Written by Rhiannon Lambert, our Registered Nutritionist & mum-of-two.
Fibre is often a nutrient that is forgotten about when it comes to building a balanced plate. It has numerous health benefits, for both adults and children, particularly with supporting healthy digestion, regulating blood sugar levels, helping us to feel fuller for longer, and helping to promote regular bowel movements.
Is it okay for my child to have fibre?
There is no need for babies, toddlers, or young children to completely avoid fibre in their diets. Babies get the majority of their fibre from consuming fruits & veg and carbohydrates, however, parents need to be mindful that children under the age of 2 years old don’t need any additional extra sources of fibre (e.g. flaxseeds) at this age.
Whilst fibre is a key element of your child’s diet, it’s important to note that due to having much smaller stomachs, too much fibre can fill up little tummies quickly, meaning food and nutrient intake from other sources may be reduced which can lead to deficiencies.
How much fibre does your child need?
In general, people in the UK aren’t getting enough fibre and need to increase their intakes. For children aged 2 to 5 years old the NHS recommends that at least 15g of fibre is consumed each day. Encouraging young children to eat foods which are a source of fibre helps to ensure better digestion, avoid constipation, as well as to help reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, bowel cancer, and heart disease later in life. There are currently no recommendations for fibre intakes in children under the age of two years old, but this still remains an important part of your baby’s diet.
The NHS do, however, suggest that for children under the age of 2 years old, “it’s not a good idea to only give wholegrain starchy foods”. Whilst babies and toddlers of this age can consume wholegrain foods, such as wholemeal bread, pasta, brown rice, and other grains like quinoa, it’s important to offer a wide variety of foods. Including both white and wholegrain varieties helps to make sure that your little one is getting what they need from a nutrition perspective.
To help encourage healthy, positive relationships and attitudes towards foods it’s important that we don’t demonise white carbohydrates, such as white pasta, rice, or breads. It’s totally okay for your little ones to include these foods in their diets. Once they are over the age of two years old, you can then start to build more fibrous and wholegrain foods into your child’s diet.
What foods contain fibre?
To help increase the amount of fibre your child has in their diet, make sure to include a variety of foods. Below are some examples of foods that are high in fibre:
- Fruits & vegetables, especially when the skin is left on. Make sure to soften any fruits and veg when keeping the skin on to make it easier for your baby to eat. These also contain lots of essential vitamins and minerals that are important in your little one’s growth and development.
- Ground nuts and seeds. These help to provide your child with healthy fats and energy to keep them fuelled when exploring throughout the day. Whole nuts and seeds should not be given to children under the age of 5 years old as this is a choking hazard!
- Pulses, such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas. These are great for adding into purées or sauces, and contain essential nutrients such as protein and iron too.
- Wholegrains, like brown bread, pasta, and rice, and quinoa.
Key take home messages
Fibre is an important part of your little ones diet and including it does have many benefits - just remember though that smaller tummies mean babies don’t need as much!
Emerging research suggests our gut health depends on the consumption of a variety of foods. Whilst there is limited evidence in babies and toddlers, it is more likely that if they consume a wider variety at this age it may help them in many years to come. Ensuring a wide variety of foods helps make sure that they’re getting all the nutrients they need to help support their growth, development, and exploration throughout their weaning journey and beyond.
If your child struggles with gut health concerns, such as constipation, bloating, or just general discomfort, then it’s always best to seek help from a specialist paediatric dietitian and a GP.