Simple Ways to Increase Your Fiber Intake, from Salad Bars to Cereal

Even if you hate vegetables, you can still meet your fiber needs

By Roberta H. Anding, MS, Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital
Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily

You know that you need fiber, but perhaps consuming tons of beans and broccoli does not appeal to you. Fear not—you have many options when it comes to incorporating more fiber into your diet, as Professor Anding explains.

Cereal with blue berries and bananas
For people who are not fans of vegetables, they can get fiber intake from whole grain cereals. Photo By Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock

Increase Your Fiber Intake

Now that you are familiar with the health benefits of fiber and the daily recommendations, what are some practical ways to increase your fiber intake without resorting to supplements? As a reminder, high-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. 

One way is to eat fruits and vegetables with the peel, if possible, as the peel is a great source of fiber. Additionally, you can add lentils and black beans to casseroles, salads, and mixed dishes. 

“One of my favorite strategies when I go to a salad bar is they’re always going to have some kind of a bean dish, such as a three-bean salad, black beans, or garbanzo beans,” Professor Anding said. “That would be a great way of just amping up the fiber content of that salad, adding a little bit more fiber to the wonderful greens and other things that you’re adding.”

Salad bars also provide an opportunity to enhance the fiber content of your meal because you can add nuts and seeds to your salad. As an extra bonus, these add crunch and flavor to your salad without resorting to high-calorie, less nutritious choices such as croutons and bacon bits.

Another way to increase your fiber intake is to substitute brown rice for white rice. The biggest barrier to using brown rice is the time it takes to prepare it, so Professor Anding suggests using instant brown rice, which still has great fiber content. 

You can buy individual packs of prepared brown rice pop and microwave them for 90 seconds. If you live alone or don’t want to do a lot of cooking, or if you don’t want the huge volume of brown rice that is made if you cook it in a slow cooker, you can actually just have a little bit of brown rice by using one of those microwaveable packages.

Fiber Options for Vegetable Haters

Next, you can choose high-fiber breakfast cereals. Keep in mind that these are whole grain cereals that often have additional bran, or in the case of some cereals, additional psyllium added. The total fiber on the label may say 13 grams, and depending on what was added to that cereal, you would have predominantly water-insoluble fiber with the bran, and water-soluble fiber with the psyllium.

Even sugary breakfast cereals are improving when it comes to fiber content. In the last few years, many food manufacturers have been using more whole grains. Of course, these sugary cereals are not the best option for a healthy breakfast, but they are better than many of the options out there when it comes to children’s breakfast food.

You may be wondering how to prepare more nutritious, fiber-rich meals if you or somebody in your family hates vegetables. One strategy is to combine vegetables with foods that people typically find more appealing such as potatoes. For example, you can puree cauliflower in your food processor and mix it with an equal amount of potatoes. 

“I know it sounds odd, but the potatoes kind of mask that cauliflower taste,” Professor Anding said. “I’ve done that for years in my family, and they didn’t know they were eating cauliflower because I mixed them with another white food, potatoes.”

Adding Fiber When Dining Out

When you eat out, you can increase your fiber intake by adding fruits or vegetables to your meal. If you have the option, double up your vegetable side with your entrée.

Another strategy is to look at your dinner plate and imagine three-quarters of that plate filled with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Only one-quarter of that plate should be protein-rich food. When you think of plants, by definition, you are thinking of fiber. 

Avoiding Excess Fiber

Can you eat too much fiber? According to Professor Anding, if you increase the fiber content of your diet too rapidly, you’re going to experience issues.

Fiber is poorly digested, and because it’s not a source of calories to us as humans, we can’t get any energy out of fiber. The bacteria that live in our large intestine can digest that fiber and ferment it into methane gas, but if you dump too much fiber into your system too quickly, your gut cannot adapt that quickly. 

You can end up with diarrhea or significant abdominal pains. Therefore, when integrating more fiber into your diet, go slow. 

One tip from Professor Anding is to mix your regular breakfast cereal with a higher-fiber breakfast cereal. Gradually reduce the regular cereal while increasing the higher-fiber cereal. Your gut will adapt, and you will be on your way to optimal wellness.

This article was edited by Kate Findley, Writer for Wondrium Daily, and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for Wondrium Daily.

Professor Roberta H. Anding is a registered dietitian and Director of Sports Nutrition and a clinical dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. She also teaches and lectures in the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, Section of Adolescent Medicine and Sports Medicine, and in the Department of Kinesiology at Rice University.