As a pediatric gastroenterologist I struggle with children who suffer the complications of a miserable diet. Digestive health is tightly linked to what we put into our mouths. And this is never more evident than in those children who lack adequate fiber in their diet.
So how much fiber does a child need? While there aren’t well-established fiber requirements in children a good rule-of-thumb is to add 5 to a child’s age to establish a daily fiber target. A four-year-old, for example, would optimally receive 9 grams of fiber each day. After age 15 we can look at our children as adults and put their requirement somewhere between 20-25 grams per day.
Meeting fiber requirements can be easier said than done, however. The big trick is finding sources of fiber that a child will actually take. Since we can’t control what our children eat we have to find “fiber opportunities” for our children through meals and snacks. Fiber missed through refused beans at lunch, for example, may be met in the mid-afternoon with a snack limited to sliced pears and whole grain crackers.
Here are 6 great sources of fiber that you might want to consider integrating into your child’s diet:
1. Baked beans. 4.5 gm in a quarter-cup
2. Dried apricot. 2.5 gm/in a quarter-cup
3. Grapes. 2.6 gm/10 grapes
4. Pear. 2 gm in a half pear with skin
5. Raisins. 2.2 gram per box
6. Chickpea dip (hummus). 3.5 gm per ¼ cup.
Remember: As you eat, so shall they eat. Set an example and do as you would have your child do. And habits change hard – take small, consistent steps towards dietary change.