High fiber foods for kids are an important part of a balanced diet for their growing bodies and minds.
It’s hard enough for most adults to get enough fiber in their diet, let alone kids! But, that doesn’t mean it’s not important, or possible.
Having an idea of how much fiber kids need, why it’s important, and how to get more of it into your child’s diet (and your own) is beneficial in the journey towards healthy living.
This article will cover all of these bases AND share 27 high fiber foods that can be worked into your family meal plan.
Is your child getting enough fiber?
Determining whether your child is getting enough fiber includes considering fiber recommendations, understanding what fiber is, and the challenges to getting enough.
What are the fiber guidelines for kids
According to the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), the Adequate Intake (AI) recommendations for dietary fiber in children ages 2 to 18 years old are:
- 1 – 3 years old = 19 grams/day
- 4 – 8 years old = 25 grams/day
- 9 – 13 year old boys = 31 grams/day
- 14 – 18 year old boys = 38 grams/day
- 9 – 18 year old girls = 26 grams/day
Other authorities recommend basing fiber intake on a child’s age plus 5 grams, or 14 grams of fiber per 1000 Kcals consumed (up to 38 grams/day).
What is fiber?
Simply put, fiber is plant matter that humans don’t digest. There are two types:
- Soluble fiber: Dissolves in water, is fermented by bacteria in the intestines, and forms a gel-like consistency in the GI tract.
- Insoluble fiber: Does not dissolve in water, and adds bulk to the stool.
Most commonly, fiber is considered to be just that… fiber. But, it’s important to look at both types as they play different roles in the body.
Why is fiber important
Soluble fiber shows protective measures against heart disease, some cancers, and increased satiety for maintaining a healthy weight.
In addition, gut bacteria eat soluble fiber by fermenting it. This fermentation process produces short-chain fatty acids (such as butyrate), which are associated with health benefits like:
- Decreased inflammation
- Increased insulin sensitivity, and controlled blood sugar levels
- Delayed neurodegenerative disease
- Possibly improving treatment of gastro-intestinal conditions, such as Crohn’s, IBS, and ulcerative colitis
In most plant foods, you will find a combination of soluble and insoluble fibers.
Insoluble fiber provides bulk for improved regularity and constipation relief. But, too much insoluble fiber (mostly found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and some peels) can have a negative effect of binding to important nutrients such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron — preventing their absorption into the body.
One of the best benefits I see as a nutritionist (and a mom) is that high fiber foods for kids help set them up for a healthy lifestyle and relationship with food. Real foods for kids that are rich in fiber are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants — perfect for establishing overall healthy habits.
Challenges for getting enough fiber
One of the biggest challenges for getting enough fiber into your kids is the type of foods that naturally contain it. Most processed, highly palatable, kid-marketed foods are not fiber dense.
The Standard American Diet contains a lot of processed white flour, pasta, bread, snack foods, and desserts. It’s generally lacking in fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
Another common challenge is that many fiber-rich foods have a stronger taste to young palates who may be thought of as “picky eaters.” With more taste buds than adults, kids can easily have aversions — especially to certain vegetables — that can be worked through over time.
Tips for getting kids to eat more fiber
Emphasizing plant foods that your child already likes is the best place to begin.
If high fiber foods are new to your child, remember to start slow so that their digestive system can adjust to the change. Increasing fiber intake too fast can cause bloating and an upset tummy.
As you introduce new foods and meals for increased fiber, keep these tips in mind, along with drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
Serve more veggies
Vegetables are rich in soluble fiber, and while they might not be the first food your child reaches for, they can learn to love them — especially if you set a positive example.
It’s a fun family challenge to include at least two vegetables at each meal and encourage the “at least one bite” rule for all. Consistent exposure works wonders over time (it just requires a good dose of patience from parents).
When it comes to serving more veggies, you may have to feel your little ones out. Do they prefer them straight up, as is? Or, are they more apt to eat a variety of produce if it’s blended into soups, smoothies, and sauces where the look and texture is disguised?
Fruit is also a good source of fiber, but with it also comes a lot more sugar than is found in veggies. Veggies first, fruit second.
Leave the peel on
There is usually a fair amount of fiber in the edible peel of veggies and fruits. If you can swing it, find organic options, wash them well, and leave the peel on — still slicing to the appropriate size for your child.
Apples, pears, english cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, and kiwis are all examples of produce with thin skins that are easy to eat. Introduce your child to eating such peels as soon as developmentally appropriate.
Offer raw veggies
Raw or lightly cooked veggies have more crunch — often preferred by kids. I certainly don’t like oversteamed, mushy veggies, and neither do my kids.
They’re great high fiber foods for kids.
When raw (or lightly cooked) veggies are cut and served for a snack, as an appetizer, or before other favorite foods, kids are more apt to reach for them. When bellies are hungry, and finger foods are convenient, you may be surprised at what kids will eat.
If your kids love to dip, I find that guacamole, hummus, and homemade dressings are the perfect enticing addition to get more veggies into little mouths.
For little kids (heck, I would like to do this, too) serve veggies, and leafy greens, as a first course with an individual ramekin and a CLEAN paintbrush, so they can paint their dressing (or a dip) onto the food! Talk about making food a fun experience!
Blend it up
Green smoothies for kids are another great way to boost fiber. Smoothies can quickly turn into a sugar blast, but when you are intentional about what goes into the blender, you can keep them healthy and delicious.
Keep in mind that blending foods maintains the fiber in any added veggies, fruits, nuts, or seeds, whereas juicing does not. Kids love to see the magic of a high powered blender turning colorful ingredients into a swirl of creaminess.
Involve your kids
Anytime you involve your kids in the real food process, they will be much more curious and adventurous when it comes time to take a bite. This is especially true when they experience growing the plant foods we are talking about first hand.
Start a garden — of any size — with your kids and watch their interest blossom. We experiment every year with a backyard vegetable and herb garden and my boys have never turned up their noses to anything they have helped plant and watched grow! In fact, they munch on any herbs and veggies they can find in our backyard throughout the day.
Involvement can also mean bringing your kids to the local farmers market, letting them choose a healthy recipe to make, selecting fresh produce at the grocery store, and using their senses to explore the foods back home in the kitchen.
27 High fiber foods for kids
Let’s take a closer look at these high fiber plant foods we speak of. Here are some ideas for fiber rich foods and recipes you and your kids can use to try them in.
1. Acorn and butternut squash
Believe it or not, acorn and butternut squash rank quite high on the fiber scale. With 9 and 7 grams per cup cooked, respectively, these sweet winter squashes can be a great addition to a child’s diet. Try them pureed into a soup, swapped for the pumpkin in these Pumpkin Pancakes, or sliced and roasted with a drizzle of butter.
2. Green peas
Green peas also weigh in at 9 grams of fiber per cup cooked. Many kids actually like the sweet taste of green peas, and they can be quickly steamed, added to a sauce, included in Chicken Soup, or tossed into a Ginger Shrimp Curry. Peas are one of the best frozen vegetables to keep on hand.
In all honesty, I don’t typically think of avocado as being high in fiber — I usually applaud it for its healthy fats. But, it has a whopping 10 grams of fiber per 1 cup sliced! Hello Guacamole For A Crowd — smash, mix, and dip away (with your veggies of course).
4. Leafy greens
No surprise, leafy greens are high on the fiber list. Collard greens contain about 8 grams per 1 cup cooked, and are awesome in this Chicken and Veggie Collard Wrap with Sun Sauce recipe. Spinach, swiss chard, and kale all have about 4 grams of fiber per cup cooked and can be enjoyed in raw salads, sauteed, or added to soups.
Raspberries are one of our family’s favorite high fiber foods for kids, with 8 grams of fiber per cup! Try them in this Raspberry Almond Chia Pudding. Or, opt for blueberries (4 grams per cup) in these Lemon Blueberry Muffins. Strawberries have about 3 grams of fiber per cup.
One medium sized artichoke contains about 7 grams of fiber. Full disclosure — I rarely have whole artichokes in the kitchen — they are usually frozen or canned. Although my kids do enjoy a steamed artichoke, we usually chop them up and add them to salads, or use them to top our Mini Garden Meatzas.
A creamy white carrot-like root vegetable, parsnips have a sweet, nutty flavor. Try them boiled, roasted, sautéed, steamed, or in these delicious Spiced Parsnip Cupcakes — totally kid-approved!. Parsnips can be pureed, mashed, whipped, shredded, sliced, and added to soups and stews to take advantage of their fiber benefits (7 grams per cup).
When my kids were little, it was all about “eating your trees to grow big and strong.” While small raw florets are a favorite for dipping, my kids have always loved Roasted Broccoli for the caramelization that adds extra flavor. However your kids like their “trees,” broccoli offers about 5 grams of fiber per cup.
Carrots also contain about 5 grams of fiber per cup cooked, or 2 grams in one average sized carrot. Whether they are raw, roasted, or pureed — like in our family’s favorite Ginger Carrot Soup — you really can’t go wrong. Have your kids help you think of five different ways your family enjoys eating carrots.
10. Apples and pears
Apples are one of the most loved fruits by kids and luckily they pack 4.5 grams of fiber into one medium apple. Have fun exploring this fruit with all sorts of dips and toppings in this Apple Dipper Muffin Tin Snack recipe.
Similar to apples, pears have 6 grams of fiber in one medium fruit. Tasting and comparing different varieties of pears is a great exploratory activity for kids. Try this Pear Crumble recipe for a new way to enjoy this fruit.
Asparagus can be eaten raw or cooked and can be either green, white, or purple. There are 4 grams of fiber in a cup of cooked asparagus with plenty of ways to prepare it. This Bacon Wrapped Asparagus recipe, and this Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowl recipe get two thumbs up from the little ones I know.
12. Brussels sprouts
You may be surprised by how many kids enjoy Brussels sprouts when they are properly cooked. They contain 4 grams of fiber per cup cooked and are loaded with other nutrients.
Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto is a go-to in our house. Or for your adventurous eaters, try this Raw Brussels and Kale Salad recipe — talk about fiber with the dark leafy greens and raspberry combo!
Potatoes have about 4 grams of fiber in one cup cooked, and you should leave the peel on to get the most benefit. Roasted potatoes are beloved high fiber foods for ids in our house, but so are these Potato Crusted Mini Quiches!
14. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes also have 4 grams of fiber per cup, are so versatile, and I would argue much more nutrient-dense than white potatoes. Try Rustic Sweet Potato Fries, Sweet Potato Toasts, or this Chicken Sweet Potato Soup.
Fennel has a deliciously crisp texture, and a slight licorice flavor. My kids love to munch on the fronds. With 3 grams of fiber per cup, I love to use fennel in this sweet Fennel and Cabbage Slaw recipe. It can also be enjoyed sliced in salads, and roasted for a more mild experience.
Turnips often get a bad rap, but mainly because we associate them with the large woody varieties. But, small young turnips (with 3 grams of fiber per cup) are delightful! Slice them raw with a squeeze of fresh lime and sprinkle of sea salt for a simple snack, roast them into Turnip Chips for a healthy dipper, or try this Turnip Sweet Potato Hash with a fried egg.
Celery offers 2 grams of fiber per cup, and is a favorite vehicle for dips and toppings. Try making these Fancy Bugs on a Log with your kids — toddlers can practice spreading, placing, and sprinkling all on their own.
We go through LOTS of peppers in our kitchen. The kids love their sweet crispiness in eggs, salads, soups, and stir-fries, and I love the punch of vitamin C they provide, as well as a couple of grams of fiber. Try these Southwestern Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas for a tasty dose of peppers this week.
21. Dried unsweetened fruits
Dried fruits are full of fiber, but they are also full of sugar. Unsweetened varieties can be a delicious way to add fiber to your child’s diet when moderation is considered.
1 cup of chopped dates provides 12 grams of fiber, so while I would not recommend eating a whole cup of dates, I would recommend using that cup to make Cookie Dough Bites.
Seeds are a great way to up the fiber intake for your kids. Pumpkin seeds have 5 grams per 1 ounce handful, ground flax has 8 grams per ounce, and chia seeds contain 10 grams of fiber per ounce (about 2 Tbsp). Try this Acai Kiwi Smoothie with Chia Seeds!
Nuts are a quick way to boost fiber. Almonds have 4 grams per handful and pistachios have about 3. Homemade Monkey Mix, Roasted Nuts, and Banana Almond Pancakes are quick to make and easy for your kids to grab on the go.
Quinoa provides 5 grams of fiber per cup cooked. It can be added to green salads, substituted for rice, and used in this Quinoa Buddha Bowl with Mango Salsa recipe. My kids love it when paired with flavorful veggies and fruits.
Legumes (beans and lentils) contain a fair amount of fiber. Navy beans offer about 10 grams per ½ cup dry, pinto have 9 grams per ½ cup dry, and lentils have just shy of 8 grams. Beans and lentils can easily be added to soups, stews, and salads, or used in hummus for an easy dip.
We aren’t talking about microwaveable bags, we are talking about making your own popcorn on the stove for a fiber-boosting snack. A little coconut oil, non-GMO kernels, salt, and butter — and you have yourself a tasty family pick-me-up with 3 ½ grams of fiber per 3 cup serving.
Fiber up with high fiber foods for kids!
You now have a glimpse into the benefits of fiber, how much your kids should be getting, and suggestions for how to “up the ante” on a daily basis.
Start slow, try one new strategy, and a recipe or two to add more fiber to your family’s plate this week.