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Is fiber good for kids?

By Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN

The short answer? YES!

Now for the long one: Foods that are high in fiber provide sustained energy for an overall better performance throughout the day. (Plus, high-fiber foods are full of nutrients such as B vitamins and folate, which may improve memory function, possibly helping your child to ace his or her next exam!)

In general, there are two types of carbohydrates: complex carbs and simple carbs. Both are considered starches and are broken down to sugar – our source of fuel – by our bodies.

An important difference between the two types of carbohydrates is in the amount of dietary fiber they contain.

Complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains (think barley, quinoa and buckwheat) are naturally high in fiber, while simple carbohydrates like candy, pretzels, cookies, chips and white flour products (bagels, breads and pastas) have no natural fiber. As a general rule, the more fiber a food contains, the longer it takes our bodies to digest it, resulting in sustained energy and a prolonged feeling of satiety. On the other hand, simple carbohydrates digest quickly and provide us with a burst of energy (aka “sugar rush”). However, thanks to the lack of fiber in simple carbs, this burst quickly dissipates (aka “sugar crash”), leaving in its path lethargic, unfocused, hungry children who are ultimately craving more sugar.

So, how do you give your kid meals that helps prevent him or her from dozing off in class? Provide complex carbohydrate foods at regular intervals throughout the day to keep kids on their toes, alert, focused and ready to perform! Start the day off with a well-balanced breakfast. This can be anything from steel-cut oatmeal made with skim milk and crushed walnuts, to whole wheat toast with peanut butter. (If you’re on the run, a simple glass of low-fat milk and a banana will do.) Then, pack a lunch with healthy and tasty snacks your kid enjoys, to prevent temptation from the ever-lurking vending machines, cafeteria cookies and french fries!

Some tried and true lunch box fiber favorites include:


  • Fruit

  • Whole grain crackers with hummus or string cheese

  • Granola or snack bars (look for brands with at least 3 grams of fiber per bar – FiberLove bars include 12 grams per bar)

  • Trail mix

  • Low-fat yogurt mixed with high fiber cereal (look for brands with at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar)

  • Cut up veggies with peanut butter or hummus

  • Turkey and cheese roll ups


  • Sandwich made with 2 slices whole grain bread, 3 ounces of lean protein (turkey breast, ham, roast beef, hummus, chicken or tuna), 1/4 sliced avocado and 1 tbsp. honey mustard served with whole grain pretzels or baby carrots on the side instead of chips

  • Whole wheat pasta salad: 1 cup whole wheat pasta, 1 cup chopped mixed veggies, chopped mozzarella cheese, vinaigrette

  • Stuffed Pita – Stuff 6 1/2 inch whole wheat pita with hummus and veggies

  • PB&J or try AB&J (almond butter) for three times the calcium

  • Last night’s leftovers

Eating the right foods at regular intervals throughout the day will not only leave your children with enough energy to power them through classes and extracurriculars; it will also provide them with a lifetime of healthy habits!

So start early! Better yet, start now!

For more from Amy, visit her website, Real Nutrition NYC, follow her on Twitter @RealNutritionNY or head to her Facebook page.