Dietary guidelines recommend that all Americans get at least 25 grams of fiber a day. This is an even stronger imperative if you have diabetes, since a fiber-rich diet can help you better manage your blood-glucose levels. Twenty-five grams is about twice as much as most of us now eat, so to comply you’ll probably have to make a conscious decision to put more fiber-rich plant foods on your menu and get at least half of your grain-based foods each day (at least three servings) from whole-grain sources.
Getting more whole grains and fiber into your diet is easier and tastier than you might think. Here are some tried-and-true tips:
1. Swap out. Seek out whole-grain versions of your favorite foods, such as whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole-grain crackers. If you don’t like one brand, experiment with another; there are so many choices nowadays, you’re sure to find one you love.
2. Sneak in. Phase in a whole grain by mixing it half-and-half with a refined one–for example, a blend of whole-wheat and regular pasta, or half brown and half white rice. Gradually increase the proportions until your palate–and digestive tract–have adjusted.
3. Start smart. Cross a serving or two of whole grains off your list before sunup: have a bowl of old-fashioned or quick (not instant) oatmeal, or whole-grain breakfast cereal. Look for cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, and/or those that carry a seal identifying them as an “excellent” or “good” source of whole grains.
4. Think outside the (cereal) box. Expand your whole-grain pantry: How about bulgur (cracked, steamed and dried wheat kernels), whole-wheat couscous, quinoa or millet? A trip to a natural-foods store will inspire you.
5. Read, read, read. Become a label reader, zeroing in on the “dietary fiber” value. Compare brands and choose those that offer the highest numbers. We consider any food providing 5 or more grams of fiber per serving “high fiber.”
6. Eat your veggies, and then some. Forget “five-a-day”; many nutrition experts suggest aiming much higher. Try to make vegetables–preferably nonstarchy types like greens and broccoli–a part of every meal and snack.
7. Eat (don’t drink) your produce. When fruits or vegetables are processed to make juice, most of the beneficial fiber is left behind.
8. Ditch the peeler. Don’t peel edible skins from fruits and vegetables if you can help it. To avoid pesticide residues, wash skins thoroughly before eating, and opt for organic varieties whenever possible.
– Joyce Hendley
EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.
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