How much fiber is enough for your child?

Kids these days aren’t getting enough fiber, an important nutrient for their digestive system. Here are some tricks for fitting fiber into your child’s diet.

The word “fiber” may make you think of prunes and senior citizens, but the truth is most kids don’t get enough of this important nutrient that helps keep their plumbing moving.

I’ve known many kids, including my own, who have had issues with constipation. My kids are somewhat light and picky eaters. Add to that school lunches that don’t include much fiber, and it’s difficult to keep kids regular.

“Constipation problems affect a lot of children,” said Dennis Peppas, M.D., urologist with Norton Children’s Hospital Urology Specialists. “Most of the time this can be addressed with diet, but it takes a conscious effort. We want other treatments to be a last resort.”

In addition to relieving constipation, increased fiber intake can reduce the risk of a child developing urinary tract infections.

“When a child is constipated, it can cause pressure in the urinary tract, blocking the flow of urine,” Dr. Peppas said. “When this happens, bacteria can grow and cause an infection. So when you add plenty of water to eating fiber, you have all around better urinary health.”

Fiber also is filling, so it can help prevent overeating. It can lower cholesterol and even help prevent colorectal cancer, diabetes and heart disease. A recent study in the medical journal American Academy of Pediatrics showed that teens who ate a diet high in fiber had a reduced risk of breast cancer later in life.

How much fiber should kids get each day?

•Toddlers (age 1 to 3) = 19 grams
•Kids (age 4 to 8) = 25 grams
•Older girls (age 9 to 13)
•Teen girls (age 14 to 18) = 26 grams
•Older boys (age 9 to 13) = 31 grams
•Teen boys (age 14 to 18) = 38 grams

Food considered high in fiber has 5 grams or more of fiber per serving; a good source of fiber is one that provides at least 2.5 grams per serving.

Kid-friendly high-fiber foods

Serving Size   Fiber in Grams 
Fiber One  1/2 Cup 14
All-Bran 1/2 Cup 10
Frosted Mini Wheats 21 biscuits 6
Quaker Oat Squares 1 Cup 5
Oatmeal (cooked) 1 Cup 4
Cheerios 1 Cup 2.6
Green Peas  1/2 Cup 3.5
Broccoli 1/2 Cup 3
Carrots 1 medium 2
Green Beans 1/2 Cup 2
Breads and Crackers
Light multigrain english muffin  1 8
Multigrain tortilla (soft taco size) 1 5
Triscuit Minis 28 crackers 4
Whole-wheat bread 1 slice 3
12-grain bread 1 slice 3
Reduced-fat Wheat Thins 16 crackers 3
Lentils 1/2 Cup 8
Lima Beans 1/2 Cup 6
Baked Beans 1/2 Cup 5
Grains (cooked) 
Whole wheat spaghetti 1 Cup 4
Brown Rice 1 Cup 4
Pear (with skin) 1 medium 6
Apple (with skin) 1 medium 4
Strawberries 1 Cup 4
Banana 1 medium 3
Orange 1 medium 3
Dried Fruit
Prunes/Dried Plums 6 pieces 12
Raisins 1/4 Cup 2

The list above contains just some of the best foods for a good amount of fiber. You can also sneak fiber into a meal in other ways. If you’re going to serve chips with lunch, look for whole grain and lower fat options for at least some nutritional punch. If you’re going to make meatballs to go with spaghetti, use whole-wheat bread crumbs in them. You also can sneak some fiber into the sauce by adding baby food spinach, peas and pear mixture (sounds weird, but it works!), which has 4 grams of fiber in a pouch and will be unnoticeable in taste. Every little bit adds up.

As you can see, getting enough fiber into your child’s diet takes a conscious effort. I’ve recently convinced my children to try prunes, and they’re getting used to the idea. Between that and serving fruits, vegetables and whole grains, we’re getting there. By thinking creatively, you can increase that fiber and keep your kids’ plumbing in good working order.

See what enough fiber looks like for a 4- to 8-year old

– Maggie Roetker

Want a yummy recipe that packs a fiber punch? Try these applesauce-flavored bran muffin bites, with 2 grams of fiber per mini-muffin.

Learn more about improving your child’s urinary health along with recipes that will help.

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