Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fiber Check

If I haven't mentioned it before, then here it is: I love fiber.

It's the first thing I look for on a nutrition label, followed by calories, fat, sugar and protein. I enjoy a high-fiber, heart-healthy diet, and that's why I can never go carb-free. I love it so much that I don't like regular pasta; it has to have 6 grams of fiber or more per serving. Anymore, you can get whole wheat pasta for the same price as regular. I don't care for sandwich bread, unless it's that 35 stuff that I can only find at home in Indiana. I love beans, whole wheat couscous, Fiber One cereal, Kashi GoLean and Kashi Good Friends cereals, oatmeal. I don't eat much rice or even brown rice; 3 grams of fiber is not enough for me.

Did you know that doctors recommend 25g of fiber a day for women under 50? If you're over 50, it goes down to 21. For men, it's a range of 30-38g. Considering all the processed foods that we eat today, most people are lucky to get 5 grams of fiber into their diet. I can easily say that 8 years ago, I was in that category.

A good way to get your fiber is by making small changes. Eat more salads. For this purpose, I always keep a bag of baby spinach, a cucumber, and a pint of grape tomatoes in stock so I can throw together a quick salad - just dress it with red wine vinegar. You'd be amazed how good this is.

Eat more whole fruit. My fruits of choice include oranges (which are cheap this time of year - try a couple of baby clementines that they sell in boxes) and frozen raspberries. You can get the berries for less than $2 a bag anymore - just make sure there's no added sugar. I put them in a
ziploc box with plain fat free yogurt and add Splenda at lunch time for a midday dessert.

Read your bread and pasta labels. Every grocery store sells high-fiber alternatives - with no taste difference. The aforementioned "35" bread is amazing - Mom and Dad have switched to buying only that bread now, and Mom is probably the most finicky food skeptic of the family. If I try and make something healthy, she'll fry up a steak for herself. But the 35 bread pleases all. And whole wheat pasta - let me just say that regular pasta has lost its luster for me. This stuff just seems more hearty.

I feel like I'm making my body jump through hoops to digest these complex carbohydrates. Fiber is good for the heart and good for healthy bowels. I said it. You just have to make sure you drink plenty of water.

This is all just preface for my new favorite meal discovery this week: Vegetarian Chili. It's got beans and veggies and soy protein. I know, that sounds scary, but it's really very good. And guess what the nutrition breakdown is?

Fiber: 10g
Cal: 150
Fat: 1g
Sugar: 4g
Protein: 9g

That's some good looking chili. And that's just half a can!

Of course, I doll this chili up a bit. I chop up left over roast beef that I made on Sunday and add it to the pot; so it's not totally vegetarian. Then I toss in some frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe's. I top it all off with some low-fat sour cream, low-fat cheddar shreds, chopped onion and chopped canned jalapenos. Oh! And I serve it over whole wheat couscous that I steamed in chicken broth.

When it's all said and done, I've consumed an entire can of chili, plus a serving of couscous. Fiber total: over 30 grams. Yeesh. Add to that the cereal I have for breakfast (11g) and the salad I eat for lunch (probably 6g) and the raspberries (4g), I've had close to 50 grams of fiber each day, for the past 2 days.

And I'm feeling it.

So I'll chug me some water and say how-de-do.

So there's that,


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