Most preschoolers don’t get enough fiber

A national survey shows that most children between the ages of 2 and 5 don’t eat even close to the recommended amount of fiber, likely the result of their preferences for fiber-poor foods.

For instance, some of the main sources of fiber among preschoolers were applesauce, fruit cocktail, and high-fat meals such as pizza.

“Other higher fiber items, such as high-fiber vegetables and fruits, were consumed in quantities too small to contribute much to total average fiber intake,” Dr. Sibylle Kranz of Pennsylvania State University in University Park and her colleagues report.

“The foods that made the top-ten list were all rather low in fiber, but children consume them in such large amounts, that they become significant sources of fiber,” Kranz told Reuters Health.

Young children with higher levels of fiber intake and also ate more fruits and vegetables. And when fiber intake increased, so did levels of iron, folate, and vitamins A and C.

Kranz and her team also found that, on average, all children - regardless of their fiber intake - did not get enough calcium. Even fiber-lovers may not get enough calcium if they opt for more fruit drinks and soda over milk and other dairy products, Kranz suggested.

In the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Kranz and her team note that the National Academy of Sciences currently recommends that everyone eat 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories they consume.

In kids, fiber appears to protect against chronic constipation, and other research shows it can also stave off some cancers, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In the study, Kranz and her team asked the parents of 5,437 children between the ages of 2 and 5 to report what children ate over a two-day period.

Children’s other main sources of fiber were soy and legumes, ready-to-eat cereals such as shredded wheat, and high-fat salty snacks.

Younger preschoolers tended to eat less fiber than the older children. However, the highest category of fiber consumption among all children was only between 9 and 10 grams for every 1,000 calories - significantly below the latest recommendations.

Kranz added that children who are used to a high-fiber diet will likely grow up to be adults who get healthy amounts of fiber, as well, which can protect them from a host of diseases.

Parents and teachers should try to “encourage children to consume more of these high-fiber foods,” she noted, perhaps adding fresh fruit or substituting whole grain bread for white bread.

“With rather small efforts, they can improve their children’s diets,” Kranz said.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, February 2005.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.