Fiber For Kids: 15 Tummy-Friendly Foods & Creative Ways To Eat Them
It's no wonder that some of the healthiest foods are also fiber powerhouses, with a slew of health-boosting benefits. This all-important, plant-derived nutrient is vital for optimal gut health and overall well-being. That's why fiber should play a pivotal part in anyone's diet—including kiddos!
Yet, it is estimated that only 5% of American adults and children get an adequate amount of dietary fiber. That's a pretty big problem, considering, "Studies show that children who eat fiber-rich diets have a reduced risk of obesity and chronic diseases later in life," says Whitney English, M.S., RDN. Fiber can also help prevent constipation—a common problem for young children.
What's more, "Fiber helps feed children's developing microbiome, which sets the stage for their lifelong health—the microbiome does everything from helping to digest food to regulating metabolism to influencing immune responses," says English.
Those first three years of life are especially crucial because it's when a child develops their microbiome, says William Bulsiewicz, M.D., MSCI, best-selling author of Fiber Fueled. "We need to view this as an opportunity to support the healthiest gut microbiome possible by feeding it with prebiotics," he says. "There are two main sources that are relevant, human breast milk and the fiber found in plant foods."
How much fiber do kids need?
Ensuring proper fiber consumption is key to promoting your child's health—but what exactly is dietary fiber, anyway?
Usually called roughage, dietary fiber is a plant-derived food component that is not digested by the body. It moves through the digestive system and then out of the body. There are two kinds of dietary fiber: soluble fiber or viscous (think fruits and veggies) and insoluble fiber or bulking (think whole grains and chia seeds). To ensure you're getting both types, most health experts recommend eating a variety of nutritious, fiber-rich foods.
- Children 1 to 3 years: 19 grams of fiber/day.
- Children 4 to 8 years: 25 grams of fiber/day.
- Boys 9 to 13 years: 31 grams of fiber/day.
- Girls 9 to 13 years: 26 grams of fiber/day.
- Boys 14 to 19 years: 38 grams of fiber/day.
- Girls 14 to 19 years: 26 grams of fiber/day
While consuming enough fiber is critically important for optimal health, too much fiber or an imbalance of soluble and insoluble fiber might become a problem. Ideally, you want to start by increasing the amount of plant-based, fiber-rich foods in your child's diet bit by bit to prevent unwanted side effects such as gas, diarrhea, bloating, or tummy aches. Also, make sure to focus on hydration as you increase their fiber intake.
15 high-fiber foods for kids.
If you're looking to incorporate some fiber-rich foods into your child's diet, here are a few (picky-eater-friendly) favorites to help your kiddos stay healthy for years:
1. Ancient grains
Fiber: 5 to 15 grams per cup.
Whether it's kamut, teff, sorghum, amaranth, millet, fonio, farro, rye, freekeh, quinoa, or barley—ancient grains are a compelling, nutrient-rich staple worldwide. Although the health benefits are unique to each variety, they're generally associated with blood sugar control and may decrease the risk of chronic disease.
Fiber: 4.4 grams in 1 medium apple.
Crunchy, sweet, and packed with nutrients—what's not to love about this tasty fruit that might just keep your doctor away, after all? Rich in polyphenols and pectin, apples are linked with numerous health benefits, like digestive support and cardiovascular health. To punch up its gut-friendly perks, leave the skin on and enjoy the whole fruit (flesh and skin).
Fiber: 13.5 grams in 1 avocado.
From toast to guac, there's no denying the popularity of this creamy fruit. Loaded with heart-healthy fats, insoluble fiber, potassium, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients, avocados are a great kid-approved option with powerful tummy benefits.
Fiber: 3 grams in 1 medium banana.
Did you know bananas are actually (and botanically classified as) berries? This nutritious staple is a convenient, delicious way to amp up your child's fiber intake (yellow bananas contain soluble and insoluble fiber) and promote regularity. Bonus points: The cheery fruit may offer some mood-boosting benefits, too!
Fiber: 9 to 15 grams per cup.
Beans are a nutrient rock star, high in plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. From chickpeas and edamame to black beans and black-eyed peas, there are enough options to please even the pickiest of eaters.
Fiber: 3.4 grams per cup.
This vibrant root packs some significant nutritional value. Beyond a healthy serving of fiber, beetroots and their greens also contain iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, phytonutrients, and dietary nitrates.
Fiber: 4 to 8 grams per cup.
A vital source of fiber, polyphenols, and other anti-inflammatory compounds, berries are a satisfying option for your child's diet. They are tasty on their own as a handy, nutrient-dense snack. Plus, they're easy to incorporate during mealtime. Here's a berry simple tip to try: Mash up a few fresh raspberries for a natural jelly or jam swap in your kid's lunch.
Fiber: 2.8 grams per 100-gram serving.
This root veggie is a kids' favorite, thanks to its crunchy texture and sweet taste. Carrots are the perfect all-around snack that's packed with a pretty impressive nutrition profile (hello, beta-carotenes).
Kid-friendly recipes: Roasted Baby Carrots With Grapefruit Gremolata
9. Chia Seeds
Fiber: 9 grams per 2 tablespoons.
Chia seeds are a tiny (but mighty) source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (which can offer heart and brain benefits). When you mix chia seeds with liquid, they take on a gel-like consistency—making them a versatile ingredient for smoothies, jams, pudding, and even for use as a vegan egg replacement.
12. Sweet potatoes
Fiber: 6 grams per sweet potato.
The bright color of this world-renowned tuber is a sign of its unique nutritional profile—high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, plus both soluble and insoluble fiber. Like other root vegetables, it's ideal to keep their skins on for an ultimate nutrient boost.
Fiber: 8 to 16 grams per cup.
Thanks to their slew of health benefits, oats are a top-notch fiber source for your child's diet. This yummy whole grain contains an important type of fiber called beta-glucan, which might support heart, immune, and gut microbial function.
Fiber: 5 grams in 1 medium pear.
These sweet, bell-like fruits are a highly nutritious and tasty treat for any kiddo. One medium-size pear contains around 5 grams of fiber as well as significant amounts of immune-supporting antioxidants.
What about supplements?
Fiber supplements should never supersede a diet rich in high-fiber foods. However, these may help if you find it tough to meet your child's daily fiber intake through fruits, veggies, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Just be sure to consult with your pediatrician before adding any type of supplement to your child's diet.
If you decide to opt for a fiber supplement, high-quality fiber gummies or a nourishing greens powder may be good options. Make sure to read the supplement labels first to guarantee the best ingredient list possible, free of additives, added sugar, and other processed ingredients.
There are a plethora of fiber-related benefits, along with fun (and yummy) ways to incorporate this nutrient into your kid's diet. To fill your child's daily fiber intake, include a diversity of seeds, nuts, legumes, veggies, and fruits in their diet. With the foods and recipes listed above, you'll have a number of delicious, kid-friendly options to try indeed!
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