How to Eat 25 grams of Dietary Fiber a Day

To lower cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends eating 25 grams of dietary fiber per day for a 2,000-calorie diet.

As I discovered while writing, Are You Eating Enough Fiber to Lower Cholesterol? the answer for me was a clear NO. Curious and concerned, I did a little research (and math) and realized that I’m currently only consuming about half of the dietary fiber I need to lower cholesterol.

And that led me to wonder what exactly I’d need to eat to double my fiber intake / get to 25 grams of fiber a day.

What I discovered was surprising. I thought I’d need to overhaul my diet completely. Like adopt an all-oatmeal-all day-long or quinoa quinoa everywhere type of eating plan. But it turned out that all I had to do was pay little more attention and make two easy changes: a) eat whole wheat versions of the foods I was currently eating, and b) add in a high-fiber snack.

To figure all this out, I used two key sources of information. The USDA 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes Appendix 13 which is a table called, Food Sources of Dietary Fiber. While informative, I found this chart hard to navigate as it lists foods in descending order of fiber, not by type of food. To make this information more useful in meal planning, I turned it into a chart organized by meal. To do that, I relied on another useful site, SELFNutritionData, where you can search for ingredients or foods and find their full nutritional information.

Here’s a snapshot of the chart I created which lists the fiber in foods, organized by meal. To download a PDF of the entire file, click Fiber By Meal.

For me, here’s what I learned. Yes, I could (and should) shift to either oatmeal or an oat or wheat bran cereal for breakfast. But I continue to cling to my half a bagel with lox habit. So instead, I modified lunch to include a whole wheat pasta and added both almonds and roasted chickpeas as an afternoon snack. It felt familiar and was an easy shift and best of all, it doubled my dietary fiber to 25 grams per day!

Here’s a chart with three meal plans per day: a goal (including oatmeal) meal plan, my ‘current’ meal plan (as of last week), and my modified meal plan where I added whole wheat versions of my current foods and a high fiber snack:

Easy Peasy. A happy lo-co surprise.

How about you? Are you getting enough fiber in your daily diet to lower cholesterol? Download the PDF of my fiber chart to easily figure out what foods you could modify or add to get to 25 grams of dietary fiber per day.

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Have You Tried Parsnip Fries?

Last week, I tried Parsnip Fries for the first time at my friend Chris’s house and it was a side-dish revelation (yes, the same Chris who shamed me into cooking more – read here). I cannot fathom why I haven’t read or heard about this delightful and nutritious dish – especially because it’s dead-simple to make, even for me, who does NOT like chopping!

I’ve mastered preparing asparagus and brussels sprouts for roasting – but have long struggled with all kinds of potato chopping.  Amazingly, I found peeling and chopping into ‘fry’ shape 1 parsnip far, far easier than the same prep for sweet potatoes. (I’m probably the only one who finds chopping oval sweet potatoes into long, rectangular or triangular fries difficult…but converting one shape to the other is just not intuitive to me.)

I was delighted to find that since the parsnip is already long and skinny-ish, it’s easy as pie for even spatially-challenged folks like me to cut into nice, rectangular fry-like shapes!

In fact, it was so easy I might even be able to relax my no-drinking-wine-while-chopping rule!  Though that’s probably a bad idea…

OK, now that you know the up-front chopping part is easy, wait to you see how easy it is to finish the prep.

Here’s the crazy-easy ‘recipe:’ wash and peel parsnip, cut into fry-shaped pieces, splash with olive oil, salt and pepper and a seasoning of your choice (see below) and bake on a cookie sheet at 425 or so for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice.

As to seasoning, Chris used a balti seasoning which was quite good. I went with some garam masala which I liked equally well (if you’ve never shopped Penzeys Spices, they’re a great resource).  Best bet for this dish is to choose a spice with a little bite to complement the slight sweetness of the parsnip. When I make these again – and I will – I’ll try the same spice set I use for sweet potato fries – chili power and cumin – as that’d work too (though the garam masala was so good, it’ll be hard to shift!) Or you can use no seasoning beyond salt and pepper if you prefer.

ParsnipDinnerI served these fab, healthy ‘fries’ with mustard roasted fish, roasted asparagus and roasted brussels sprouts. Nary a fry was left.

Don’t they look good?

Even better – these crisped up nicely, have few calories and very little fat, have zero cholesterol and are a good source of dietary fiber! All that and they taste great too!

Give them a whirl – and comment back on your favorite seasoning!

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Don’t Like Oatmeal? Try Chickpeas!

Every morning I feel guilty as I eat my half-bagel with a smidge of whipped cream cheese and fresh lox – guilty because I know I should be eating that miracle breakfast food, oatmeal. I know oatmeal has a lot of dietary fiber, and dietary fiber reduces cholesterol. But I just don’t care for oatmeal all that much.

So imagine my surprise when I learned while researching for my Answers.com article, Chickpeas Help Lower Cholesterol (who knew?!) that chickpeas have a lot of dietary fiber. And I mean A LOT.

Like, MORE THAN OATMEAL!

Huh!

Why didn’t my doctor mention this?

She did say to eat a lot more fiber. She did say to eat oatmeal and fresh vegetables and take Metamucil.  But nary a word about chickpeas.

Which is a bummer because I can easily pop open a can of chickpeas and toss a handful in a salad. I’m far more likely to do that than eat oatmeal (Yes, I know – I always write about how I don’t like salad. That said, I am having far, far more success eating salad for lunch than I’ve ever had eating oatmeal for breakfast!)

So I did a little more research – and guess what? A mere half-cup of canned chickpeas packs 5 grams of dietary fiber, compared to 4 grams of that pain-to-make steel cut oatmeal (!) and 3 grams of fiber in instant oatmeal packets. The only oatmeal with more dietary fiber than chickpeas is that new Quaker Instant High Fiber Oatmeal (which I haven’t yet tried but guess I should?)

Check out this nutritional comparison I did using the Quaker site — comparing 1 serving of three different Quaker Oatmeals with 1 serving of Eden Organic canned chickpeas (the Goya and Progresso sites did not have all the nutritional info but I’m betting it’s similar). My guess is that you’ll join me in both searching the web for hummus recipes and popping chickpeas into your salads.

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