It's Fibre February!
In the UK, no age group is currently consuming the recommended amount of dietary fibre (on average), and in the vast majority of each age group, intakes are well below daily recommendations (15g/day 2-3 years, 20g/day 4-10 years, 25g/day 11-18 years, and 30g/day 19 years+). When you focus on school pupils, only 14% of 4-10 year olds and 4% of 11-18 year olds are eating the recommended amount of fibre – so there’s definitely room for improvement.
But why fibre?
Fibre is important for keeping the digestive system healthy, plus there’s an association between increased dietary fibre intake and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes. Certain types of fibre can also provide additional, specific benefits, such as acting as a food source for ‘good’ bacteria. High-fibre foods provide a low amount of energy (calories) per gram, and they may be able to keep people feeling fuller for longer, reducing overall energy (calorie) intake.
Where’s the fibre?
Fibre is found in a range of foods, including fruit, vegetables, pulses (beans, lentils and peas), nuts and seeds, starchy food (such as potatoes) and grains. The Eatwell Guide recommends the consumption of potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates, which should be the base of each meal. It’s also important to go for wholegrain or higher fibre versions of these foods as they provide more fibre than their counterparts, e.g. wholemeal v white.
In the UK, foods made from grains, such as bread and breakfast cereals, contribute the highest fibre intake (between 38-44%, depending on age), followed by vegetables and potatoes (21-32%). Fruit contributes between 6-16%.
What can be done?
We all need to increase the amount of fibre in our diet, and follow the recommendations given in the Eatwell Guide. As food educators, it’s our job to encourage this uptake by ensuring lessons focus on fibre, so that pupils understand the ‘why’, and are given opportunities to ‘apply’ their knowledge in practical, realistic ways, such as reviewing menus, modifying recipes and cooking higher fibre dishes.
Below are a number of ways in which you and your pupils can focus on fibre this February. There are a range of resources to support learning, as well as as a fibre challenge for older primary and secondary aged pupils. Get started by taking a look at our Fibre February teachers' guide.
Try these fun fibre activities!
- Help pupils explore the amount of fibre in different foods by ordering and comparing the Fibre cards.
- Play the Fibre race game! The rules, game boards and cards and counters can be found below!
- Take a look at our recipe modification activities to boost the fibre in bread, bolognese and pizza
Take on the Fibre February challenge!
Set older primary and secondary aged pupils the following challenge:
Most people in the UK are not having enough fibre in their diets. By making small changes to a recipe, such as swapping from white to wholemeal flour, the amount of fibre provided can be easily increased.
- Increase the fibre provided by a recipe, meal or menu.
- Think about ingredients that can be added or swapped to increase fibre, such as using wholemeal flour, seeds, fruit, vegetables, beans, peas and lentils.
- Show your fibre creation by:
- writing a recipe;
- cooking the recipe;
- undertaking nutritional analysis;
- producing an animation;
- showing the 'fibre' ingredients you've used, or;
- making a presentation
- Remember to show how the fibre has been increased!
You can download a copy of the challenge here.
Why not show the creativity of your pupils via Twitter? Follow us @Foodafactoflife #FibreFebruary
Top tips for increasing fibre intake
- Base meals around starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes and other grains, such as quinoa or couscous.
- Use wholemeal flour instead of white in recipes. Wholemeal flour provides more fibre than white flour, although white flour does still provide some fibre.
- Swap refined or ‘white’ carbohydrate sources (e.g. bread, cereals, pasta) for wholegrain varieties.
- Consume a variety of fruit and vegetables and aim for at least 5 A DAY.
- Try to include more pulses, nuts and seeds in dishes by adding to stews, curries and salads.
- Start your day with a higher fibre breakfast, including foods such as wholegrain cereals topped with dried or fresh fruit, wholemeal bread or whole fresh fruit.
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