all fruits and vegetables are similarly high in fiber. Artichokes, avocados, dried fruits, okra (not everyone’s favorite), baked potatoes with the skin, pears, and carrots are among the standouts. Focus on the ones that your child enjoys.
Peeling produce isn’t recommended.
Most of the fiber is found in the skin and membranes of apples, pears, potatoes, and many other fruits and vegetables, so resist your child’s pleas to peel them unless he genuinely won’t eat them otherwise. Just make sure to thoroughly rinse the veggies before serving. Organic vegetables are a good choice if you’re concerned about pesticide residue and can afford them (but you should still rinse them well, as many people may have touched them since they left the tree or bush, and they may not be pesticide-free).
Vegetables can be served raw or minimally cooked.
Many children love crunchy vegetables. Serve your child’s favorite vegetables, such as carrots, celery, cauliflower, and broccoli, with salsa or a low-fat salad dressing for dipping. To keep the majority of the nutrients in vegetables, microwave them in a tiny amount of water or steam them briefly.
However, if your toddler will only eat broccoli if it is mushy, you know what to do: It should be mushy. He might eventually accept lower levels of mush. Make a veggie garden a family activity if you want to increase his interest in vegetables in general. He’ll be delighted to see his homegrown snow peas arranged on his dinner dish.
Whole grain cereals and bread are ideal.
Whole grains have a higher fiber content than processed grains. They’re also high in vitamin E, and B vitamins, such as folic acid, and other essential nutrients. Whole grain cereal with reduced-fat milk is a quick and healthy meal for your child; study labels to choose a brand with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and that isn’t laden with sugar. Add raisins or sliced strawberries for even additional fiber, vitamins, and minerals. When buying bread, don’t go by appearances: You could believe that the darker the loaf, the more whole grain it contains.
However, some dark loaves have simply been colored with food coloring. Furthermore, “wheat bread” does not always indicate “whole wheat,” and even a loaf labeled “whole wheat” may include more refined flour than you prefer. It’s a good idea to study the fine print to see if whole wheat flour, dark rye flour, rolled oats, oat bran, or wheat germ are high on the ingredient list. One piece of nutritious grainy bread from the health food store could include up to 4 grams of fiber.
Switch the pasta around.
Whole grain pasta, which can be found in the most natural and conventional food stores, provides far more fiber than supermarket counterparts, so test if your youngster would eat them. When the spaghetti is awash in his favorite tomato sauce, he might not notice that you used whole wheat instead of white pasta. In the midst of the cheese, vegetables, meat, and sauce, whole wheat or spelled lasagna noodles are even tougher to spot.
If your youngster objects to the chewy texture or stronger flavor, seek half-whole grain, half-refined pasta, which can be found at many gourmet and health food stores. Alternatively, you could use regular pasta and add vegetables and legumes to boost the fiber content of the dish; try adding peas to macaroni and cheese or sneaking shredded carrots or sliced zucchini into spaghetti sauce.
Toss in some beans to the mix.
Beans and lentils are excellent fiber sources (not to mention protein, B vitamins, iron, and other crucial nutrients). A quarter cup of kidney beans, for example, contains a significant amount of fiber. Dried lentils cook rapidly, while dried beans typically require soaking before cooking for an hour or more.
If you’re too busy to do so, simply buy canned beans, choosing low-sodium varieties when possible, or empty the can into a strainer and rinse the beans. Try black bean chili or a salad with three beans. Incorporate beans into your Tuesday casserole and Wednesday stew. Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) have a nutty flavor that makes them a superb meat substitute in pasta meals.
If your child like falafel, you can make them at home by rolling mashed and spiced garbanzos into balls and baking them; the results are far healthier than deep-fried falafel. Baked beans are a popular side dish among children; to keep the fat level low, choose a brand without extra meat, such as franks or pork.
Snack on high-fiber foods.
When your child gets hungry in between meals, keep carrot sticks, celery sticks, fresh fruit, dried fruit, and popcorn available. Offer a fig bar, a raisin biscuit, or an oatmeal cookie when he needs a cookie. Choose whole wheat crackers that are free of hydrogenated oils and spread them with crunchy peanut butter. If he enjoys pretzels, there are varieties with oat bran added — don’t worry, he won’t notice!
Play around with grains.
Oats, millet, buckwheat, barley, brown rice, bulgur, triticale, and amaranth are some of the fiber-rich alternatives to whole wheat. Oatmeal is a classic choice for a hearty breakfast, but you can also prepare hot cereal by cooking buckwheat with a pinch of amaranth (high in calcium, iron, and complete protein); add chopped fruit and a sprinkle of brown sugar.
Tabbouleh (bulgur wheat mixed with parsley, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, onion, and tomatoes) is a delicious side dish, but children’s palates aren’t always ready for it, so make a simple bulgur pilaf instead. Whether your youngster doesn’t like brown rice, consider if a mixture of brown and white rice will satisfy him (to cook them together, start the brown kind first and add the white for the last 20 minutes).
Millet is a versatile grain that can be made into hot cereal, pilaf, casserole, or pudding. Combine millet, honey, a drop of vanilla essence, sliced dates, and yogurt for a delicious, fiber-rich dessert.