Friday, January 29, 2010

Hello, Fiber.

Hi Brave Monkees.

Before we get into the nitty gritty today, I'd like to pause to acknowledge some strong, brave hearts out there. I have learned a lot in the past two days, probably much more than you've learned from me. Let me explain.

I am learning that there are two camps of Monkees here. Some of you are looking to improve your food choices, learn a little more about nutrition and try some healthy recipes. Great, we have that here. But there's another group of Monkees who are really hurting. Food and body image have played a painful part in their lives for years, decades... forever, maybe. These Monkees don't need information from me, they need a safe place to talk and learn that they are NOT ALONE. I can promise those Monkees...just based on what I've learned recently, you are NOT ALONE. There are a lot of you who are hurting. And I don't have answers for you. I've got more questions than answers, really. So I can't offer solutions. But I can offer you a safe place to share your heart and struggles. I will create that here for you. This place is going to be for you hurting Monkees, too. If you are hurting and you feel you need support and a safe sharing place more than, or in addition to, nutrition information, would you email me? I am considering starting a book club group with a book that helped Glennon and Sister begin to understand their food addictions. I'd love to learn alongside you, if you're interested in joining us.

OK, on to the business of the day.

Everyone, meet Fiber. Fiber is your new best friend.

Fiber, meet everyone. We are going to be eating a lot of you.

Now that the introductions are out of the way, let’s talk about the tremendous health and weight-loss benefits that fiber provides. A high-fiber diet has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of many types of cancer. That bit of info, combined with the fact that fiber helps satisfy your hunger longer and helps stabilize your blood sugar, helping to slow carbohydrate absorption, should have you screaming PASS THE BEANS. Or vegetables. Or fruit. Or whole grains.

The RDA for fiber in this country is 25 grams per day, although most nutritionist recommend consuming 35 grams; however, the average American consumes just 17 grams of fiber each day. Interestingly enough, in countries where the cancer and heart disease rates are the lowest, fiber consumption exceeds 45 grams per day. That’s some serious fiber for thought.

As most of you probably know, good sources of fiber include, whole grains (bran has the highest fiber content), brown rice, legumes (such as dried peas, beans, lentils), fruits and vegetables. Here are some quick and easy tips for sneaking more fiber into your diet:

• Add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran or ground flaxseed to whole wheat pancake batter, oatmeal (whole oats are less processed and better for you than “quick” oats) or a fruit smoothie to jump start your day.
• Switch to whole grains. Look for breads that list 100% whole wheat or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label.
• Experiment with brown rice, wild rice, barley, quinoa and bulgur.
• Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.
• Eat more beans, peas and lentils. Add kidney beans to soup or chick peas to a green salad.
• Eat fruit with every meal and/or for snacks or desert. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are all good sources of fiber.

High-fiber foods are good for your health and waistline. But, before you scarf down a can of beans on your way to your next party remember this: adding too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping and make you very unpopular at the party. So, please, increase fiber consumption gradually over a few weeks and make sure to drink PLENTY of water to aid in digestion.

Check back on Monday as we start our “Super Foods” series, complete with super easy recipes for each super nutritious food we discuss. To start we are simply going to focus on including more healthy choices into our current diets. We aren't going to talk about eliminating anything at this point because it's too easy to go off the deep end and try to change everything all at once, which we know never works, only to wind up more frustrated than when we started. The goal is to STAY BALANCED on our quest for better health, right? So we must remind each other that it's about progress ... not perfection. If one of us, including me -- ok, especially me (my enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of me), stumbles and forgets this golden rule, we must remind her.

In an effort to keep it real (and humorous), Glennon will be attempting to make some of the suggested "super food" recipes and blogging about it on Momastery. Stay tuned, you won't want to miss that!

Finally, for those of you interested in some medical mumbo jumbo about how fiber can help promote good health, this is for you:

Fiber normalizes bowel movements
Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it, making it easier to pass. For some, fiber may provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome.

Fiber helps maintain bowel integrity and health
A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids, and small pouches in your colon known as diverticular disease.

Fiber lowers blood cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease

Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering "bad" cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that increased fiber in the diet can reduce blood pressure and inflammation, which is also protective to heart health.

Fiber helps control blood sugar levels
Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, can slow the absorption of sugar, which for people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar levels. A diet that includes insoluble fiber has been associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Fiber may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer
Eating fiber speeds up the passage of food through the body. Some experts believe this may prevent harmful substances found in some foods from affecting the colon and may protect against colon cancer.

Fiber aids in weight loss
High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you're no longer hungry, so you're less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. (i.e., more volume of food for less calories).


  1. I'm a huge fiber fan! I highly recommend Kellogg's wheat bran cereal.

  2. GREAT information! I am on board and I am starting with Flaxseed in most meals. I won't be posting my families bathroom stories but I am sure after this new plan I will have many to tell. Love ya tons.


  3. my name is chimmy and i love fiber. like a whole lot. flaxseed is soooo yummy. rolled oat and quinoa veggie patties, beans, lentils, legumes... YUM!

    unsolicited advice for new fiber junkies: DRINK PLENTY OF WATER!!!!

    your thirst for water will grow naturally. trust me.

  4. So I am good about the brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, but I am going to try some of the tips for ADDING some fiber into my diet. More beans, more fruit. I mean c'mon, I live in LA - I can get fresh fruit and veggies YEAR ROUND at my farmer's market, my supermarket, even Target. No excuse not to add some more to the diet!!


  5. Yes, yes! Listen to Chimmy: DRINK LOTS OF WATER. It is crucial when increasing fiber consumption and it will also help with a feeling of fullness (sometimes we mistake hunger for thirst so down a big glass of water next time you feel hungry. Wait 15 minutes and see if you are still hungry). Water will also help make your skin glow.

    And, yes, Kelly --- get to that farmer's market girl! Including fiber-rich fruits and whole grains first thing in the morning will keep you more satisfied than skipping breakfast or just having protein. Fiber is your friend! Also, you are my friend.

  6. Ok so I'm all for fiber and everything but some of those cereals seriously do taste like cardboard. And someone has to come up with a better tasting whole wheat pasta. Any suggestions? Because to make my family eat it, it also has to taste good w/out smothering it with chocolate or sugar.

    I promise though that I will begin to increase my fiber. Probably with more fruit and vegetables fo right now.

  7. Anonymous,
    I agree about the taste of high-fiber cereal; not only are they not super tasty but many are still heavily processed and thus not the best choices. Kashi does a pretty good job.

    As for your kids, try mixing half whole-wheat pasta with regular. Also, the taste really does vary pretty heavily from brand to brand, so maybe experiment with a different brand?

    Fruits, vegetables and beans are a great way though to increase the fiber AND nutrition in your family's diet. Also, try sprinkling the flax or wheat bran on cereal, oatmeal, salads, soups, smoothies, etc for added *sneaky* nutrtion that your kids won't notice. I always put a few tablespoons of flax in whole wheat pancake batter, smoothies and french toast. Nobody seems to notice.

  8. We eat lots and lots of fresh fruit, fresh veggies and beans at our house, and my family knows to expect whole wheat bread, but I am still trying to convince them that whole wheat pasta and brown rice are as tasty as regular pasta and white rice. We're working on it. Honestly, I have less trouble with my kids than I do with my husband. He grew up with refined everything and is having a hard time letting go.

    Tonight for dinner, I'm making vegetarian chili. Thankfully, the whole family (even my white bread-, regular pasta-, white rice-loving husband) likes it.

  9. Allison: Try experimenting with wild rice and quinoa (I have recipes for both that will be posted and discussed at some point). Vegetarian chili is a great way to get more veggies and legumes into the diet and fill up the tank on less calories. Please share your recipe with all of us!

  10. Hi Erin,
    I'm excited about your blog! But I can't email you to find out about this book, can you reveal the name of it?
    I am a super healthy eater, I think (mostly raw, almost no sweets, definitely vegetarian, with some days of frozen pizza binges thrown in) but can't lose the damn last 10 pounds (from having a child). So...I would LOVE to know anything that Glennon and Sister know about eating, because...well, LOOK at them! Oh, wait, they probably exercise, don't they? Dang, I knew there was a catch...

  11. I'll be honest, this post makes me a little stressed.

    I don't even know what Legumes, flaxseed, quinoa and bulgur are or where to get it and if they have names like these how expensive is this stuff going to be?

    I shop at Safeway, that's my store. I hate going to Wegman's, wholefoods, Harris Teeter and sometimes even Giant because 1. they are too expensive and 2. I don't have a clue where everything is and it stress' me out not knowing where to find stuff.

    So I'll read this post over and over and over again until I'm less stressed.

  12. Crap, my whole response just got deleted. Boo.

    Jennifer: breathe with me ... inhale, exhale. Ok. 8 months ago I didn't know what the heck quinoa or kale or flaxseed was or why I should eat it. I shop at Safeway and City Market (King Sooper family) b/c that's what is here in the mountains. My nearest Whole Foods is 3 hours away I think.

    Feeling better?

    Also, I have been making more vegetarian meals or reducing the animal protein and "bulking" up the meal with beans so my grocery bill is going down, not up. Beans and grains are much cheaper than meat and dairy so it really is doable. It just will take some time to get used to using different ingredients.

    Please say you feel better now or I will worry about you all weeekend!


  13. A great start Erin.

    When my nephews were adopted from a dirt-poor orphanage in Russia my s-in-law bought all kinds of 'kid' food for their homecoming, thinking they'd naturally want things like fish sticks and vienna sausages. They refused it all. Instead, they took her by the hand (they were 4) in the grocery store and pointed to what they wanted: bell peppers of every color, carrots, broccoli, etc. They had never SEEN these things in Russia, but their little bodies were telling them what they needed. To be honest, they were the most eye-wateringly gassy boys for the first 2 or 3 years, but now they're healthy and happy and still would rather eat vegetables than anything else. (And since they're teen boys when they revert to their old gas attacks they think it is hilarious).

    Jennifer, baby steps. Baby steps. Legumes are beans and peas. As Erin said, easy to bulk up the meal. It not only bulks things up nutritionally, but it bulks it up in quantity, so you can get leftovers -- two meals for one cooking session. Using yummy spices means the leftovers are often better than the original presentation. And if you're allergic to pots and pans, the more meals you can get out of one session, the better!

    You *can* do this via shopping at Safeway. I only go into Wegmans to look at the cool cooking gadgets anyway. ;-)

    Bon apetit!

  14. SLM: thanks for vote of confidence and moral support for us all! And almost everything I make these days does double-duty in terms of meals.

    We can't climb the mountain in one day ... this will take time and will be an ongoing process and learning opportunity for us all! Let's remember to breathe and focus on PROGRESS, not perfection. OK?

  15. What's quinoa? Queen Latifah's sister?

    Just kidding. I have never been able to find it at my local store, though. I think it may be hidden on the aisle where only very very intelligent people shop. I try to avoid that aisle.

    As for the family issue. I have a very, very picky husband whose willingness to try new things is equal to that of a badly mannered teenager and I have two elementary-school aged kids who would live on Kraft macaroni and cheese (it's the Cheeseist!) if given a choice.

    Craziest part is that my husband's sister is a personal trainer, borderline fruit loop and just started writing a blog on nutrition. Interesting.

    Anyway, I have had luck with the following - for the pasta, I started with Barilla Plus and have gradually moved to all whole wheat with no complaints.

    For the rice - please note that I used to hate rice - BUT now I make either brown basmati rice or browm jasmati rice and instead of using water, I use chicken broth (low sodium) and it is DELICIOUS.

    I don't know if these will work for anyone out there, but thought I would pass on.

    Here's to happy, healthy eating and not hearing, "Mom, WHAT is this?" every time we sit down to the dinner table.

  16. This is my vegetarian chili recipe. It's modified from one I originally found on the Food Network website.

    Vegetarian Chili:

    1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    4 cups vegetable broth
    1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
    1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
    1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    1 cup fresh or frozen corn
    1 cup chopped onion
    1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
    2 tablespoons chili powder
    2 tablespoons oregano
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce
    1/3 cup couscous (I use whole wheat couscous)
    1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
    1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    NOTE: If you aren't concerned about this being truly vegetarian, you can substitute chicken stock for the vegetable broth. Also, you should adjust (or omit) the jalapeno and hot sauce to your family's preference.

    In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients but the corn, couscous, shredded cheese, cilantro and salt and pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.

    Five to 10 minutes before serving (depending on temperature of slow cooker) add corn and couscous, cover and cook, until couscous is tender. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper.

    Just before serving, top each serving with shredded cheese and cilantro.

    This makes a giant batch of chili; it is great left-over and can even be frozen and used later.

  17. i would just like to announce that we got chase a frog for his birthday and he named it quinoa.

  18. Beans, check. Whole wheat pasta, check. Brown rice, check. Fruits and veggies, check. But you start saying things like quinoa and bulgur (as awesome and healthy as they sound) and I start to freak out a little. So, I'll save those for later.

    Also: Erin, what about fiber supplements -- benefiber, etc? Are they worth it/helpful for picky kids/husbands? I think I can only trick them with brown rice for so long.

    Thanks for the chili recipe, Allison!

  19. This is great. I HAVE to start cooking this way. Our dearest Monkee Amelia has a ton of pooing problems. If she doesn't have black beans and lots of fruit she is holding the walls and crying b/c it's so tough to get out. :( Breaks my heart. So can I introduce flaxseed to her? I eat it on my rolled oats in the morning but didn't know if it was ok to give to her. She's 15 months. I will be using all of these recipes to make sure she has no trouble!

  20. Caren,
    I add flax to my almost 13 month old twins' oatmeal, pancakes, soy yogurt, smoothies, etc. It is super nutritious -- high in omegas and fiber (so it will help with the pooing) as well as lignans which research is showing help prevent disease, specifically cancer -- and it has a mild, nutty taste so you shouldn't get too much push-back from your little one about it.

    Make sure you grind the flaxseed before using it otherwise it passes through your system whole and you don't get any of the health benefits. You can use an inexpensive coffee grinder to grind the flaxseed. You can also buy it ground but I prefer to buy the whole seed in bulk (cheaper and fresher) and then grind a week's worth or so at a time. Store ground flax in refrigerator to preserve freshness.

    The problem with fiber supplements is you don't get any nutrition along with the fiber so it's not a great long-term solution. Eventually your family's taste buds will shift and they will enjoy the whole grains. It just takes time b/c the processed, white stuff is so addictive in nature. Also, try sprinkling flaxseed in soups or on salads in addition to smoothies, pancakes, etc for a big punch of fiber. More on flaxseed next week probably :)

  21. Erin,
    I have been trying to do the same thing. Lessen the amount of meat that we eat. The grocery bill does go down. We have stocked up on fresh spinach, kale, veggies, all kinds of fruit, whole wheat everything, flaxseed (ground a weeks worth). We are ready to go and so excited! I made a fruit smoothie for Amelia with flaxseed in it for desert, she loved it!

  22. Oh Jennifer, I wish there was time for me to take you shopping while I was here. I would love it! Yes, you can get everthing at a "regular" grocery store. Start with one thing at a time; don't overwhelm yourself.
    Fiber is my fav...I can't wait to try this recipe. Thanks again Erin!