We all do our best to give our kids the best nutrition we can – encouraging them to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, saving sugar for special occasions, and ensuring they’re getting enough protein. But one component of good toddler nutrition that I’ve noticed sometimes gets overlooked is the amount of fiber toddlers need.
By Carla Pietri, RHN:
Most of us know that eating plenty of fiber encourages regular bowel movements, but it’s less understood that those bowel movements don’t just eliminate waste, they help detoxify the intestines, bowel and colon as well. Fiber also promotes a healthy balance of good bacteria in the intestine and helps to control your toddler’s blood sugar levels, which can have a big impact on their mood. So how do you ensure your little one is getting enough?
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, I recommend parents calculate the amount of fiber their child needs with the “Age + 5” formula. So, if your child is 2, they need 2+5=7g of fiber daily; if they are 3, it’s 3+5=8. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble, and your child needs both. Insoluble fiber absorbs water and encourages the regular elimination of stool and toxins; while soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows digestion to keep the stomach feeling fuller, longer. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, apples, blueberries, and beans, while insoluble fiber is found mainly in grains and vegetables.
The best way to ensure your little one is getting enough of both is to offer a wide range of fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. There is no fiber in meat or dairy products, unless the food is enriched with a source of fiber. Kabrita Yogurt with Fruit is a good example.
If you’re like many parents, tracking the amount of fiber your child consumes each day is a challenge, so in addition to offering fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day, my most common recommendation is to make small, simple substitutions in your toddler’s overall diet that will add up to a big boost in fiber intake.You can also add fiber to favorites like pancakes by adding two tablespoons of ground flax seed (4g), offering hummus (1g per tablespoon) with veggies or packing dried fruit such as raisins (1g per tablespoon) or a cup of raspberries (4g per ½ cup) in a cute container when you’re on the go. Little changes can make a big impact, and starting these substitutions young will set your little one up with healthier habits for life.
Carla Pietri is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist