Bumping up the amount of fiber in your diet will allow your body to gain many health benefits—your heart will especially thank you! With February being Heart Health Month, it is the perfect time to show your heart some love by increasing fiber intake at meal and snack times. Dietary fiber does an excellent job at keeping our heart healthy, such as playing a role in managing blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure, as well as helping prevent chronic illness such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Keep reading for some easy-to-implement swaps to gradually boost your dietary fiber intake throughout your day, taking it one meal at a time!
Breakfast: Our first meal sets the tone for the rest of our day. Breakfast is especially important to help manage blood sugars first thing in the morning. Since we are “breaking” our “fast,” our response to carbohydrates may be extra sensitive upon waking up. Here are some easy swaps to boost our morning fiber: Choose a whole-grain slice of toast or English muffin instead of a refined variety; aim for a hot-cereal, such as oatmeal or muesli, in place of a sugary cereal option; or grab a NuGo Nutrition Fiber d’Lish bar on your way out the door in place of a low-fiber granola bar.
Lunch: So the clock strikes 12 noon and you rush to the refrigerator to grab your lunch. Does this experience sound all too familiar? The culprit here is usually a diet that is too low in dietary fiber. If we head into a meal time with a ravenous appetite we may tend to overeat portions. We may also lean toward foods higher in calories and saturated fats to fill us up quickly. Doing this too often could potentially lead to high cholesterol levels, which will not allow our heart to pump at an optimal level. To combat this, bumping up our fiber at lunch time will keep us feeling satisfied when the mid-afternoon slump hits.
Some quick ways to increase fiber at lunch include: Swap out crumbled or cubed cheese in salads for some heart healthy walnuts or pumpkin seeds; top Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries in place of a high-sugar granola; or use bell pepper slices to dip in hummus in place of pita chips.
Dinner: It is often during dinner when high-sodium “convenience foods” are eaten – whether that be take out or a microwave meal picked out of the frozen aisle in the grocery store. The consumption of high sodium foods can potentially lead to high blood pressure. And you guessed it! Fiber can help! Aiming for fiber-boosting foods at dinner time will allow us to stay satiated through the night and will give our heart a little TLC! Here are some super simple ways to increase fiber during dinner time: Switch up your pasta routine by trying out some bean and lentil pasta in place of your traditional wheat pasta; trade in your stir-fry rice for some higher-fiber wheat berries or quinoa; or simply aim for whole-grain rolls instead of refined ones!
Snacks: Snacks are critical in keeping us properly fueled throughout the day and preventing us from feeling famished between meals! Fiber content is an important component of snacks, so making sure our snacks are packed with dietary fiber will ensure we are feeling satisfied until it is time to eat again. Examples of some delicious, fiber-rich snacks include a banana dipped in almond butter; a trail mix made up of dried fruit, nuts, and whole-grain cereal, or a NuGo Nutrition Fiber d’Lish bar crumbled on top of a cottage cheese cup.
Following the above recommendations can help lead you in the right direction for hitting your recommended daily fiber goals. Reaching your fiber goals consistently will help your heart function at optimal health – and what could be more important than that! Happy Heart Health Month!
Joannah Konecny, RD is a New Jersey based Registered Dietitian and business owner of Jo’s Foods that Fit, LLC. Her mission is to guide individuals toward better nutrition by improving both their lifestyle habits and their mindset. Through this, she helps clients increase their confidence and love their bodies. Joannah has a passion for discovering new food products and developing healthy recipes with them! You can follow her journey on Instagram or on her website.