Wednesday, June 3, 2009


If you ask any of my kids that can talk why you need fiber, they would be able to tell you. It is important to let your kids understand how their bodies work so that they will know how to take care of them. We would teach them how to check the oil in their car, or why oil is important for their car (actually, I think my parents forgot to teach me that one . . . I seized up my first car). Just because I teach my kids what fiber is and why you need it, doesn't mean that we have "potty talk" at the table. "Potty talk" at the table is against the rules at my house.

So why do we need fiber? I tell my kids that it helps keep your poop soft and makes it easier for it to come out. I also tell them that it prevents cancer. They know what cancer is because their Grandpa has it. I also tell them that it helps take the fat that is bad for their heart, out of their body. When kids have problems going to the bathroom, tell them right then that it is because they didn't eat enough foods with fiber, and then tell them some foods that have fiber in them.

Fiber Facts

  • Dietary fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. This includes plant nonstarch polysaccharides (for example, cellulose, pectin, gums, hemicellulose, and fibers contained in oat and wheat bran), oligosaccharides, lignin, and some resistant starch.
  • Since fiber isn't digested, but rather "passed through", people who eat more fiber tend to be slimmer than those who eat less fiber.
  • Fiber helps control/prevent diabetes. A German clinical trial reported that eating fiber-enriched bread for only three days improved insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese women by 8%.
  • Fiber helps prevent heart disease. In a Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals, researchers found that a high total dietary fiber intake was linked to a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to a low-fiber intake.
  • Fiber helps your cholesterol. It appears that soluble fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol in your intestines by binding with bile (which contains cholesterol) and dietary cholesterol so that the body excretes it.
  • Fiber helps relieve/prevent constipation. Some kids have this problem. It seem all too common.

How Much Fiber do your kids need?

The average Americans daily intake of fiber is about 5 to 14 grams per day. I am sure that for kids the average is even lower. Below is how much they should be getting.

Kids 1 to 3 years: 19 grams

Kids 4 to 8 years: 25 grams

Boys 9 to 13 years: 31 grams

Girls 9 to 13 years: 26 grams

What are some High Fiber food ideas?

  1. Smoothies made with whole fruits. This means fruits that still have the peel on them. Juice does NOT have fiber in it. Smoothies are great because they do have fiber in them and they still taste like juice and are liquid like juice. If your kid is having a hard time liking the texture of the smoothie, put more water in it and serve it with a straw. Better yet, serve it with a bendy straw and a dollop of light canned whipped cream.
  2. Beans. I tell my kids that beans are the healthiest food on the earth. This could be argued, but it is my opinion that they are. They have about 20% protein (meat is only 18%, although meat is a complete protein). Beans also average 6 grams of fiber for only 1/2 cup! Baked beans are a great way to get kids to like beans. Nice and sweet. Also try opening a can of refried beans and heat it up in the microwave with about 1/2 C -1 C shredded cheddar cheese. Then let your kids dip their corn chips in it. Another great way is to make black bean soup (see recipe below). This is a mostly pureed up, so they don't even know they are eating beans. You can give beans to babies starting at 8 months. Kidney beans are very soft and big and easy to pick up with their fingers. Hummus is also a great way to get your kids to eat beans. Try this easy black bean hummus recipe.
  3. Nuts also have a lot of fiber. On average you get about 3 grams for 1/4 of a cup. Try putting together trail mix. I also love sugared nuts on a green salad. Whenever I make a green salad, I make extra sugared nuts to put on my kids plates. Only my oldest will eat the lettuce, but they all love the sugared nuts, fruit, and cheese that is usually in the lettuce salad. See below for how to sugar nuts.
  4. Cold and Hot Cereal. If you pick your cereal right, you can get a lot of fiber. One of my new favorites is Kashi's Honey Sunshine. You get 6 grams of fiber per serving. Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, and Cracked Wheat are all great too. Grapenuts, Frosted Mini-Wheats and Cheerios are also some favorites of ours that have lots of fiber. All of the Kashi cereals have a lot of fiber. Keep in mind that if your kids have the choice between 2 high fiber cereals, they are more likely to pick one than if they have the choice between a high fiber cereal and a sweet no fiber cereal. The point is that your kids won't eat Lucky Charms if you don't buy them!
  5. Popcorn is a great healthy high fiber snack. One cup of popped popcorn has about 2 grams. I don't know about your kids, but my kids eat a lot more than 1 Cup.
  6. Whole wheat bread. I am planning on doing a separate post on this, but yes, you should buy whole wheat bread. Start early with never buying white bread. It does have a different texture than white bread, but you need to get them used to it.
So to sum things up, you need to give your kids enough fiber so that they don't get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, constipation, and obesity. Can you believe that one little thing can help prevent so many diseases?

So feed your kids beans, popcorn, good cereal, whole wheat bread, and nuts. Also, make it a rule that if there are less than 2 grams of fiber per serving, don't buy it!

Black Bean Soup

3 Cups canned Black Beans drained
1 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tsp chili powder
2 t chopped jalapeno pepper
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t aniseed
6 C chicken stock
1 can stewed tomatoes
3/4 t salt and pepper
4 t lime juice

Saute in oil: garlic, onion, celery til soft. Add chili powder, jalapeno pepper, oregano, cumin and aniseed. Cook for 1 minute. Add beans and stock. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. In bender, puree soup. Return to pot and add lime juice. You can puree it finely, or chunky.

Sugared Nuts

About 1/2 Cup of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
1 T water
3 T sugar

Put all in a frying pan and cook on high heat for a couple of minutes or until water has evaporated. Stir frequently to ensure the nuts are evenly coated and to prevent burning.


  1. Fiber one is a good high fiber cereal. 14 g per 1/2 cup. I'll add it to granola for an extra boost. That soup sound great, I'll have to make it!

  2. Thanks Lisa. Those were awesome suggestions/information. Love the break down of grams per age!! And can't wait to make the soup.
    How early did you give your kids popcorn? Do you think it's still a choking hazard at 2?

  3. I would probably wait until age 3 for popcorn, but if you are right with them you could try sooner.

  4. Lisa I am making your Black Bean Soup right now. I'll let you know how it was.

  5. I so needed that info on fiber, both my kids need more of it. I finally bought the gummy fiber vitamins to help them out. So thank you for the great food tips (I'm making my shopping list right now). Hopefully now they'll just get enough in their food they won't need anything extra.

  6. Surprisingly Cream of Wheat only has 1 gram of fiber per serving (the same as Frosted Flakes) but I really like the Fiber One Cereals. We get Raisin Bran Clusters and it has 11 g. fiber. Cheerios we like too and it has 3 g. Thanks for the info - we need to work on our fiber intake big time!