How Much Fibre Does My Child Need?

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Mealtime, Dear Karla

Dear Karla,
I read your post about ways to prevent type-2 diabetes and noticed that one commenter suggested fibre. There does not seem to be a clearly stated amount for how much fibre our kids need, and I would like to know just how much I should be giving them. Also, what exactly are the benefits of fibre for kids, anyway?
Thanks, Kaylynn

Thanks very much for raising this question, Kaylynn. There is, in fact, a positive link between fibre and type-2 diabetes. Fibre is a form of carbohydrate that is not digested when eaten, so the calories linked to carbohydrates (approx four calories per gram of carbs) are not the same with fibre as most other foods. Some health experts even classify fibre as "free calories," because your body does not actually use the calories present and instead passes them out. When it comes to diabetes, fibre helps by slowing down the digestive time of the particular food item being eaten, thereby slowing the release of sugar into the bloodstream. This keeps blood sugar levels more stable, making fibre a sort of "protector" against type-2 diabetes.

More about fibre and how much your kids need, after the jump...

There are 2 types of fibre:

  • Insoluble: This is the kind that adds bulk to our stools and stimulates movement along the GI tract. This kind of fibre is often found in bran (many cereals and grains), nuts, seeds and some skins of fruit and vegetables.
  • Soluble: This kind of fibre helps draw water into the stools to make them softer and easier to pass. It's found in oats, pulses (like lentils and beans), vegetables and fruits like apples and bananas.
What I have noticed in both children and adults is that they consume more grains to get a great deal of insoluble fibre -- which is great -- but often suffer irregular bowel movements. This sometimes is due to the fact that they fail to drink enough water, or to get in enough fresh fruits and vegetables in the day. Eating a proper, balanced diet and staying hydrated is just as important as making sure that you're getting enough fibre!

Two recommendations of daily fibre intake for children:
  • American Pediatric Society recommends that children over two years of age consume their age plus five grams per day. A safe range is suggested to be their age plus five and age plus 10g per day. For example, to calculate the daily fibre needs of an eight-year-old, the minimum amount per day would work out to 13g(8 yrs + 5g = 13g), to a max amount of 18g.
  • Health Canada's nutritional recommendation for fibre is 14 grams per every 1000 calories eaten per day. This applies to BOTH adults and children.
Fibre Also Helps With Weight Control
Getting enough fiber into your day, regardless of if you are an adult or a child, will help with weight control. This is because fibre will naturally make us feel full, and therefore deter us from snacking on junk food. When we are full and feel satisfied we are less likely to grab something we know will not help our waistlines.

Fibre not only sustains appetite, but is also known to bind to wastes and toxins in our digestive tract, and help eliminate them from the body. This is key for optimal health in both adults and children, as a build-up of toxins in the body can impair digestion and cause discomfort such as bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps. If the members of your family don't experience at least one bowel movement a day, it is time to look at the type of fibre you are consuming. Make sure that you're getting both soluble and insoluble fibre in your diet, and that you drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Karla Heintz, B.Sc., is a nutrition educator and author of Picky? Not Me, Mom! A Parents' Guide to Children's Nutrition. If you have a question you would like answered please leave it in the comment section below. Thanks!


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.