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Fiber Intake in Children

Most adults are aware of the importance of adequate dietary fiber intake. However, we may be less aware of the need for more fiber content in our children's diets.

As discussed in Pediatrics (1995;96:1019 - 22), low-fiber diets are associated with constipation in children and increases in future risks of obesity. In addition, children on low-fiber diets have been found to be at increased risk of having high levels of fats in the blood and in developing diabetes as adults.

Dietary fiber should come from food sources and not from supplements. An easy-to-remember formula for determining how much fiber is enough is "age plus 5 grams" per day. Fiber-rich foods include fruits such as apples, blackberries, bananas, dates, pears, oranges, and prunes. Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, corn, peas, and potatoes (with skins on) are high in fiber. High-fiber fruits provide approximately 3 grams of fiber per serving, while high-fiber vegetables provide about 2.5 grams of fiber. Other high fiber foods are whole-grain breads, cereals, and rice.

Parents should remember that children should receive an additional glass of liquid for each additional serving of fiber consumed. In normal situations, a child's intake should not exceed "age plus 10 grams" per day.

Pacifiers and Ear Infections

A study that monitored children in day care centers has found that sucking on a pacifier significantly increases the risk of getting middle ear infections and in having repeat attacks. Those most vulnerable were children two to three years of age. The researchers estimated that use of a pacifier was responsible for 25 percent of the attacks in children younger than three. In addition to the infections, the children using pacifiers had more earaches than those not using pacifiers. The investigators recommend restricting pacifier use to the first 10 months of life when middle ear infections are not as common.

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