Adding More Fiber In Your Diet

One of the main reasons we are hearing more about eating whole grains is because people are not consuming enough fiber. Fiber is important for two main reasons. Insoluble fiber helps maintain a healthy digestive system and helps to fill you up after a meal. Soluble fiber helps by lowering blood cholesterol, thus helping to prevent heart disease.

Eating more fiber requires eating more whole grains and at least 5 total servings of fruits and vegetables everyday. Most adults need between 25 and 40 grams of fiber every day. For kids between the ages of 3 and 18, nutrition experts recommend that a child’s daily intake of fiber should equal “age + 5 grams”.  For example, a 9-year-old child would need about 14 grams of fiber, 9+5=14. Below are some simple ways to add more fiber to your diets at home:

  1. Eat more whole grain breakfast cereals, such as oatmeal, cheerios, Raisin Bran, shredded wheat, Total and Wheaties. Add “natural” sugar to these cereals with fresh fruit sprinkled on top or mixed into the cereal.
  2. Add more beans to meals, such as chili, salads, or soups.
  3. Buy whole grain breads, pitas, English muffins, etc.
  4. Snack on vegetable sticks, fruit or popcorn
  5. Eat a salad at least once a day as a meal or as a side dish
  6. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables
  7. Make breakfast smoothies with fresh fruit
  8. Add extra sliced vegetables, like peppers, to a pizza
  9. Eat whole fruit instead of drinking juice
  10. If you eat canned soups (go for lower sodium varieties) or make homemade soup, add in extra vegetables (may be frozen or fresh)

Should I Snack?

The answer is, “that depends”. Snacking can be a part of a very healthy diet and it can be essential too. The average meal takes about 4 to 5 hours to digest, so if more than 5 hours will pass between meals, then planning a sensible snack makes sense to hold you over until your next meal. For some people they prefer to eat smaller meals more often. If this sounds like you, then you may need snacks to satisfy your appetite from one meal to another. The challenge with snacking is when it is mindless and excessive. Americans in general have a bad habit of mindless eating, which essentially means that we eat because it’s fun, it’s social, we’re bored, we’re distracted, and the list goes on.

It’s important to plan for snacks so that we don’t overeat or indulge in snacks that are laden with hidden fats and sugars. You want snacks that will help maximize your performance. It’s also important to balance your choices with a variety of options from all food groups. This will help ensure you meet all your nutrient needs for the day. Finally, listen to your body. This means eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are perfectly content. This will help avoid overindulging in snacks. Read below for some Power Snacking ideas:

  1. Keep it simple. A healthy snack is one that takes little preparation and is always within easy reach.
  2. Stock the refrigerator or pantry with “help yourself” nutritious foods such as whole grain breads and bagels, low-fat granola or trail mix and single-serving yogurt.
  3. Watch “liquid” calories. They add up fast!
  4. Offer some of these smart snacks with color and crunch appeal:

    • Sliced fresh fruit or sliced fresh vegetables with low fat dip
    • Whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese or peanut butter
    • Low fat yogurt with cereal or fruit
    • Baked tortilla chips and salsa with
    • Homemade frozen yogurt pops
    • Pretzels – look for lower sodium options
    • Popcorn without loads of melted butter
    • ½ sandwich and a piece of fruit
    • A bowl of oatmeal with sliced fruit and made with 1% milk
    • Tuna and crackers
    • A bowl of vegetable soup
    • A modest handful of almonds and a glass of milk

Naturally-Occurring vs Added Sugars

Sugar is often referred to as “naturally-occurring” or “added”. On food labels, both kinds of sugar are included in “sugars” listed on the Nutrition Facts panel. Naturally-occurring sugars are found in many foods. For example, dairy products, such as yogurt and milk, and fruit — both healthy choices — contain naturally-occurring sugars.

Lactose is the naturally occurring sugar in milk and yogurt and fructose is the naturally occurring sugar in fruit. These foods are not considered “bad” because they also bring essential vitamins and minerals to our diet. However, there are concerns that too much sugar is harmful to health because high intakes of sugar have been linked to obesity and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

The reality is that foods that have naturally-occurring sugars are generally not the foods posing the problem.  Excessive intake of added sugars from foods is the concern. This might include foods such as cereals, certain dairy products, beverages and snacks that have had extra sugar added for a variety of reasons.

To help prevent over-consuming sugars in your diet, you should aim for no more than 10% of your calories from sugars. For your daily diet that translates to no more than 6 to 8 teaspoons of sugar per day or about 24 to 32 grams of sugar each day.  To put that in perspective, some sugar-flavored beverages alone can contain as much as 8 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. If you drink a couple bottles of regularly sweetened beverages, you could very easily be consuming a weeks worth of sugar in a single day.

By reducing your consumption or eliminating these types of drinks from your daily diet, you could essentially reduce your daily calorie intake anywhere from 250 to 500 calories each day. This translates into 1 to 2 pounds of potential weight loss each week! Be informed. Check out how many grams of sugar you may be eating by reading the Nutrition Facts panel on food products.

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