As athletes, I’ve encouraged you to choose more whole grains. I’ve helped you add protein for recovery and satiety. I’ve pushed fluids before, during and after workouts for hydration. But have I spent enough time touting everyday wellness? May is a crazy month for us with traveling 3 out of 4 weekends, listing our house, writing proposals, finishing school work, picking up odd jobs, and in our spare time being parents. Normally that would leave us short-changing dinners and too tired to pack a wholesome lunch, but after a recent overnight trip to the ER for my husband left us with 1 hour of sleep, I have remained strong in my commitment to include more fiber in both of our diets. While everyone may not be as passionate about fiber as I am (it’s admittedly one of my interests on Facebook), it should be something we all strive to include in our diet.
Why do we need fiber?1
Fiber is a type of food the body cannot digest. Unlike most carbohydrates, it isn’t broken down into sugar. Therefore, it doesn’t provide us with energy but what it does provide us with is so much more:
- Lower risk of heart disease (even as athletes, we can develop heart disease)
- Manages cholesterol (soluble fiber helps lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol)
- Regulation of blood sugars (energy maintenance and balance)
- Regularity (gotta keep the BMs moving, but not too much - fiber helps both ends of the spectrum)
- Prevents diverticular disease (risks rise as we age)
Even more, foods high in fiber like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and flax provide us with multiple other benefits:
- Antioxidants (repairing damage done from intense or long workouts)
- Phytonutrients (preventing cancer and disease)
- Vitamins (helping meet the high demands of an athlete)
- Healthy fats (providing anti-inflammatory properties)
Therefore, your next challenge is….wait for it, wait for it…..to increase the fiber in your diet!! And here’s how you can accomplish it:
- Add beans to a salad, pasta, or rice dish or blend into your own veggie burger (LOVE these burgers, plus they freeze well)
- Add nuts or flax seed to oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese
- Scoop nut butters onto fresh fruit as snack
- Add lentils or beans to a soup (check out my fiber-filled soup ideas here). Smashing some with a potato masher or immersion blender makes the soup thick and creamy without adding extra fat.
- Blend beans into your own hummus or bean dip (Tarala knows how to work the food processor we make this hummus so often)
- Add spinach or kale to smoothies, sandwiches, and salads
- Use ground oats or whole grain cereal in place of bread crumbs
- Add an extra vegetable or salad to lunch and dinner. Lean on steam in a bag veggies if nothing else.
- Grab single serve carrot sticks or munch on mini sweet peppers or cherry tomatoes
- Make homemade sweet potato fries in less than 20 minutes for a side dish with a lean burger or sandwich instead of chips
- Buy pre-chopped squash and roast at the beginning of the week to add to salads and pastas or for a quick side dish
- Have baked or refried beans as side dish at dinner (We smash our own with cumin, onion, and garlic or rely on Harris Teeter’s Fat Free Lime Black Beans).
- Add sauted veggies (mushrooms, carrots, onion, pepper, shredded zucchini) to tacos or chopped veggies to a meatloaf
What are your sneaky ways to fit in more fiber?