In our house, we are big proponents of getting enough fiber in our diets. Besides the fact that my body lets me know when I'm not eating enough of the stuff, nutritional experts unanimously agree that fiber is an important part of a good diet.
That's because fiber has many nutritional benefits. It helps us to maintain regular and healthy bowel movements, can moderate our blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and is believed to lower our risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. Fiber rich foods also take longer to digest so we feel fuller and more satisfied. As a consequence, we tend to eat less.
So with all of the good things that come with eating fiber, why is it that so few people get enough of it? By some estimates less than 3% of Americans get enough fiber. Part of the problem stems from our lifestyles — we are so busy that we have come to rely on convenience foods to fuel our bodies, and as everyone knows by now, these meals are usually devoid of fiber. Also, fiber has an aura of mystery that surrounds it: what exactly is it, and where do we find it?
The answer is actually simpler than you think. Fiber, or roughage, is the undigestible material found in many healthy foods. Unlike the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins that your body absorbs, fiber passes through your body relatively intact. As a result, it helps you to go the bathroom, which is not something you should take for granted at any age.
Fiber can be found in the foods that are healthy and natural, i.e., fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. While it may seem challenging to actually eat these foods, all it takes is a little thought and preparation to ensure that your family is well on their way to gaining a happy and healthy digestive system.
Here are some tips on getting it done.
1. Seek Out Brown Starches
Less processed is the key, so choose brown over white rice, and sweet potatoes instead of white. If you do eat white starches, combine them with fresh fruits and vegetables rather than eating by themselves.
2. Focus Less on Meat and Potatoes
While this is the staple of many people's diet, it is extremely low in fiber, not to mention calorie-rich. Try making the focus of your meal on vegetables and make meat and starch more of side note for flavor. Also, sweet potatoes are a good substitute for regular ones.
3. Spread Out Your Intake
Our consumption of fiber should be spaced out throughout the day, so try to include it in every meal. This can be a serving of fruit at breakfast and lunch, a side salad at lunch, and a generous portion of vegetables at dinner.
4. Create Healthy Habits Early On
Eating a healthy diet doesn't happen overnight, so start early with good eating habits. Avoid junk food as a dining option when your kids are young and get them into the habit of eating lots of fruit and vegetables early on so they develop a taste for them.
5. Eat Fruit and Vegetables First
Your family is more inclined to eat healthy fiber rich foods if they eat them early in the meal, when they are hungry. Later on as they become sated, the appeal of healthy food declines in favor of fat and starch.
6. Fiber Can Make a Good Snack on the Go
With our increasingly busy schedules we're all on the go, and fiber-rich foods can be a good snack in these instances. Toss an apple in your kid's backpack or have them munch on carrot or celery sticks in the car.
7. Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking plenty of water is an important part of good digestive health. It will also keep your family hydrated and help prevent hunger. Avoid sugary drinks and stick with water.
8. Don't Panic
Remember that healthy eating is a lifelong endeavor, so if you slip up and binge on junk food, don't panic. Tomorrow is another day and another chance to maintain good digestive health.