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Ages & Stages

Fiber: An Important Part of Your Teen's Diet

Fiber, while not an essential nutrient, performs several vital functions. A natural laxative, it keeps traffic moving through the intestinal tract and may also lower the concentration of cholesterol in the blood. Yet parents are often reluctant to implement a low-fat, high-fiber diet, out of concern that their teenagers won’t get enough calories and nutrients to satisfy the demands of their growing bodies.

According to a study from the department of food and nutrition at North Dakota State University in Fargo, consuming more than twenty grams of fiber a day appears to exert the opposite effect. For the study, 319 fifteen-year-olds were divided into four groups, based on their eating habits: low-fat, low-fiber; high-fat, high-fiber; low-fat, high-fiber; and high fat, low-fiber. The students who ate plenty of fiber-rich foods obtained just as many calories as the students in the low-fiber groups. (“Low fiber” is defined as less than fifteen grams of fiber a day.) A high-fiber intake also supplied greater amounts of vitamins A, B6, B12, C, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and folate, as well as the minerals magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium and phosphorus.

Foods Rich in Fiber

  • Grains: wheat germ, wheat bran, whole-wheat bread and bread products, oat bran, rice bran, brown rice, barley.
  • Legumes: kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, lentils, chickpeas.
  • Vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, celery, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, asparagus, artichokes, cucumbers, summer squash, parsley, Brussels sprouts.
  • Fruits: apples, oranges, grapefruits, blackberries, tomatoes, dates, raisins.

Ways To Fit Fiber Into Your Teen’s Diet

Serve uncooked vegetables as snacks and toss them into salads. Raw carrots, broccoli and other vegetables contain more fiber than cooked vegetables.

Substitute whole-grain bread for white bread.

Don’t overcook vegetables. Vegetables should be served while still crisp. Steaming them until they’re mushy destroys much of their fiber.

Garnish salads with seeds (poppy, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame) and sprouts. Bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts lend a unique flavor to sandwiches, too.

Add dates and raisins to snacks and cereals.

Don’t peel apples, cucumbers, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables with edible skins. They’re excellent sources of fiber.

Popcorn is the perfect snack for anyone looking to bone up on fiber. But use only a small amount of butter and salt.

Eat dried beans, peas and legumes, such as lentils, kidney beans, black beans, white beans, chickpeas, split peas and the like. They are brimming with fiber as well as vitamins, minerals and both complex carbohydrates and proteins, yet low in fat.

Last Updated
Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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