Fibre for children

Dietitians are always looking for new evidence and over the past few weeks in my spare time I’ve been busy researching the science behind dietary fibre for children. I wrote an article in a professional magazine and gave a talk to paediatric dietitians about the benefits of including fibre in children’s diets.

So here’s a quick summary:

What is dietary fibre? It’s any carbohydrate that is not digested or absorbed in the small intestine, and will undergo fermentation in the large intestine. Examples include: fruit and veg, wholegrains, lentils, nuts, healthy cereals.

What’s the point of eating fibre if it’s poorly digested? Fibre has some amazing properties that can assist in keeping normal healthy bowels and general health overall. Fibre in food can thicken the contents of the bowel and mean it’s easier to pass normal stools. Fibre acts as a fuel for healthy gut bacteria and so can help prevent nasty gastro bugs from taking over.

Who can benefit from fibre? Just about everyone can improve their diets to include more fibre. People who are constipated or even have very loose stools can benefit. Research is linking some allergies to the health of the gut bacteria.

Is fibre safe for children? Like any nutrition advice, a healthy balance is the best way to approach fibre for children. Too much fibre is not a good thing, but fibre can be included in children’s diets as they are weaned, and by the time they are two, fibre intakes should be as follows:

2-5 years: 15 grams per day

5-11 years: 20 grams per day

11-16 years: 25 grams per day

17+ years: 30 grams per day

Children need to learn from an early age that fibre is a part of everyday foods and including high fibre foods (such as wholemeal bread) every now and then as part of a healthy eating pattern that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Hayley Kuter

Paediatric Dietitian

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