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 10% 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 (including pulses, 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 be ‘fibre heroes’ this February. There’s a challenge for this February ‘21, as well as a range of resources to support remote learning at this time. Let’s boost the fibre of the nation!
Get involved in the Fibre February challenge!
Set the following challenge to your pupils:
Most people in the UK are not having enough fibre in their diets. By making small changes to a recipe, the amount of fibre provided can be easily increased, such as swapping from white flour to wholemeal and/or adding fruit and veg.
- Increase the fibre provided by a recipe, meal or menu.
- The focus is on using flour, or foods made with flour, but also looking at other ingredients that can be added or swapped to increase fibre, such as seeds, fruit, vegetables and beans/pulses.
- Show your fibre creation by one of the following:
- writing a recipe
- cooking the recipe
- undertaking nutritional analysis
- producing an animation
- showing the 'fibre' ingredients you've used
- making a presentation
- Remember to show how the fibre has been increased!
Why not show the creativity of your pupils via the Food Teachers Centre?
You can get some inspiration from FabFlour, here.
Seven ways to ‘fibre-up’ remote learning
- Take part in the challenge! Get pupils involved with the challenge above!
- Fibre cards: sequence the cards in order of the fibre provided by 100g or per portion.
- Recipe modification: use cooking knowledge to modify four recipes to increase fibre – bread, spaghetti bolognese, lamb korma and pizza.
- Diet case studies: explore the diets of Chloe, Ibrahim and Rhys seeking to boost their fibre intakes.
- Find your fibre fortune: a fun way to create a fibre-packed meal with three random ingredients!
- Fabulous fibre swaps: encourage pupils to create their own ‘fibre swaps’ poster.
- Get cooking: find a recipe and challenge pupils to increase the fibre provided, and if possible, cook it to check that it works.
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 high-fibre breakfast, including foods such as wholegrain cereals topped with dried or fresh fruit, wholemeal bread or whole fresh fruit.
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