Fiber Focus Month

by Brittany Lightsey, MS, RD, LD

Did you know there is a whole month dedicated to the celebration of fiber? You’re probably thinking, “why fiber?”  Fiber plays many important roles in our bodies – including helping us manage our weight.  Let’s find out just why fiber is one of my favorite nutrients.

One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents is, “my child is hungry all of the time.” To help curb appetites, feed hungry kids with high-fiber foods. Fiber actually helps us to feel “full” longer because these foods are bulkier and fill up our stomachs faster. They are also not as digestible as other foods, so they stay in our tummies a little longer.

What is a whole grain, anyway? In order for a grain to be considered whole, it must contain all three parts of the grain kernel – the bran, germ and endosperm. Most grains on the market have been refined and enriched, basically stripped of the bran and germ. The bran is the fiber- rich outer layer. To be sure your grains have all three parts, look for the word “whole” in the first ingredient on the food label.

January Whole GrainsWhere do we get fiber?  There are many ways to get fiber, but the number one way I recommend is by eating more fruits and vegetables. That’s why filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables is so important! Some high fiber fruits and vegetables include apples, pears, and beans. One half cup cooked beans can have 4-8 grams of fiber. Another source of fiber is whole grains. When buying breads, cereals, granola bars and other packaged foods, look for at least 3 grams of fiber on the label.

To get more fiber, think of adding a good source of fiber to each of your and your child’s snacks. Also, stock up on whole grain breads, pastas and rice. Your child doesn’t like “brown” bread? Try making sandwiches with one slice of white bread, and one slice of whole grain bread. Your child will be sure to warm up to the taste of whole grain bread quickly. This trick also works with pasta and rice.  Another tip is when feeding your kiddo fresh fruits and vegetables, be sure to leave the skin on. The skins of sweet potatoes, apples, and more are great extra doses of fiber.

Wait, there’s even more! Fiber is not just for keeping you full. You may have also heard, especially from older family members, that fiber helps to keep you regular. This is true, and fiber is important for maintaining gut health. However, it has also been shown to protect against some cancers and may prevent heart disease and diabetes. It even binds bad cholesterol to help wash it from our bodies. Another secret function of fiber is that it helps to slow the absorption of some nutrients like sugar, which helps curb big fluctuations in blood sugar levels. That, my friends, is why I think fiber is a super nutrient!

Don’t forget to drink more water! When adding more fiber to your diet, it is important to make sure that you are drinking enough water. Make sure to have water nearby throughout your day.

Bonus! According to the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, all grain products at your child’s school will be whole grains by the 2014-2015 school year. Cheers to healthy lunches!

Blueberry Crunch Pancakes
Adapted from Cooking Light

Who knew that January 28 is actually Blueberry Pancake Day? Try this adaptation of a Saturday morning favorite to keep your family full and focused for fun, active weekends!  

Serving: 4 pancakes (2 ½ Tbsp. batter per pancake)

January KidsIngredients:
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup nonfat milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Combine the first seven ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  2. Combine milk, butter, and egg in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
  3. Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons batter per pancake onto griddle. Top each pancake with several blueberries. Turn pancakes over when tops are covered with bubbles; cook until bottoms are lightly browned.

Be sure to check out our articles monthly on the “Parent Resources” section of SCCPSS’ School Food and Nutrition Website found on www.sccpss.comThese articles will highlight tips, tricks, and recipes to keep your family happy and healthy!