Top 5 Fiber-Rich Foods (and how to get kids to eat 'em)
Registered Dietitian Jaimie Davis recommends 25-30 grams of fiber per day for adults and children. But before you stock up on cardboard crackers and gritty powder supplements, know that there are hundreds of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fortified foods, from cereals to snacks, that you and your child won't have to choke down.
To keep it simple when you scan the market shelves, focus on these five types of fiber-packed foods. Then make it your goal to add more of these to every meal, whether you're eating at home, packing a lunch, or dining out:
Choose whole wheat or whole grain breads with at least 4-5 grams of fiber per serving, says Davis. Start by zeroing in on packages with the words "100% whole wheat" or "100% whole grain." Then check the nutrition panel for total fiber grams. Don't be fooled by white breads that say "whole grain." They don't pack nearly the same punch. For tortillas, whole wheat is tops (some deliver one-third of your daily fiber requirement), followed by corn, then flour.
Choose pasta made from whole wheat or whole grain. Many have 6 or more grams of fiber per serving (compared to 1 gram in traditional white pastas). If your kids balk at the taste, introduce it gradually by mixing one-third or one-half whole wheat with standard refined pasta at first. You might also fare better if you let your child choose his favorite pasta shape and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese. If your child has a gluten allergy or can't tolerate whole-wheat pasta, look for high-fiber alternatives such as pasta made with rice, artichoke, or corn flour.
If you haven't checked the nutrition panel, you might be surprised to find that your child's favorite breakfast staple may have little nutritional value. Many cereals are high in sugar and low in fiber and other nutrients. On your next shopping trip, take a minute in the cereal aisle. Narrow down your choices by looking for "bran" and "whole wheat" in the name. Flip to the nutrition panel and look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving; some have a whopping 13 grams.
Before you put the box in your cart, make sure it contains less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. If it's not love at first bite, let your kids mix a high-fiber choice with their old favorite, half and half. Davis found a winner by mixing a high-fiber crunchy variety with a softer high-fiber bran cereal. Unfortunately, many of the healthiest selections are also the priciest. Try generic brands, and compare fiber content and price to get the best bang for your buck. Get your kids in on a find-the-healthiest-cereal game. The chance to win just might make crunchy oats a hot item.
Beans and Legumes
These nutritional powerhouses can pack as much as 7 grams of fiber in just one-half cup; much of that is in the skin. Beans are also great sources of protein and iron. Other legumes (types of pod vegetables in the pea and bean family ) include chickpeas, edamame, lentils, and soy nuts. And there are all sorts of ways to serve them, such as bean burritos, lentil soup, bean dip, and vegetarian chili.
Fruits and Vegetables
You know these superfoods do wonders to protect your health. (Indeed, research has shown that three or more servings a day can lower your risk of stroke, heart disease, and some cancers, says Davis.) Much of that fiber benefit comes from skins. But this message is typically lost on kids, who would rather you peel their fruit first, or have juice instead. Trouble is, both approaches mean your child misses out on the majority of the fiber and nutrition hiding in the skin, flesh, and seeds. To change this, try slicing apples and pears thinly so the skin is less obvious. Start with a compromise, leaving the peel on half the slices and gradually making the switch to unpeeled. Another option: Serve high-fiber fruits with skins that kids usually love, such as berries, plums, grapes, nectarines, and peaches. Aim for at least 5 half-cup servings per day.
Still No Luck?
Most of kids' favorite meals can be made into nutritional superstars with a few simple substitutions. Try these healthy dinner and snack ideas, all big on nutrients, flavor, and kid-appeal.
Some parents rave about celebrity mom Jessica Seinfeld's strategy of pureeing everything from broccoli to zucchini, and adding it on the sly to foods you serve (yes, even brownies). But not everyone has time for an extended date with her food processor. Still, even the time-crunched can take advantage of sleuthing, says Davis. Dump a bag of frozen mixed veggies in marina sauce and serve over pasta. Sneak steamed broccoli and mushrooms inside quesadillas. Or add a dollop of canned pumpkin to waffle mix.