Counting 1,500-2,200 calories throughout your day can become annoying and overwhelming. I am here to suggest something a little different. Just count your fiber. If you are eating 30-40 grams of fiber every day you are less likely to overeat due to the fullness that fiber helps you feel. Also, high fiber diets have been shown to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and support heart health. Higher fiber diets can also help you lose weight!
The best sources of fiber are in fruits, veggies, nuts, beans and legumes, and whole grains. A small 100 calorie apple can have about 4 grams of fiber, 100 calories of broccoli have about 12 grams of fiber, and 180 calories of whole-grain pasta about 6 grams of fiber (I am not a big fan of grains but when consumed in limited amounts you can greatly benefit from them). Do you know how much fiber you consume daily?
Your fiber intake can quickly add up when you are choosing the right foods but please do not add too much fiber-rich food at once. If your diet resembles the Standard American Diet (SAD) you are probably consuming about 15 grams of fiber per day. This is not enough. If the SAD-diet sounds like your diet do not add 20 grams of fiber to your diet tomorrow. You will be gassy and bloated. The National Fiber Council, NFC, recommends 32 grams of fiber for a healthy adult, whereas, the Mayo Clinic recommends 38 grams of fiber for males fifty and younger and only 25 grams for women fifty and younger. As you can see, whatever the magic number is we are, on average, not eating enough fiber. You need to find what works for you and your waistline.
Here is why I have chosen to count my fiber vs. count calories:
1. Majority of foods with fiber have high nutritional value
2. Fiber is filling and controls my appetite
3. Fiber helps lower my LDL (Lousy cholesterol)
4. Fiber helps stabilize my blood sugar levels
5. Fiber helps keeps me regular and never bloated
6. Counting fiber has encouraged me to make better food choices
7. It has helped me control my weight
8. I have kept off, on average, 10 pounds over the years (I now weigh the same as I did when I graduated high school).
Where should you start? Try adding more fibrous foods to your diet. Remember you MUST drink plenty of water when increasing your fiber intake or you can get constipated and this is the opposite of what you want. Also, slowly introduce more fiber to your diet. Start with one extra apple a day and increase every week by 4-5 grams (this is what I did until I got to about 35-40 grams a day). I also recommend staying away from fiber supplements. You want to eat real food with real nutrition.
One challenge you can try (I gave this challenge to a group of 15 students during a nutrition class I taught) is add one celery stalk, piece of broccoli, or sweet pepper (your pick) at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and while you do this for one week you eat completely the same. You do not change anything but adding in this fiber-rich veggie very time you eat. Some students who felt they already had a good diet chose to eat two sticks before each meal (their diet was already high in fiber). This challenge provided the opportunity to increase fiber intake without giving up one’s typical diet all at once. For one participant he had great progress just after 3 weeks he has lost 11 pounds. He also is choosing to eat two celery sticks before each meal now. No need to buy expensive supplements to “control” your appetite.
Choose real food.
Real food = fiber
Give this a try and report back!