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Constipation

19 January 2019

Fibre is not only for adults

Children need fibre just as much as adults – for the same reasons.

You know how important fibre is for overall health, making meals more filling and staying "regular".

But did you know that children need their fair share of fibre too? And for the same reasons.

The number five

How much is enough? In general, the US Institute of Medicine states that monitoring fibre intake should start early in life, and by their teen years, kids need nearly as much fibre as adults.

Grams of fibre by age:

  • Ages 1–3: 19g
  • Ages 4-8: 25g
  • Ages 9–13: 26g for girls, 31g for boys
  • Ages 14–18: 26g for girls, 38g for boys

The American Academy of Pediatrics says to remember the number five – make sure kids eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day plus other good sources of fibre, like whole grains.

The nutrition facts panel on packaged foods can help you make fibre-rich choices. If a food claims to be a good source of fibre, the fibre grams will be listed under carbohydrates. "Excellent" sources have five or more grams of fibre per serving. "Good" sources have at least three grams.

While whole grains make healthier choices than refined ones, some have more fibre than others. For instance, whole-grain wheat has more than whole-grain brown rice or oats. Also, the amount of fibre in the same grain can vary by brand, so always read those labels. For variety, try new grains like bulgur, buckwheat, cornmeal and wild rice.

Simple changes can add up to a big improvement.

An early start

When serving veggies and fruit, don't remove edible peels – they contain fibre, plus there's less prepping for you. When you do cook produce, avoid overcooking, which destroys fibre. Dried fruits, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and freshly made popcorn all make great high-fibre snacks.

Try to replace some protein and starchy veggies, like potatoes, with legumes – beans, peas and lentils. They're high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and deliver plant-based proteins without the saturated fat of meat.

Keep in mind that the earlier in their lives that you start kids on a fibre-rich diet, the easier it will be for them to carry this healthy habit into adulthood.

Image credit: iStock