Improve your child's fibre intake with these easy tips

By: Cara Rosenbloom, RD

Author: Canadian Living


Improve your child's fibre intake with these easy tips

By: Cara Rosenbloom, RD
Between helping your children with their math homework and getting them to soccer practice on time, the last thing on your mind is probably their fibre intake. You have enough to worry about -- so "roughage" is hardly a main concern, right?

Maybe it should be higher on your priority list. Canadian children get less than half of the fibre they need and this low intake can lead to health problems. The good news is that increasing fibre intake can be easy. Read on to learn how to add more to your child's diet. Then get back to that pesky math assignment!

Fibre for health
High-fibre foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans help promote regularity and combat constipation. If your kids often complain about hard or painful stools, they're probably not getting enough fibre.

Beyond bathroom habits, fibre may also help prevent obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. While these conditions sound unlikely for children, the reality is that kids are being diagnosed with these 'adult' types of disease at an earlier age.

Fibre intake too low
Statistics show that four- to eight-year-old Canadian children get 13 grams of fibre each day, but need 25 grams. The same low intake is seen across all age groups. Use this chart to determine how much fibre your children need:

Age Gender Amount of fibre needed per day
1 - 3 Male and female 19 grams
4 - 8 Male and female 25 grams
9 - 13 Male 31 grams
9 - 13 Female 26 grams
14 - 19 Male 38 grams
14 - 19 Female 26 grams

Page 1 of 2 – Discover easy ways to improve your child's fibre intake on page 2Easy ways to increase fibre
If your children are not meeting their daily fibre needs, the easiest solution is to raise the fibre content in the foods they already enjoy. Here are some tips:

1. Fibre for carb cravers
Pasta, rice and bread are must-haves for most kids. Luckily, getting high fibre options of these staples is both easy and tasty. Replace white rice, bread and pasta with whole grain, higher-fibre versions such as brown rice, whole grain bread and whole wheat pasta. This will instantly double the fibre intake for the same serving size.

2. Fibre for comfort food lovers
Are your kids big on burgers, burritos and sloppy Joes? Amp up the fibre in these beef dishes by adding kidney beans, tofu or bran cereal into the mix. If your kids love chicken fingers, make your own high-fibre version by coating chicken strips in whole grain cereal and flax seeds. Use your imagination to tuck fibre into all of their favourite comfort foods.

3. Fibre for kids who can't resist a crunch
Replace potato chips with fibre-rich popcorn (4 grams of fibre per 3 cup serving) or a cup of whole grain breakfast cereal. Choose a blend of cereals made from whole grain oats, corn, quinoa, amaranth or wheat, and you'll be serving between five and 14 grams of fibre per cup.  

4. Fibre for slurpers and dippers

Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans have a ton of fibre and lend themselves well to soups and dips. Kidney beans are fun in slurpy minestrone or chicken noodle soup. Pureed beans are perfect for preparing hummus or black bean dip. Simply add some vegetables for dunking and you've made a great fibre-rich snack.

5. For kids with a sweet tooth
Fruit is a delicious source of fibre. The top fibre-containing fruits are berries, pears, apples and oranges. One-half cup of figs or prunes yields an impressive seven grams of fibre, making dried fruit another excellent option. Can't convince your kids to eat more fruit? Serve it as a snack when they are very hungry, and chances are they'll gobble it up. Or, call fruit by a silly name -- studies show this helps kids eat more fresh produce. Serve up a bowl of warrior sticks (apple wedges) and puddlepums (grapes) and they may ask for seconds.

With these tips, ensuring that your kids reach their daily fibre goals is easy and won't take much time. You should enjoy these fibre-rich foods too, since most Canadian adults also fall short of their daily fibre needs.

Fibre content of select foods:
(1 cup, unless otherwise stated)
Amount of fibre
Legumes (lentils and beans) 16 -19 grams
Bran sticks or buds cereal (1/2 cup) 12 - 14 grams
Blackberries or raspberries 8 grams
Flax seeds (1 oz) 8 grams
Pear (1) 6 grams
Whole wheat pasta, cooked 6 grams
Broccoli 5 grams
Quinoa or buckwheat, cooked 5 grams
Bran flake cereal 5 grams
Apple or orange (1) 4 grams

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Improve your child's fibre intake with these easy tips