Few kids would say they crave a good fiber-rich meal. Although
the thought of fiber might bring gags and groans from kids, many
appetizing foods are actually great sources of fiber - from fruits
to whole-grain cereals. And kids are probably eating them
without even knowing it.
Not just for the senior-citizen crowd, foods with fiber are
beneficial because they're filling and, therefore, discourage
overeating - even though fiber itself adds no calories. Plus, when
combined with adequate fluid intake, high-fiber fare helps move
food through the digestive system and may protect against gut
cancers and constipation. It may also lower LDL
("bad" cholesterol) as well as help prevent
and heart disease.
Figuring Out Fiber
Listed on food labels under total carbohydrates, dietary fiber
is found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains. Some
of the best sources are:
- whole-grain breads and cereals
- green peas
- legumes (dried beans, split peas, lentils, etc.)
A high-fiber food has 5 grams or more of fiber per serving and a
good source of fiber is one that provides 2.5 to 4.9 grams per
serving. Here's how some fiber-friendly foods stack up:
- 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of cooked navy beans (9.5 grams of
- 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of cooked lima beans (6.6
- 1 medium baked sweet potato with peel (4.8 grams)
- 1 whole-wheat English muffin (4.4 grams)
- 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of cooked green peas (4.4
- 1 medium raw pear with skin (4 grams)
- 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of raw raspberries (4 grams)
- 1 medium baked potato with skin (3.8 grams)
- 1/4 cup (59 milliliters) of oat bran cereal (3.6 grams)
- 1 ounce (28 grams) of almonds (3.3 grams)
- 1 medium raw apple with skin (3.3 grams)
- 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of raisins (3 grams)
- 1/4 cup (59 milliliters) of baked beans (3 grams)
- 1 medium orange (3 grams)
- 1 medium banana (3 grams)
- 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) canned sauerkraut (3 grams)
A simple way to determine how many grams of fiber a child older
than 2 years should eat each day is to add 5 to the child's age
in years (i.e., a 5-year-old should get about 10 grams of fiber).
After the age of 15, teens and adult women should get about 20-25
grams of fiber per day. Adult men should get 30-38 grams of fiber a
Adding Fiber to Your Family's Diet
Here are some creative, fun, and tasty ways to incorporate
more fiber-rich foods into your family's diet:
- Make oatmeal (a whole grain) part of morning meals.
- Choose whole-grain cereals that have 3 grams or more fiber
- Make pancakes with whole-grain (or buckwheat) pancake mix and
top with apples, berries, or raisins.
- Serve bran or whole grain waffles topped with fruit.
- Offer whole-wheat bagels or English muffins, instead of white
- Top fiber-rich cereal with apples, oranges, berries, or
bananas. Add almonds to pack even more fiber punch.
- Mix kid-favorite cereals with fiber-rich ones or top with a
tablespoon of bran.
Lunch and Dinner
- Make sandwiches with whole-grain breads (rye, oat, or wheat)
instead of white.
- Make a fiber-rich sandwich with whole-grain bread, peanut
butter, and bananas.
- Serve whole-grain rolls with dinner instead of white
- Use whole-grain pastas instead of white.
- Serve wild or brown rice with meals instead of white rice.
Add beans (kidney, black, navy, and pinto) to rice dishes for
even more fiber.
- Spice up salads with berries and almonds, chickpeas, cooked
artichokes, and beans (kidney, black, navy, or pinto).
- Use whole-grain (corn or whole wheat) soft-taco shells or
tortillas to make burritos or wraps. Fill them with eggs and
cheese for breakfast; turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and light
dressing for lunch; and beans, salsa, taco sauce, and cheese for
- Add lentils or whole-grain barley to soups.
- Create mini-pizzas by topping whole-wheat English muffins or
bagels with pizza sauce, low-fat cheese, mushrooms, and pieces of
- Add bran to meatloaf or burgers. (But not too much bran or
your family might catch on!)
- Serve sweet potatoes with the skins as tasty side dishes.
Regular baked potatoes with the skins are good sources of fiber,
- Top low-fat hot dogs or veggie dogs with sauerkraut and serve
them on whole-wheat hot dog buns.
- Pack fresh fruit or vegetables in
Snacks and Treats
- Bake cookies or muffins using whole-wheat flour instead of
regular. Or use some whole-wheat and some regular flour, so that
the texture of your baked treats won't be drastically
different. Add raisins, berries, bananas, or chopped or pureed
apples to the mix for even more fiber.
- Add bran to baking items such as cookies and muffins.
- Top whole-wheat crackers with peanut butter or low-fat
- Offer air-popped popcorn - a whole-grain food - as a midday
treat or while kids watch TV or movies. (However, only give
popcorn to kids over 4 years old because it can be a choking
- Top ice cream, frozen yogurt, or regular yogurt with
whole-grain cereal, berries, or almonds for some added nutrition
- Serve apples topped with peanut butter.
- Make fruit salad with pears, apples, bananas, oranges, and
berries. Top with almonds for added crunch. Serve as a side dish
with meals or alone as a snack.
- Make low-fat breads, muffins, or cookies with canned
- Leave the skins on when serving fruits and veggies as snacks
or as part of a meal.
However you choose to incorporate fiber, don't push it on
your family. Make gradual changes that will add up to a diet
that's higher in fiber over time. And keep offering a variety
of foods that are good sources of fiber - fruits like pears and
berries, vegetables like beans and peas, and whole-grain breakfast
cereals and breads. Kids will get the fiber they need, and
you'll set the tone for a lifetime of healthy eating.
Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2009
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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