The Importance of Dietary Fibre for Children
Dietary fibre is the part of plant food that is not broken down completely by our bodies and therefore helps in establishing the health of our gut. Fibre is only found in plant foods such as cereals, cereal based foods, fruits and vegetables. There is no fibre in foods that come from an animal e.g. meat or dairy foods.
Not getting enough fibre in our diet can lead to constipation and other health related issues such as diverticulitis and colon cancer. Constipation is dry, hard faeces that are difficult to pass.
Increasing fibre in our diets aids with bowel motions and can also help to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.
There are two main types of fibre, insoluble fibre and soluble fibre.
Insoluble fibre absorbs water therefore providing bulk. It helps with producing soft motions which are easy to pass.
Soluble fibre forms a soft gel in the bowel which helps to increase the mass and allowing for easy passage.
Tips to increase fibre in your diet and maintain regular bowel habits
- Wholemeal or multigrain breads are best choice, if you are unable to do this a white bread with added fibre is also adequate.
- Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals eg. Bran cereals (not suitable for children less than 5), weetbix, vitabrits, oat bran, fibreplus, muesli, porridge. (>6g dietary fibre per 100g)
- Choose wholemeal pasta and brown rice instead of white pasta or white rice.
- Replace plain biscuits, cakes, pies and pasties with dark grainy alternatives. (Wholemeal saladas or premiums, vitawheat, ryvita, shredded wheatmeal)
- Replace white flour with wholemeal flour in recipes for cake, biscuits and pastries. Add dried and fresh fruit to recipes.
- Increase fibre rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds (Note: nut pastes from 12months, later if family history of nut allergy. Whole nuts for children over the age 5yrs due to choking risk)
- Leave skins on fruits and vegetables where possible to increase fibre content.
- Add legumes such as kidney beans, lentils or split peas to casserole dishes and soups to increase fibre.
- Add a can of red kidney beans to spaghetti bolognaise or Shepherd’s pie and use less mince.
- Limit high fat food eg. Take–aways are often low in fibre.
Drink plenty of water
Water is essential to make bowel motions softer. Increasing fibre without increasing water can make constipation worse.
To allow fibre to work your child must drink at least 4–6 cups of fluid daily. Children should have 1000 – 1500mls per day. Guidelines for appropriate fluid requirements should be aimed at 20-30ml/kg of toddler.
Regular meals and regular exercise. Skipping meals may upset your body’s routine.
Exercising for at least 60 minutes per day e.g. Walking will help keep bowels regular.
Ensure your child has sufficient time to go to the toilet and do not rush them.
How much fibre is enough?
|Adequate Intake (AI) (g/day)|
|Children and Adolescents|