Why You Should Be Excited About Fiber

Don’t stop reading yet! All I’ve said so far is “fiber” and I’ve already lost most of you. Most people think that fiber is just about regularity, but that’s a load of, well… you know what! It’s an important component of every diet, and most people don’t eat enough of it. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men and women eat 38 or 25 grams of fiber each day, respectively, and the latest survey data indicates that our average intake is less than half of this amount!

Even though it’s simply undigestible plant matter, fiber has a wide range of benefits – it helps keep you full and satisfied, it decreases risk of colon cancer and diverticular disease, helps lower cholesterol levels, and feeds the good bacteria in your gut. But in my experience, there’s one particular “fun fact” about fiber that tends to surprise and intrigue; one thing that gets people ACTUALLY EXCITED ABOUT EATING FIBER…

So what are the magic words?

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Morning Glory Muffins

So, I started working at a new job last week. A really dreamy job. The kind of job that makes all the years of college and grad school feel worthwhile, like life is finally coming together, and it just feels so good to be there! Over the weekend I channeled my excitement and set out to charm my new co-workers the best way I know: with baked goods. The thing is, most of my co-workers are dietitians… so I really had to bring my “A” game!

I wasn’t really familiar with Morning Glory muffins until recently, but I like the idea of a really busy treat loaded with a variety of healthy ingredients to keep things interesting. There are a million variations for add-ins; you could really use whatever nuts and dried fruit you have in the pantry, but I thought the traditional carrot shreds would be complimented nicely by dates, pecans and coconut. Some recipes include grated apple, which sounds good too, but I decided to replace it with crushed pineapple to further play on the carrot-cake flavors.

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Super Greens Rice

It’s not every day that I stop to consider whether a side of brown rice should be made even healthier. Tell me, am I crazy? In my defense, my real intention was just to make our grains tastier. But when I decided to give them the pesto treatment, I couldn’t deny that I was upgrading the nutrition too. Instead of just a carby side, I ended up with a well-rounded, nutrient-dense food. A vehicle for healthy fats, leafy greens, and – obviously – more flavor! If it didn’t deliver in the flavor department, I hope you realize by now that I wouldn’t be telling you to make this.

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Banana Jam & Hazelnut Sticky Buns

For those of you who aren’t already convinced to try a batch of my banana jam, today I’m bringing out the big guns. This recipe brings together all the best parts of cinnamon rolls and nutty banana bread, all in one sticky breakfast bun package. These are equally at home as a component of an epic brunch party spread, or simply on their own with a pot of hot coffee or tea, on a leisurely Saturday morning just because you love whoever you live with. Even if you live by yourself – you still gotta show yourself some love!

And really, this is a recipe for showing yourself some love on both ends of the spectrum. The kind of love that recognizes when it’s time to treat yo self, and the kind that takes care to supply your body with real nourishing ingredients. You get to enjoy a delicate texture while still feeling good about getting your whole grains, courtesy of my favorite whole-wheat pastry flour. Toasted hazelnuts take it to the next level of Special Brunchiness, although you can easily substitute almonds, walnuts, pecans, or whatever else you like; either way, you get an abundance of healthy fats.

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Garlic Kale & Feta Bagels

Before I made nutrition my livelihood, I wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a giant sesame-coated carbohydrate monstrosity on my way to a morning lecture. These days I still eat them on occasion (a life without bagels is no life for me), but dietitian thoughts creep in. I can’t help but think of the inflammatory properties of flour, the insulin spike caused by the high glycemic load signalling to the body’s fat cells to plump up, and the anticipation that the refined starch will digest in a flash, leaving me crashing before lunch. It’s funny because there are plenty of RD-dubious foods I eat without a care, in interest of moderation. Maybe it’s because bagels are breakfast, and I feel pressure to start the day off right. A wise person described breakfast as the “gateway drug” for the rest of the day’s eating… how apt is that!? I definitely find that my morning meal sets the stage for the day, and I love fueling up on a breakfast that makes me feel good. So I set out to see if I could achieve that experience while, well… still getting to eat a bagel.

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Steel-Cut Oat Pancakes

So, I have a thing for steel-cut oats. These are the coarsely chopped oat groats that cook up with a nutty flavor and chewy/creamy texture. While I’m a long-time oat devotee (all varieties have the same fiber and protein-packed benefits), I had always stuck with the “old fashioned” rolled oats. I was stuck on the idea that they were the only way I could be guaranteed a bowl of hot oats in three minutes flat, and was convinced that the esteemed steel-cuts were only attainable for those willing to postpone breakfast in favor of 30 minutes of tending the stove. What I know now, is that steel-cut oats are perfect for reheating – seriously, good as new! We can cook up a mega-batch, refrigerate, and supply our healthy breakfast habits for a whole week.

Of course, no man can breakfast on porridge alone… sometimes the occasion* calls for pancakes. Back when I used to buy rolled oats on the regular, I hardly ever made a batch of pancakes without throwing a couple handfuls of oats into the batter. But now that my pantry is stocked with steel-cut (which I feared could break my teeth if given the same treatment), the oat pancake fix called for some creativity.

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Masala Eggs with Spicy Kale

I know a lot of health foodies who hard-boil eggs in bulk… Even the manliest of athletes can embrace this cooking habit. Is this a part of your Weekly Food Prep? It was never a routine of mine, but after trying a few small batches, I’m finding them really handy. I rely heavily on eggs for at-home lunches, and my new hard-boiled stash has allowed so much more variety beyond my usual scramble.

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