By Kathy Siegel, RD, CDN
There’s nothing like a little makeover to get you feeling good! And giving your pantry a high fiber makeover is an excellent first step on the road to better health and wellness.
Small changes can make a big difference. Some simple label-reading skills will give you the tools you need to understand which products provide heart healthy, whole grain fibers. When you’re out grocery shopping, keep in mind that the American Academy for Family Physicians recommends that a healthy adult consume a minimum of 25–38 grams of fiber per day, depending on one’s total calorie intake.
First, look for products that have ingredients you recognize and can pronounce. Highly processed foods have long ingredient lists with additives and preservatives. If a product contains the word “enriched” as one of the first ingredients, it is not a whole grain! Look for the word “whole” as the first ingredient to identify true whole grain products. Wheat flour is not whole grain. Try to choose items with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Here are some tips on selecting naturally high fiber, whole grain items for your pantry makeover:
Start with the basics: Use whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, or white whole grain flour (milled from white whole wheat, rather than red) in your favorite baking recipes. Avoid baking with “bleached”, “bromated” or “enriched” all-purpose flour or white flour.
Start your day with a smart breakfast: When choosing cereal, always look for whole grain wheat, whole grain oats, whole grain corn or other whole grains as the first ingredient. High fiber cereals have 5+ grams of fiber per serving, but try to aim for at least 3 grams per serving. Try to limit sugar to less than 6 grams per serving. Tip: combine several cereals in a bowl for variety. If there’s a higher sugar version of a cereal that you crave, sprinkle a small amount on a low sugar/higher fiber cereal to sweeten it up. For oatmeal, buy the plain, old fashioned or quick oats in the canister. They will have no added salt or sugar. Avoid the processed, pre-flavored packets. They’ll only save you a minute or two of prep time and add a ton of sugar and salt.
Slice a better bite: When choosing breads and wraps, look for 100% whole wheat, whole grain oat, or whole rye flour as the first ingredient. Beware of hidden sugar substitutes added to bread, cereals, and snacks! Manufacturers are adding them to cut back on calories. Sucralose (Splenda), Stevia (Rebiana), Acesulfame K (potassium), and Aspartame (NutraSweet) can be found in many unsuspecting products and should be limited.
Perfect Pasta: Swap out regular pasta for whole wheat pasta. It’s available in just about every shape from lasagna noodles to shells. If your family has trouble accepting the 100% whole wheat pasta, try starting with fiber-enriched white pasta, or omega-3 enriched pasta and gradually move towards whole wheat.
Good for your heart grains, legumes, and beans: Quinoa, whole wheat couscous, and brown rice are excellent substitutes for white rice and are packed with fiber. White and sweet potatoes are also great sources of natural fiber. Feeling adventurous? Try faro, wheatberries, amaranth, bulgar, buckwheat, barley, millet and wild rice. Keep dried and canned beans and legumes handy. Beans and legumes are high in fiber and protein and they’ll keep you satisfied for hours. If using canned items, look for the low salt version, or rinse them under water prior to preparing. That technique will cut the sodium content in half. Add the grains or beans/legumes to soups, salads, and stews, or serve them alone.
Snack with a healthier crunch: Look for crackers and tortilla chips that list a whole grain as the first ingredient. Short ingredient lists are better. Also, baked versions of chips are a better choice. Several products claim to be whole wheat, but contain enriched flour. Newer “popped”, soy, and lentil chips may be good choices. Popcorn is also a great source of fiber; either pop your own with a small amount of canola oil, or look for microwave varieties that are at least 94% fat free. A 100 calorie bag contains 3g of fiber. Hint: also watch the sodium content, it can vary greatly between brands.
Stock up on dried fruit, nuts, nut butters, low fat granola and seeds: These items are higher in fiber, very convenient and make great snacks. Read the labels and place single pre-portioned mixtures in sealed bags for quick “grab and go” snacks. Look for dried fruits without sugar or preservatives. Lastly, look for “natural” versions of nut butters without the added sugar.
Meeting your fiber goal is easy once you discover new and delicious products to make your pantry more “fiber friendly”. And keeping your favorite FiberLove bars on hand always helps 😉