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Fiber: Give Yourself a Fresh Start for Health

Just a few changes of habit can give a big boost to your diet's fiber profile.

6 Tips for a Fresh Start With Fiber continued...

Go Easy On Yourself: When you shop, grab bags of ready-to-eat fresh vegetables, like baby carrots, shredded broccoli, and salad mixes. And look for packaged, presliced fruits (peels on).

20 Stealthy Ways to Slip More Fiber Into Your Diet:

  • Scoop up spreads like hummus, spinach dip, or artichoke dip with veggies or whole-grain crackers. Or dial up the fiber profile of your ranch or French onion favorite with a few teaspoons of ground flax seed.
  • Top a store-bought pizza with slices of tomato, red pepper, spinach, and onion for extra fiber. Or make your own pizza, with a whole-wheat crust, and then pile on the produce.
  • Raise a submarine sandwich's fiber profile with the crunch of red or dark green lettuce, shredded peppers and carrots, and a whole-grain roll.
  • If you're dotty for donuts with your morning coffee, try switching -- at least sometimes -- to whole-grain granola bars instead.
  • Beans are bursting with fiber. Pinto beans have 15.4 grams of fiber per cup, while black beans have 15 grams; try sprinkling all kinds of beans in soups, stews, and salads a few times a week, or enjoy bean and veggie-rich burritos.
  • Cooking can reduce a food's fiber, so enjoy lots of your veggies raw. When you do cook vegetables, try steaming them, or cooking them quickly and easily in the microwave.
  • If there are cookie monsters in your house, satisfy their sweet tooth, and boost their fiber intake, by switching to hearty oatmeal-raisin cookies.
  • Stock your pantry with quick cooking brown rice and whole grain pasta in fun shapes.
  • Experiment with produce-rich cuisines. Try Middle Eastern foods like tabbouleh (8.2 grams of fiber per cup of bulgur wheat) or hummus (over 10 grams of fiber per cup of chickpeas), or enjoy a quick Asian stir fry.
  • Substitute common staples such as pasta, white breads, white rice with those made from unprocessed grains loaded with fiber.
  • Add shredded vegetables like zucchini or carrots to spaghetti sauce.
  • Add fresh fruits to your diet. Mangoes have some big advantages over other fruits. They contain more fiber than most, which helps you curb your appetite.
  • Try fruit smoothies for fun fiber. Blend low-fat yogurt, fruit juice, and fresh or frozen fruit to make a quick breakfast or as a snack.
  • Love your steak and potatoes? Try topping both with onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes, sautéed with a touch of olive oil and herbs.
  • Switch to corn tortillas, which have 50% more fiber than flour tortillas.
  • Substitute quick or old-fashioned oats for up to one-third of the white flour called for in recipes.
  • For a rich, intense flavor, try spearing vegetables and fruits on skewers and cooking them on your grill.
  • Treat your sweet tooth and get more fiber with a fruit salad. Try bananas, blueberries, and apples, sprinkled with walnuts and shredded, unsweetened coconut.
  • Hold on to more nutrients -- and cook vegetables faster -- by using the microwave oven.
  • Warm up with legume-rich soups. Just one cup of ready-to-serve bean and ham soup has over 11 grams of fiber, while pea or lentil soups bulk up with 5 or more grams each. The American Heart Association says that diets high in complex carbohydrates and fiber can reduce your risk of a host of conditions, including obesity, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, and other chronic diseases.

So savor sweet summer berries, hearty whole grains, and crisp colorful veggies. It's easy -- and delicious – to enjoy fiber's bountiful benefits.

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Reviewed on March 29, 2010

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