Foods High in Dietary Fiber

How Much Fiber Does My Child Need And Where Do We Get It?

When I was growing up, my mother insisted I get plenty of roughage in my diet.  That's what fiber was called in the past.  And that's basically what it is. Roughage, the parts of plant food that we as humans don't have the enzymes to digest and absorb.  

Why do we need it?  My mother told me it was to bulk up the stools--and again she was right--that's one of the reasons we need it.  Fiber holds onto water and fluids and softens the stools so they pass with less effort, which decreases constipation--which then decreases straining and all the diseases that are associated with that--hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and somehow even heart disease.  Another reason may be because the fiber can also bind to cholesterol and fats.  Because fiber holds extra water, it can even help in some cases of long standing (chronic) diarrhea.

Because fiber is filling, it can also lessen total calorie intake, and potentially help with weight control.  Fill up on carrots and celery, you may have as much room for that slice of chocolate cake you otherwise wouldn't have the will power to avoid.  And certain fiber products, particularly the soluble fibers of oats are known for lessening cholesterol.  

Types of Fiber

That last paragraph said a lot. First that there are different types of fiber, based on whether they dissolve in water.  Soluble fiber, the kind found in oats, fruits, beans and psylllum (which is used in lots of fiber pills and products), forms a gel (jello-like) with fluid.  That gel slows stomach emptying, and in doing so, helps to regulate sugar and insulin levels as well as lower blood cholesterol levels.  Insoluble fiber, in vegetables and other whole grains, pretty much remain the same passing through the intestine, providing much of the intestinal bulk.  The second point is that fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber (see the table) but they are often ignored with all the focus on whole grains in various cereals, breads and pastas.

High-Fiber Foods

Fruits -- Each serving has approximately 2 grams of fiber.  Older infants should have one or two servings each day.  Avoid giving fruit with pits to infants.  Remember to remove skins and seeds.

Food

Serving size

Food

Serving size

Apple

1 small

Cantaloupe

1 cup*

Pear

½ small

Apricot

2 medium

Cherries

10

Banana

1 small

Dried figs

1/3 cup

Strawberries

½ cup

Blackberries

½ cup

Peach

1 medium

Watermelon

1-3 cups*

 

 

Cooked Vegetables -- Each serving has about 2 grams of fiber. Children should have two servings or more each day. Children 6 to 12 months should have one to two fist-sized (theirs, not yours) servings per day; children one to three years, half a cup of vegetable per day.

Food

Serving size

Food

Serving size

Avocado

Fresh – ½ medium

Carrots

1/3 cup

Potato

2-inch diameter

Broccoli top

1/3 cup

Green beans

½ cup

French fries

20

Beans

2 tbsp

Peas

¼ cup

Sweet potato

½ medium

 

 

Bread and Cereal -- Infants need iron from infant cereal or meat, approximately 2 ounces per day.  Each serving has about 2 grams of fiber (but not needed for infants.

Food

Serving size

Food

Serving size

Cheerios

2/3 cup

Animal crackers

3 boxes (2oz. each)

White bread

3 slices

Whole wheat bread

1 slice

Graham crackers

10 squares

Infant rice cereal/puffs

Minimal fiber

Infant oatmeal

12 tbsp

 

 

*  Estimates vary widely.  Source: Adapted from S. A. Cohen, Healthy Babies, Happy Kids (New York: Delilah Books, 1982), 168.

How Much is Enough?

Infants should be gradually introduced to fiber, usually as fruits and veggies, so that by a year of age they are consuming 5 grams daily.  After that, you can estimate how much a child needs by adding 5 grams to their age.  Thus a 3 year old should receive about 8 grams and a 12 year old about 17 grams with adults needing 20-30 grams per day.  I do suggest that fruits and veggies make up a significant portion of that by including 5 or more servings per day. T he best way to gauge the amount for each child is by asking them to eat a fistful of each.  It's also to remember as "5 fistfuls a day."  And sometimes, when they are little,  I have them hold their fists together and tell them: "those two fists are the same size as an apple or peach"--so that they can see they can easily accomplish the goal.

How Much is Too Much?

The one problem with fiber is that the intestine sometimes produces gas when it digests some of the beans and vegetables and grains.  Beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and mushrooms are notorious as gas producers.  And that gas can cause cramping and discomfort for some who are particularly sensitive.  And for almost everyone, the gas will eventually come out -- potentially causing embarrassing moments.  A probiotic can sometimes help by providing healthy intestinal bacteria that actually feed off the fiber.  But if the probiotic doesn't work for you, sometimes you can moderate the amount of fiber to lessen the gas while still having enough to benefit your gastrointestinal system.

Dr. Stan Cohen21 March 2016

Dr. Stan Cohen is one of our founders and our CEO as well as the Chairman of our Medical Advisory Board. Dr. Stan is an internationally recognized expert in Read more

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