Build fibre into your child's diet

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Everyone needs to eat plenty of fibre every day, and this includes children. Ingrain healthy eating habits in children at an early age and they are likely to carry this behaviour through into adulthood.

Take a look at ways to integrate dietary fibre into your child's daily diet: it may even help you with yours! And don't forget the golden rule: the amount of fibre a child needs each day (in grams) is their age, plus five – a seven year-old will need twelve grams of fibre a day; a ten year-old, fifteen. Step it up gradually, too, to allow their digestive systems time to adjust.

Incorporate high-fibre breakfast cereals into their diets
Kids usually love the taste and textures of cereal, making it an excellent way of getting fibre into a child's diet. High-fibre cereals are a good source of dietary fibre and can make up a significant proportion of a child's daily fibre intake. Fibre aside, cereal and milk is also a source of B vitamins, calcium and iron. All in all, they're a sound start to any day.

More fruit and vegies!
Fruit and vegies are delicious ways to integrate fibre into your child's diet. Try to get them to eat a variety of different kinds – chop up fresh produce into small pieces, as kids may feel daunted by the size of an apple, for example.

A lot of the fibre is found in the skin of fruit and vegies, so try to get your child to eat unpeeled fruit and vegetables – and bake potatoes in their jackets instead of peeling and boiling or frying them.

Fibre Guide

Use this guide to see which foods are good sources of fibre.
  • 1/3 cup of process bran cereal = 5.6g
  • 1⁄2 cup baked beans = 6.8g
  • 1 medium orange= 2.4g
  • 1 small boiled potato with skin = 1.1g
  • 1 medium apple = 3.1g
  • 1⁄2 cup frozen mixed vegetables = 4.3g
  • 1 medium banana = 3g
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter = 2.7g
  • 1⁄2 cup canned fruit, undrained = 2g
  • 1 slice wholemeal bread = 2g
  • 1 slice multigrain bread = 1.5g
  • 1 cup cooked white rice = 1.5g
  • 1 slice white bread = 1g
  • 1 cup cooked spaghetti = 3.2g

Don't ignore frozen or dried fruit and vegies, either. These contain just as many nutrients and have as much fibre, if not more than, their fresh counterparts. A handful of nuts and raisins can make a good playtime snack, or mix dried apricots into natural yoghurt for a healthy and delicious dessert.

On the frozen side of things, keep bags of vegetables in the freezer, ready for any occasion. As a plus, kids tend to love peas, and these are an excellent standby!

Wholegrains with everything!
Wherever possible, choose the wholegrain or high-fibre equivalent of a product instead of its "white" counterpart. Choose wholegrain breads, though if your child doesn't like the taste, try out the fibre-enriched breads that are available on the market. Or try baking your own bread at home: the warmth and texture may encourage your child to eat it (or at least forget that they "don't like" wholegrain bread!).

Wholemeal pita bread pockets make good snacks and kids love them with some interesting fillings. And when you're making rice, occasionally choose a brown variety rather than the more refined white kind.

Plenty of fluids
Like adults, kids need plenty of fluids to help keep the fibre moving through their digestive tracts. Encourage them to drink water and a daily glass of fruit juice. It's also important to do physical activity to help promote regularity. At least 30 minutes a day is adequate — though the sky is, of course, the limit!

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