Unless your child is the rare bran muffin addict or prune junkie, chances are that the foods he or she is clamoring for are scant on fiber. (Those chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and white bread sammies most kids are clamoring for aren’t exactly fiber-rich.) But fiber is important because it allows us to feel full without consuming excessive calories and keeps our gastrointestinal tracts humming. Children and adults should be eating 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories consumed.
Worried your kid’s not getting enough? Here are five clever ways to ensure your kid is getting enough fiber””no prunes or bran required!
1. Go big at breakfast.
Pass on the sugary, refined carbs at breakfast and instead doctor up naturally fiber-full meals to add kid appeal. Arrowhead Mills Organic Buckwheat Pancake Mix contains 7 grams of fiber per serving””and if you think your kids will balk at buckwheat, stir in some chocolate chips and add maple syrup and watch them gobble it up. No time to bust out the griddle? Dr. McDougall’s Organic Apple Flax Hot Cereal is as easy as adding hot water and also contains 7 grams of fiber per serving. The organic brown sugar is a kid magnet!
2. Serve a fiber-friendly PB&J.
White bread, grape jelly and creamy peanut butter””the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the go-to brown bag lunch for kids, but it needs a high-fiber makeover! Swap out the fiber-less white for Schar Gluten-Free Classic White Bread, which has 2 grams of fiber as well as 2 grams of protein. Sprinkle in some more fiber””and solve the peanut-free-classroom problem””by spreading on sunflower butter or (my kids’ first choice) Justin’s Natural Maple Almond Butter instead of old-fashioned PB. Most jams and jellies don’t contain any fiber, which is why we’re impressed by Eden Farms Organic Apple Butter, which offers 1 gram of fiber per 20-calorie tablespoon.
3. Fiber-pack their after-school snacks.
When it comes to after-school snacks, your best option is fruit. One small apple has 3 grams of fiber. Slice it up and give them some raw honey for dipping. Bananas are also fiber-full; smear with some natural peanut butter to create a fiber-packed snack Elvis would drool over. Another fiber-full choice for picky palates is Clif Kid Organic ZBar, which has 3 grams of fiber and comes in flavors including chocolate chip, chocolate brownie and honey gram.
4. Get sneaky at supper.
Veggies are a tough sell at dinner time, even smothered in cheese. But with a little help from your food processor, you can sneak mild-flavored vegetables like cauliflower and zucchini and stir it into marinara sauce for a classic spaghetti dinner. (Use quinoa-based pasta for an additional fiber boost.) You can also add veggie purees to panko bread crumbs and coat chicken breast strips for a healthier chicken nugget recipe. If it must be mac “˜n cheese, some boxed macaroni & cheese meals have more fiber than the ones you typically find in the supermarket; Road’s End Organics makes a variety with 8 grams of fiber per 1-cup serving.
5. Dazzle them at dessert.
End the night on a sweet note with fresh strawberries and whipped cream or melted chocolate they can use as a dip. (What’s more fun than fondue?) Let them eat cake by mixing spice cake mix with a can of pumpkin puree or a cup of apple sauce rather than oil or shortening; you’ll reduce calories and fat while upping the fiber count.
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 3 to 10.