Making Fibre a Focus For Children

Written by Dr Frankie Phillips RD.

A healthy diet in childhood with adequate amounts of all nutrients, is essential for optimal health, growth and development. The importance of vitamins and minerals in childhood is well-recognised, but fibre is often overlooked1. Evidence clearly shows that fibre is a nutrient of concern for all ages, and the gap between fibre recommendations and intakes needs to be addressed.

Dietary fibre benefits gut health, but it also helps maintain healthy blood glucose and lipid levels. In addition, fibre may contribute to satiety – a matter of huge significance, given the high prevalence of obesity in children.1

Fibre recommendations vs intake in children

The World Health Organisation2 recommends that adults should have a minimum of 25g of fibre per day. For children, guidance on fibre intakes varies, largely extrapolated from adult recommendations with a general recommendation of “age +5 g”, so an 11 year old would require 11 + 5 g = 16g fibre per day.3 The dietary fibre recommendations for children in the UK are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Fibre recommendations for UK children4

Age Group Recommended Dietary Fibre Intake
Children aged 2-5 years 15 g/day
Children aged 5-11 years 20 g/day
Children aged 11-16 years 25 g/day
Adolescents aged 16-18 years   30 g/day

There is clearly some way to go to meet the recommended amounts. The latest UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey5 showed that just 4% of 11–18 year-olds consumed enough fibre; teenage boys were consuming 16g of fibre per day on average, which is only 53% of the target.

Population recommendations for dietary fibre were typically based on the amount required to maintain normal bowel movements and cardiovascular health. Now, it is becoming clear that the benefits of fibre go beyond this to encompass gut microbiome modulation, immune support, bone health and wider/broader metabolic health.

Fibre and children’s health

Research in adults has shown that eating enough fibre can help to keep the digestive system healthy, but may also help to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, including colon cancer by up to 30%.6 Whilst there are fewer studies in children and adolescents, reviews have shown that there is some potential role for fibre in gut function, metabolic health, cardiovascular health, immune function, body composition and bone health.1 As well as reporting positive health associations, observational studies typically show that children with higher dietary fibre intakes are more likely to have a better diet quality overall.7

Where to find fibre

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that isn’t broken down in the gut, so it reaches the large intestine (colon) undigested. We typically think of plant foods for our fibre, which includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, pulses and wholegrains. However, fungi also contain dietary fibre, and mycoprotein - a sustainably produced, protein-rich, whole food source derived from the fermentation of fungus - is also a good source of fibre.

Does the type of fibre matter?

Several types of fibre can be found in different amounts in different foods, exerting a range of actions on the body. Typically, fibres have been characterised as either soluble or insoluble fibre:

  • Insoluble fibre - found in wholewheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables such as cauliflower, potatoes with skins and broccoli - adds bulk to stools and promotes the movement of material through the gut.

  • Soluble fibre ‘dissolves’ in water, forming a viscous gel-like substance and includes pectins and beta-glucans (β-glucans). It can impact blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Oats, barley, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits and carrots all provide soluble fibre.

There is now research to suggest that fibre should be further categorised by its physical properties - not just its solubility, but also by its viscosity and fermentability.8 This could mean describing fibre by types such as cellulose, beta-glucans, pectins, inulin, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and resistant starch.

A current hot topic is the potential role for fibre in a healthy gut microbiome. Some types of highly fermentable fibre– including resistant starch and prebiotics - can influence the types and amounts of bacteria in the gut microbiota. The breakdown of fibre in the gut creates short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) which are a source of fuel (food) for the gut cells keeping the gut lining healthy. It is the protective effect on the gut barrier, which helps keep pathogens and allergens out of the body.

Since there are different types of fibre, exerting differing health effects, dietitians advise eating a diverse variety of fibre-containing foods to provide the greatest health benefits.

Quorn mycoprotein is high in fibre, containing 6g fibre per 100g. The fibre in mycoprotein is 80% beta-glucan, and the remainder is chitin.

Is mycoprotein suitable for children?

Mycoprotein can be useful to incorporate in the diet at any age. For children, it may be included as a substitute for animal products, or simply to provide greater dietary variety. In terms of nutrition, as well as providing fibre and protein, mycoprotein can provide a range of essential nutrients that are important for growth and development. Mycoprotein is a source of zinc, choline, riboflavin and is high in folate, manganese and phosphorus. Furthermore, unlike many plant-based sources of zinc, mycoprotein does not contain phytates and so absorption is not compromised. For more about the role of certain micronutrients in the diets of children on vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian diets, check out this factsheet.

Health professionals recommend including protein-rich foods at least twice a day and, according to dietitians, children following a diet that contains little or no ingredients from animals should be offered three protein-rich foods per day.

Strategies to increase fibre intake in children

Eating a variety of sources of fibre is important for all ages. If you are increasing the amount of high-fibre foods eaten, introduce them gradually, and include plenty of fluids alongside.

Trying these tips can help for the whole family:

  • Add a portion of vegetables at each mealtime – frozen, canned, dried and fresh are all great ways to bump up the fibre

  • Use beans and pulses, such as a handful of red lentils or a can of butter beans in stews, casseroles and curries

  • Try switching minced beef for Quorn mycoprotein mince when you make a chilli or Bolognese – or use half and half

  • Snack on nuts and seeds, or sprinkle some on top of cereal for breakfast

  • Try a wholegrain breakfast cereal or mix up some muesli or porridge with extra dried fruit

  • Have an oatcake or sliced apple topped with nut butter as an after-school quick filler

  • Swap to a wholegrain or seeded loaf for sandwiches and toast

  • Make home-made popcorn for a TV time treat

Fostering adequate fibre intake in children is paramount for promoting overall health and well-being. As healthcare professionals, we play a crucial role in educating parents and caregivers about the importance of incorporating fibre-rich foods into children's diets, setting the foundation for a lifetime of good nutritional habits and digestive health.

About the author

Frankie is a Registered Dietitian and nutritionist with over 30 years’ experience in public health, charity, NHS and research roles. She is a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association and is often quoted in a range of consumer media. Frankie has a PhD in nutrition with a specialist interest in vegetarian and plant-based diets and writes regularly about a range of nutrition topics.


1 Reynolds A.N., et al. (2020) Dietary fibre intake in childhood or adolescence and subsequent health outcomes: A systematic review of prospective observational studies. Diabetes Obes Metab, 22(12), 2460-2467.
2 World Health Organisation (WHO) (2003). Diet, nutrition, and prevention of chronic diseases. Report of a WHO/FAO expert consultation. In: WHO Tech. Rep. Ser. 916, 1–149.
3 Williams, C.L,. et al. (1995) A new recommendation for dietary fibre in childhood. Pediatrics. 96(5 Pt 2, 985-988.
4 Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (2015) SACN Carbohydrates and Health Report. Available: Accessed Feb 2024
5 Bates B., et al. (2020) National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling programme Years 9 to 11 (2016/2017 to 2018/2019). Public Health England. Available from: Accessed Feb 2024
6 Mayor S. (2019) Eating more fibre linked to reduced risk of non-communicable diseases and death, review finds. Brit Med J 2019; 364: l159. DOI:
7 Finn K., et al. (2019) Nutrient intakes and sources of fibre among children with low and high dietary fibre intake: the 2016 feeding infants and toddlers study (FITS), a cross-sectional survey. BMC Pediatr, 18, 19 (1), 446.
8 Gill et al. (2021) Dietary fibre in gastrointestinal health and disease. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 18, 101–116

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