By Cliona Byrnes, RD
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adult women get at least 25g fiber per day while men should aim for at least 31g, however over 90 percent of men and women do not meet those recommended intakes. Some general tips to increase the fiber in your diet include eating whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice, choosing breakfast cereals that have a whole grain as the first ingredient, swapping white grains for whole grains and subbing beans or legumes for meat two to three times per week e.g., in soups and chili. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with food labels – in the nutrition facts panel, a food can be classed as high in fiber if it contains 5g or more per serving. It is considered a ”good source of fiber” if the product has at least 2.5g fiber per serving.
If achieving the daily target still seems a little bit daunting, breaking it up into 7-10g fiber at each meal may seem more achievable. We’ve put together some effortless ways to bulk up the fiber at every meal.
- Choose a whole grain hot cereal e.g., oats (2 g fiber per 1/2 cup) or a high-fiber breakfast cereal that offers at least 6g fiber per serving.
- Add a side of high-fiber berries e.g., raspberries or blueberries (4g per 1/2 cup) or strawberries (3g per 1/2 cup).
- Choose a whole grain bread that has 5g fiber per slice and sprinkle a little flaxseed over your toast (or in your oats!) which provides almost 3g per tablespoon.
- Add a sprinkle of nuts and seeds to your salad. Two tablespoons of chopped almonds or sunflower seeds will bump up the fiber content by 2g.
- Add a side of avocado to your salad or sandwich - there’s almost 7g fiber in half a fruit!
- Beans and lentils are a fantastic addition to any soup, salad or wrap – we love chickpeas and kidney beans which provide a hearty 6g fiber per 1/2 cup.
- Leave the skin on your baked potato for an extra 4-5g fiber per medium sized potato
- Opt for whole grain side dishes like whole-wheat spaghetti noodles (3 g fiber per 1/2 cup), bulgur (4 g fiber per 1/2 cup), and quinoa (3 g fiber per 1/2 cup).
- Fill up on fresh or cooked veggies such as cooked spinach (4 g fiber per 1/2 cup), mixed vegetables (4 g fiber per 1/2 cup), broccoli (3 g fiber per 1/2 cup) and artichokes (7g fiber per 1/2 cup)
- Snacking on fresh fruit and veggies are an easy way to sneak in some extra fiber. Apples and bananas are easy on-the-go options and will provide 3-4g fiber per fruit while baby carrots provide 2g fiber per 3oz serving.
- Add a tablespoon of nut butter for an extra gram of fiber and some healthy fats to boot!
Sample High-Fiber Day:
Breakfast: 1/2 cup rolled oats (2g) cooked with milk of choice, topped with 1/2 cup blueberries (4g) and 1 tablespoon flaxseed (3g). Total = 9g
Lunch: Turkey sandwich made with 2 slices whole wheat bread (4g), 1/2 cup romaine lettuce (1g), half a sliced tomato (1g) and 1/3 of an avocado (4.5g). Add a side of 5 baby carrots (1.5g) and 1 tablespoon hummus (1g). Total = 13g
Snack: Apple (3g) with 2 tablespoons of almonds (2g). Total = 5g
Dinner: 3.5 oz baked salmon served with 1/2 cup roasted broccoli (4g), and 5-6 baby potatoes (5g). Total = 9gDessert: Chia pudding: Mix 1 oz chia seeds (10g), 1/2 cup milk of choice, 1 tsp honey and allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Serve topped with raspberries (4g).
Total = 14g
Total for the day = 52g
Remember this is just a guide to serve as inspiration – you certainly don’t need to be eating 50g fiber daily! Individual energy and nutrient needs will vary based on several factors including height, weight, age, activity level, etc. In general, men have higher energy and fiber needs than women, so they may find it easier to bump up the size of the meal or add in an extra snack mid-morning to help them reach their fiber target. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans website also has a helpful guide to the fiber and calorie content of a wide range of foods, which can be found here.
If you have been converted into a fiber fanatic after reading all the above, it’s important to note that fiber intake should be increased gradually over several weeks to allow your digestive system to adapt and minimize any GI discomfort. And remember, fiber works best when paired with fluid so don’t forget to stay hydrated!