The Skinny on Fiber: Why Office Meals Deserve This Dietary Powerhouse

Posted by on Thursday, June 19th, 2014 with 4 Comments

Fiber may be the least exciting, least sexy component of a healthy diet — it’s strongly associated with Grandma’s bathroom routine, and its nickname is “roughage,” for crying out loud! But fiber is actually a dietary powerhouse: it helps keep you energetic and focused throughout the day, can help you lose weight, and can even help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. That’s why we’re sharing the lowdown on fiber today, along with some very easy, very tasty ways to make fiber a regular (no pun intended) in your everyday office meals.

bowl of oatmeal at desk

Start your morning off right with oatmeal: one of the most fiber-rich breakfasts available!
Image source: Flickr user Phil Hollenback

What Is Fiber?

Put very simply, fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. Unlike most other carbs, fiber can’t be broken down into sugar molecules, so it has the opposite effect of eating a big slice of highly-processed white bread: instead of initiating the blood sugar spike-and-crash of refined breads and pastas, eating fiber actually slows down digestion and helps keep blood sugar levels in check.

But few of us are getting enough fiber. Nutrition experts estimate that most of us only eat about 15 grams of fiber per day, when the official recommendations are 25 grams for women and 38 for men (those numbers drop after age 50). That’s a whole lot of sleepy, unfocused afternoons that most of us would like to have back!

Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

There’s two kinds of fiber that we eat: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, as its name helpfully suggests, dissolves in water and forms a gel-like material. That gel-like material helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and is found in foods like apples, blueberries, citrus fruits, oatmeal, nuts, and beans. This kind of fiber slows down the pace of sugar entering your bloodstream after you eat, helping you maintain a nice, consistent energy level through the day — instead of getting a “sugar high” from a rush of glucose into your blood, unimpeded by slow-and-steady fiber.

brown rice sushi close-up

Switch to brown rice in your sushi roll for added insoluble fiber (and energy!).
Image source: Flickr user Zack

Insoluble fiber, which doesn’t dissolve in water, isn’t digested fully… so it acts as a digestive aide, helping other foods move along through our bodies and keeping us “regular.” This kind of fiber is found in foods like whole grains (including whole wheat bread and brown rice), beans, and some vegetables, including cauliflower and potatoes. It’s also the kind your grandparents buy in bulk at the vitamin aisle.

Benefits of Fiber

Fiber’s also famous as a weight loss aid, and it’s easy to understand why: when we eat soluble fiber, we digest our meals more slowly and steadily. And when we eat insoluble fiber, we don’t digest it at all, so it provides very few calories while helping us feel fuller for a longer period of time. Long story short, eating a lunch with lots of fiber will help prevent those 3 pm snack cravings and trips to the vending machine. But, an important caveat is that we absolutely see the biggest benefit from consuming fiber by eating whole foods: supplements just don’t cut it.

And, last but certainly not least, fiber intake has been associated with reducing our risks for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

bowl of black bean soup

Start your lunch with black bean soup for an added serving of fiber.
Image source: Flickr user stu_spivack

Bottom line: eat more fiber!

Ready to increase the fiber in your office meals? While you should start slowly (going from just a little fiber to a lot could cause unpleasant side effects, like bloating and gas), it’s easy to get closer to your 25-30 per day goal. The basic rules are to eat more whole grains, beans, vegetables, and nuts. Need a little specific inspiration? Try these fiber-rich moves:

1) Swap brown rice for white in your Chinese takeout order or sushi platter delivery

2) Add nuts or a whole grain like quinoa to your green salad

3) Have an apple (skin-on, please) or handful of raspberries for a mid-morning snack

4) Choose 100% whole-wheat bread at the sandwich shop or whole-wheat pasta from your favorite Italian place

5) Anytime you see bean soup on a menu, start your meal with a cup!

6) Spread nut butter or hummus on your bagel instead of cream cheese (and bonus points if that bagel’s whole wheat)

7) Go for oatmeal with raspberries instead of a croissant at the next office breakfast meeting

8) Choose mixed nuts instead of chips for an afternoon snack

It’s not difficult to add fiber to your office meals — especially when you have on your side. Our wide range of menus ensures you can always find a fiber-rich lunch, and our prompt delivery makes it easier than ever to have healthy, wholesome meals appear in your office! And if you want to get your fiber delivered on a regular basis (we can’t resist!) then our Virtual Cafeteria Service may be just the ticket.

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

4 responses to “The Skinny on Fiber: Why Office Meals Deserve This Dietary Powerhouse”

  1. LyneSueLyn says:

    Just found this site. Great info, I will be bookmarking for future reference. Hoping to share this with fellow coworkers. I have found that when I get enough fiber I feel my best. Nothing like a regular …… (you know what)! These are great ways to get fiber in at work. I like the idea of an apple for a snack instead of a candy bar or the chips that I usually gravitate to. Thanks

    • Sara says:

      Thanks Lyne, glad you find the posts useful! And don’t be afraid to dip your apple slices into a little almond butter – it will add some protein and healthy fat, making it a way more fulfilling snack (and not as abrupt a switch from the chips or candy bar!).

  2. Sal C. says:

    This is so right about the advantages of fiber in your diet.

    We have a strict policy in my household where for every loaf of white bread that we have, we also need a loaf of wheat bread as well. And believe it or not, we end up eating the wheat bread more because we believe it to be more thick and hold more soup and so it tastes better!

    Speaking about soup, we have a lot of lentil soup in our house and that helps on top of everything else mentioned!

    My father also seems to have a knack for brown rice when we order Chinese take-out and the whole family ends up eating it!

    So it seems like we’re doing great! Hopefully teaches the masses with this article!

    • Sara says:

      Thanks Sal! Love the household rule about wheat and white bread. Once you get used to the taste of wheat, it’s definitely preferable – white can be so bland!

      Keep up the awesome work with fiber!