BACKGROUND: Dietary fiber (DF) intake in American children is suboptimal, increasing the risk of GI distress and contributing to poor diet quality. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of introducing two high-fiber snacks per day on gastrointestinal function as well as nutrient and food group intake in healthy children ages 7-11 years old.
METHODS: This study was a randomized controlled prospective intervention study of children 7-11 years of age (n = 81) attending a rural Midwestern elementary school. Children were randomized by classroom to consume two high-fiber snacks per day (total of 10-12 g DF) or their usual snacks for 8 weeks. Participants completed two 24-hour dietary recalls and a questionnaire about their GI health at baseline, mid-intervention (week 4), and post-intervention. Dietary data was entered into NDSR 2011 and t-tests utilized to assess changes. Analyses were completed in SAS 9.2.
RESULTS: Children consumed at least half their snack 94% of the time when a snack was chosen (89% of time). Participants in both the intervention and control group had healthy scores on the GI health questionnaire at all time points. The intervention group increased DF (P = 0.0138) and whole grain (WG) intake (P = 0.0010) at mid-intervention but after the intervention returned to their baseline DF intake (P = 0.2205) and decreased their WG intake (P = 0.0420) compared to baseline. Eating high-fiber snacks increased DF intake by 2.5 g per day (21% increase), suggesting displacement of other fiber-rich foods.
CONCLUSIONS: Study results indicate that children accept high-fiber foods, thus making these high-fiber foods and snacks consistently available will increase DF intake.