High Fiber Guidelines

Official image from UpToDate®, the clinical decision support resource accessed by 700,000+ clinicians worldwide. Available via the web and mobile devices, subscribe to UpToDate® at www.uptodate.com/store

High fiber diet guidelines
Why we need fiber
Fiber helps children and adults have regular bowel movements and helps prevent constipation and other health problems. Dietary fiber helps keep the bowel and digestive tract healthy and enhances feelings of fullness after eating.

How much fiber is needed
The optimal intake for dietary fiber is 14 grams/1000 kcals in the diet, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine.*[1] For children, this translates to an intake of about 20 grams/day in early childhood, rising to 29 grams/day for adolescent girls and young women, and 38 grams/day for adolescent boys and young men. To find out the number of grams of fiber in a certain food, read the label, or see the foods listed in this table. High fiber foods contain 3 or more grams of fiber per serving.

How to help your child eat more fiber
A high fiber diet should be a balanced diet with foods from all the food groups. The most common sources of fiber are whole grain breads and cereals, legumes and nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Include these in your child's balanced diet:
Offer your child a variety of high fiber foods during the day rather than giving only one or two high fiber foods.
Mix a high fiber cereal with a cereal your child likes.
Offer fresh fruits with the skin on. Prunes and pears act as natural laxatives.
Offer raw vegetables, such as carrots, jicama, or cherry tomatoes for snacks and with meals. Offer a salad with dark green lettuce each day.
Use whole wheat bread or white bread with added fiber, brown rice, whole wheat crackers, bran muffins, barley, bran cereals, or oatmeal. Use less refined white flour breads, cereals, and other starches.
Offer 4 to 6 ounces of prune, apple, orange, or pear juice each day. Remember that fresh fruit has more fiber than juice.
Offer snacks that have fiber, like granola bars, fruit bars, fig cookies, or popcorn (after age 3 years).
Help your child develop a taste for bran. Try to include 2 to 4 tablespoons of some form of bran each day.
Add nuts or seeds to breads and salads, or use them as a snack. This is not recommended for children younger than three years.
Read labels on foods, and look for foods with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving. Have your child eat 3 or more servings each day of breads and cereals made from whole grains and bran. Have your child eat 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruits, including beans. It is important to increase water in the diet when you increase fiber.

Preventing constipation
If your child is constipated, follow the dietary guidelines above. Also, encourage your child to drink at least 4 to 8 cups (32 to 64 ounces) of fluid per day, preferably water, low-fat milk, and low-sugar decaffeinated beverages.
* Somewhat lower goals for fiber intake may be sufficient for prevention rather than treatment of constipation. A practical target is the child's age plus 5 to 10 grams per day.[2]

  1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at:www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/pubs.htm.
  2. Williams CL, Bollella M, Wynder EL. A new recommendation for dietary fiber in childhood. Pediatrics 1995; 96:985.
High fiber diet sample menu
Sample menu for a 7- to 10-year-old child, with approximate fiber content*
(estimated fiber requirement for this age group: 25 to 31 grams per day)

Breakfast (6.5 grams fiber)
1 cup instant oatmeal (2 grams fiber)*
1 slice whole-grain toast (1.5 grams fiber)
1 teaspoon margarine or butter
1 cup strawberries (3 grams fiber)
8 ounces skim milk

Lunch (10 grams fiber)
Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread (3 grams fiber)
1 teaspoon mustard
1 ounce whole grain chips (2 grams fiber)
1 medium apple (3 grams fiber)
8 baby carrots (2 grams fiber)
Bottled water
Snack 1 (3 grams fiber)
4 fig bar cookies (3 grams fiber)
8 ounces skim milk

Dinner (8.5 grams fiber)
3 ounces pork tenderloin
½ cup mashed sweet potatoes (4 grams fiber)
½ cup green beans (1.5 grams fiber)
¼ cup baked beans (3 grams fiber)
2 teaspoons margarine or butter
8 ounces skim milk
Snack 2
½ cup vanilla bean ice-cream

* Reflects insoluble fiber, which is the most relevant type of fiber for prevention and treatment of constipation. Soluble fiber has different health benefits.
• Some "high fiber" forms of instant oatmeal contain up to 10 grams of fiber. However, most of this additional fiber is soluble, which may not be as valuable as insoluble fiber for prevention and treatment of constipation.

All rights reserved. • ©2014 UpToDate®

UpToDate Customer Service

Wolters Kluwer Health
95 Sawyer Rd 
Waltham, MA 02453-3471 

1.800.998.6374 (US & Canada) tel.
+1.781.392.2000 (all other countries) tel.