By Stacy Whitman
The word “fiber” may conjure visions of your grandmother’s go-to breakfast of All-Bran and prune juice. But dietary fiber isn’t just for the gray-haired crowd: We all need a hefty dose of it, including toddlers. For one thing, it can help prevent chronic constipation, an all-too-common problem that can wreak havoc on potty training. Second, because naturally fiber-rich foods (such as fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, seeds and beans) are packed with nutrients, tots who eat them typically get more vitamins and minerals, iron and folic acid. Plus, if your toddler consumes lots of fiber now, he’s likely to keep doing so as an adult, which could significantly slash his risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity later in life.
So how much fiber does your wee one need? The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that tots ages 2 and 3 down roughly 19 grams of fiber every day (and that number increases to 25 grams once your child turns 4). Sound like a lot? It is. And unfortunately, the vast majority of American munchkins aren’t coming close to achieving it, confirms a 2010 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. In the study, which examined the eating habits of more than 3,200 small children, 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds averaged just 10 grams a day. Even the kids who ate the most fiber failed to reach the 19-gram daily target.
While the IOM’s fiber recommendation may feel daunting, it is completely doable with some relatively simple switches, says Kim Galeaz, RD, the Indianapolis, Ind.-based nutrition consultant who created the “Fiberlicious Recipes” that begin on page 00. Trading white breads, pastas and tortillas for whole-grain versions (made with whole-wheat flour, quinoa or spelt, for example) is a great place to start. Another idea: When making muffins, pancakes and pizza dough, use white whole-wheat, buckwheat or quinoa flour, and sprinkle in wheat germ, ground flaxseeds or oat bran for an added fiber boost. At the store, look for frozen waffles and breakfast cereals with ingredients like whole-grain wheat, wheat bran, oats, yellow corn and flax. And swap white rice for brown or another high-fiber grain like quinoa or whole-wheat couscous.
Fresh and frozen fruits and veggies are typically fantastic sources of fiber, notes Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. To sneak more into your child’s diet, toss raspberries and blueberries into a smoothie, add shredded zucchini to breads and muffins, or top pancakes and waffles with peaches. Most kids love dipping raw veggies like carrots and red peppers into low-fat ranch dip, Johnson adds. Or serve steamed broccoli sprinkled with Parmesan cheese or low-sodium soy sauce. Since your toddler is no longer a baby, you can leave the skins on fruits like apples, pears and nectarines, where the bulk of the fiber lies-just be sure to dice them small to avoid a choking hazard. Choose whole fruits over canned versions and sauces, which are usually lower in fiber because the skin of the fruit has been removed during processing. Unsweetened dried fruits, such as plums, apricots and cranberries, also contain a fair amount of fiber and make yummy finger foods.
Fiber-packed beans, lentils and peas (otherwise known as “legumes”) are excellent choices, too. For a kid-friendly meal, wrap pinto beans, brown rice and cheese into a whole-wheat tortilla. Or, at snack time, serve white bean dip with high-fiber crackers or chips. If your toddler turns up his nose at beans, try slipping a few tablespoons of pureed white or navy beans into mashed potatoes, pasta sauce or homemade pizza. Lentils can be paired with brown rice and tomatoes or made into a tasty soup or a veggie burger (just add ketchup and your tot will love it!).
Most toddlers will happily eat foods that are high in fiber, especially if you introduce them early. If your child balks, Johnson suggests easing into it by mixing brown and white rice, or whole-wheat pasta and semolina noodles, for instance. And be sure to set a good example by noshing on lots of high-fiber foods yourself. While your toddler is watching, munch on a bowl of mixed greens, top your yogurt with blackberries, pile your plate with edamame and corn, or order a side of black beans. Chances are she’ll see what you’re eating and want some, too. If not, be consistent and keep offering. Just don’t push it: Some kids are pickier than others and need a bit more time to come around.
NEXT: Six Fiber All-Stars
Six Fiber All-Stars
Sneaking more fiber into your child’s diet isn’t as hard as it sounds. Simply focus on incorporating more fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds into his meals and snacks-and you’re on your way! Use this list of high-fiber snack ideas to get started:
-1/2 cup raspberries: 35 calories and 4 grams fiber
-1/4 small avocado: 80 calories and 3.4 g fiber
-1/2 cup fresh pitted cherries: 200 calories and 12.5 g fiber
-1/2 cup green peas: 59 calories and 4 grams fiber
-1/4 cup hummus: 102 calories and 3.7 g fiber
-1/2 cup lightly sweetened or frosted wheat biscuit cereal: 92 calories and 2.5 g fiber
NEXT: Fiber-Rich Packaged Snacks We Heart
Fiber-Rich Packaged Snacks We Heart
Of course we’d all love to be Martha Stewart, whipping up fresh fruit slices and crudités with homemade dip come snack time. But so often time is in short supply. Luckily, wholesome, fiber-packed packaged snacks are popping up on store shelves every day, whether you’re shopping at Whole Foods or a more mainstream national grocer. Here are some of our favorites-all free of artificial ingredients and approved by our own kids.
o Kashi Honey Sunshine Cereal (kashi.com): Like Cap’n Crunch, but with whole grains and minimal added sugar. Per toddler serving (1/2 cup): 66 calories and 4 grams fiber.
o Somersaults Chez Cocoa “cookies” (somersaultsnackco.com): Little nuggets made of sunflower and sesame seeds, whole-wheat flour and cocoa that are just sweet enough to satisfy a craving. Per toddler serving (about 7 pieces): 75 calories and 1.5 grams fiber.
o Terra Sweets & Carrots Chips (terrachips.com): All chips should be this sweet! These contain vitamin A and have very little sodium and saturated fat. Per toddler serving (about 7 chips): 75 calories and 2.5 grams fiber.
o Happy Baby Organic Baby Food – Spinach, Mango & Pear (happybabyfood.com): Puréed fruit and veggies-and nothin’ else. Per toddler serving (one 3.5-ounce pouch): 60 calories and 3 grams fiber.
o Froose juice beverage (cherry, peach or pear) (froose.com): A juice box with fiber? No joke! Per toddler serving (one 4.2-fluid ounce carton): 80 calories and 3 grams fiber.
o Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame – Lightly Salted (seapointfarms.com): High in protein, crunchy and delicious! Per toddler serving (about 2 tablespoons): 65 calories and 4 grams fiber.
NEXT: Fiberlicious Recipes Your Toddler Will Gobble Up
Multi-Grain Apple Oven Pancakes
This one-dish take on flapjacks cooks in the oven, leaving you free to tend to your tot rather than cakes on the griddle.
Heat oven to 425°F. Coat a 10x15x2-inch pan with vegetable cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups old-fashioned oats, 1 cup white whole-wheat flour, 1/4 cup oat bran, 1/4 cup ground flaxseed, 2 tablespoons wheat germ, 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk, 3 large eggs, 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1/4 cup canola oil. Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined, being careful not to over-mix. Lightly stir in 2 cups peeled and finely diced apples. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out nearly clean. Cut into 18 pieces and serve warm.
Per serving (1 piece): 155 calories, 4.5 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 5.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 65 IU vitamin A, 2 mg vitamin C, 1 mg iron, 60 mg calcium, 76 mg sodium, 3.5 g fiber
Corn, Black Bean and Avocado Salad
This salad is perfect for a side dish or as a salsa for whole-grain corn chips.
In a large bowl, lightly stir together 1 can (15 oz.) drained and rinsed black beans; 1 1/2 cups fresh, cooked (or frozen, thawed) sweet corn kernels; 1 2/3 cups diced red tomato; 3/4 cup finely chopped green onion (both green and white parts); 3/4 cup diced ripe yet firm avocado; 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro; and 1/2 very finely minced jalapeño pepper (optional). In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup lime juice, 1 teaspoon lime zest, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 very large finely minced garlic clove, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour over salad mixture and toss lightly to coat all pieces. Chill several hours before serving to allow flavors to meld. Makes about 4 1/2 cups total (about 9 servings).
Per serving (1/2 cup): 112 calories, 4 g protein; 16 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 495 IU vitamin A, 15 mg vitamin C, 1.3 mg iron, 32 mg calcium, 130 mg sodium, 5 g fiber
Summer Garden Barley
Soft, mild barley combines with sautéed chunks of zucchini and yellow summer squash for a hearty, kid-friendly meal.
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Stir in 1 cup quick-cooking barley, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until barley is soft and tender and nearly all water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes until all water is absorbed.
In a large 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Cut half of a large zucchini and half of a yellow summer squash into 1/4-inch-wide slices, then quarter each slice, to yield roughly 5 1/2 to 6 cups. Add to skillet and cook squash until tender-crisp, but not mushy, about 6 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cooked barley, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, 1 large very finely minced garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 5 cups total (about 10 servings).
Per serving (1/2 cup): 95 calories, 3 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 185 IU vitamin A; 16 mg vitamin C, 1 mg iron, 27 mg calcium, 122 mg sodium, 4 g fiber
A study says tots aren’t getting enough. Prevent future heart disease and diabetes with these kid-friendly tactics.