Roughage, or dietary fiber, is the indigestible part of plant foods essential for good digestion; it may also aid in weight loss efforts and help lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Many sources of fiber are naturally low-carbohydrate, low-fat foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes. A little creativity makes it easy to create delicious meals with plenty of roughage. The Institute of Medicine recommends women and men under 50 consume 25 grams and 38 grams of fiber, respectively, each day. The recommended intake for women over 50 is 21 grams daily and 30 grams daily for men over 50.
Include fruits and vegetables in the first meal of the day. Add fresh or frozen vegetables to scrambled egg whites, or top plain, low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. Avoid using flavored varieties which contain more carbohydrates than plain, unsweetened yogurt. Assemble smoothie packets comprised of dark leafy greens and chopped fruit. At breakfast time, simply grab the pre-assembled ingredients, add low-fat yogurt and blend.
Grab portable nuts, fruit and vegetables for on-the-go snacks. Choose fiber-rich, fruits that are low in carbohydrates such as raspberries or strawberries instead of those with higher carbohydrate content such as bananas or dried fruits. Avoid starchy vegetables such as corn or peas and instead choose low-carbohydrate, high-fiber veggies such as broccoli or cauliflower. All nuts supply dietary fiber, so select those with the lowest carbohydrate levels, like pecans and walnuts.
Select plant-based protein sources for even more fiber content at meal times. Create a chickpea curry with garlic and spinach. A half cup of cooked chickpeas provides 5 grams of dietary fiber, which may contribute to a longer-lasting feeling of satiety between meals. A serving of chickpeas also supplies only 19 grams of total carbohydrates, 6 percent of the daily recommended amount for a person eating a 2,000-calorie diet.
Find creative ways to squeeze more roughage into dishes that may not traditionally contain large amounts of fiber. Add fresh or frozen vegetables to low-sodium canned soups or stews. Create a low-carbohydrate lasagna by replacing the pasta noodles with thinly sliced zucchini or eggplant strips. Enjoy pureed cauliflower and garlic instead of mashed potatoes, which are much higher in carbohydrates.
Roast or grill stone fruits such as plums or peaches, or bake apples or pears for a satisfying but nutritious dessert. Enhance the fruits' natural flavors by adding grated ginger, a dusting of cinnamon or a few drops of vanilla extract. Serve the fruit with a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt and a few chopped pistachios or pecans.
- Devote an hour or two at the beginning of each week to prepare fruit and vegetables for the entire week. Wash and chop the ingredients for smoothies, salads and snacks, then store them in sealed containers in the refrigerator or freezer until they are needed.
Alberto J. Medina is a small-business owner, personal trainer and professional writer. He holds a bachelor's degree in exercise and health promotion from Virginia Tech, and is an ACE-certified advanced health and fitness specialist as well as a health coach and group fitness instructor.