Just one change to the way you eat can have a massive impact on your health and weight. Instead of making a New Year’s Resolution to change your entire diet, focus on one thing you can add or remove. One change that I’ve found makes a big difference in my clients’ lives is adding more fiber to their diets. I’ve discovered that even people who thought they were eating enough fiber and appeared healthy were actually only getting half of the recommended amount of fiber. Adult males should aim for around 38 grams of fiber and women 25 grams up to age 50. After 50, it’s 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women. After they increased their fiber, they were surprised at how much better and healthier they felt.
One thing that’s great about adding fiber is that by choosing high fiber foods, you’re often choosing foods that are less refined and closer to nature – whole foods. Here are some ways to increase the fiber in your diet:
White, refined bread is low in fiber because it has been processed to remove the fiber-containing parts of the grain. Replace white breads with whole grain breads. If you use pita bread or crackers more or instead of a loaf of bread, use this same tip for those items. Since many types of brown bread/pita/crackers aren’t actually whole grain – to help you ensure that the bread/pita/cracker is whole grain, check the package for these things.
- Look for “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain” on the package or ingredients list.
- The first ingredient on the ingredients list should be “whole wheat flour,” not just “wheat flour.”
- The fiber content in the Nutrition Facts label should be at least 2 grams of fiber per slice, if not more.
Like bread, white pasta is low in fiber. Try these high-fiber, whole grain pasta varieties. They even have whole grain alphabet pasta for the kids! Or the big kids… us! These cook a little differently than white pasta, so check the package for the best cooking times. Don’t serve the pasta just with sauce – this is a perfect opportunity to add in other foods for more nutrients like chopped zucchini, broccoli, or lentils. Garlic tastes delicious in pasta, and this healthy ingredient may help lower cholesterol, and stimulate your immune system.
- Whole grain pasta
- Semolina pasta
- Lentil or garbanzo bean pasta
- Brown rice pasta
Fruits and Vegetables
Any and all! Make sure you’re eating at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables every day. Have 1 serving of each with breakfast to start your day off strong! Here are some of the higher fiber fruits and vegetables. Remember to keep the skin on the apples – this is where most of the fiber is!
- Raspberries (8g in a cup)
- Avocado (7g in ½ an avocado)
- Persimmons (6g in one)
- Blueberries (3.6g in a cup)
- Strawberries (3g in a cup)
- Apples (3g in a medium apple)
- Bananas (3g in a medium banana)
- Oranges (3g in a medium orange)
- Artichoke (10g in one cooked artichoke)
- Green peas (8.8g in a cup of cooked green peas)
- Collard Greens (5.5g in a cup of cooked collard greens)
- Pears (5.5g in one medium pear)
- Brussels sprouts (4g in a cup)
- Parsnips (3g in ½ cup cooked parsnips)
- Broccoli (2.5g in ½ cup cooked or 1g in ½ cup raw broccoli)
- Kale (2.5g in a cup of cooked kale)
- Carrots (1.5g in one cooked or raw carrot)
Note: Number of grams from individual food searches on SELFNutrition Data
Legumes (Beans, Peas, Lentils)
Adding legumes to meat dishes will boost the fiber and phytochemicals, which are powerful compounds found in plant foods that fight off disease. Since they are a great plant source of protein, they can even replace the meat in meat dishes! A cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans) contains 16 grams of protein, and a cup of black beans contains 12 grams. Each different color of legume contains different micronutrients, which provide different benefits to the body. So choose a variety of them! Here are some differently-colored legume options to try and a few ideas for how to prepare them in meals.
- Red lentils in soup
- Red lentils in marinara pasta sauce
- Black beans with fish tacos
- Kidney beans with turkey chili
- Hummus (made from chickpeas) dipped with bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers
- Chickpeas in Greek salad
- Green peas in soup
- White beans in salad with avocado, arugula, tomatoes