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Do Children Need Fiber?

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Do Children Need Fiber?

Jul 24, 2023
Adults need fiber in their diets to help prevent certain illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. But what about children? While fruits and vegetables are great fiber sources, there are also supplement options available for picky eaters. Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, talks about the role of fiber in children's diets and its impact on their health. Dr. Gellner also shares how to use the "Rule of Five" to determine your child's daily fiber requirement.

Episode Transcript

Fiber is something that as adults we hear all the time we should get plenty of in our diet to prevent things like diabetes, certain cancers, and to help with heart disease. But what about kids? I mainly end up talking about fiber when I see a child who has constipation, which seems to be daily lately. Fiber helps bulk up stool and keeps things moving along the digestive tract.

The Importance of Fiber for Kids' Health

Most foods that have fiber are also good sources of vitamins and other nutrients. Some of the best foods to get fiber from are fruits and vegetables, which, of course, we know kids just love. Not. Okay, a lot of kids will do okay with fruits, but vegetables are a different story. If your child is picky, like most kids are these days, there are fiber gummies they can take. But make sure your child doesn't think that they're candy and eat too many. Too much fiber can cause excess gas, and nobody wants that.

Recommended Fiber Intake for Children: The Rule of Five

Parents might ask how much fiber their child needs. Well, that's kind of tricky because it depends on the child. Some dietitians talk about the rule of five. Add five to your child's age and that will tell you how many grams of fiber your child should have each day. Now the adult total daily recommended amount of fiber is 25 grams. So that's like the maximum fiber grams your child should have, and usually only if they're like teenagers and adult size. There really aren't true standardized daily recommendation amounts because kids need different amounts based on their activity level, their age, their diet, and if they have other medical issues, such as chronic constipation.

Sources of Fiber and Nutrients for Kids

How can you find foods with fiber in them? Well, the good news is that all foods have to have a food label on them by law, and fiber is one of the things listed. In general, foods like oatmeal, granola bars, nuts, beans, whole wheat bread, and pastas are all good sources of fiber. Again, fruits and veggies are too.

Be creative with getting your child to eat fiber. You can make smoothies with fruits and veggies. You can put oatmeal or granola in yogurt. And most whole wheat pastas taste just like regular pasta, and your child won't know the difference.

So while there's no such thing as a fiber deficiency, kids really should be eating a variety of foods that have fiber in them to help their digestion. If your child isn't eating a well-balanced diet, your pediatrician can help with suggestions on how you can be creative and get your child to have a better variety of foods.