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High Fiber Nutrition: Q&A with Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD

By Marc Perry / April 13, 2018

I recently interviewed Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD who is author of The F-Factor Diet and one of the world’s foremost experts on fiber and its role in weight management. Tanya is not only very smart, but also extremely nice. To learn more about fiber and its importance in helping you get a leaner, healthier body, check out the interview below.

What is fiber and why is it so important for weight loss?

Fiber is the indigestible part of the carbohydrate. Fiber aids in weight loss two ways; it binds with calories and pulls them out of the body and it helps keep you feeling fuller longer, which leads to consuming fewer calories throughout the day.

Do most Americans eat enough fiber? What is your recommendation?

Unfortunately most Americans do not eat enough fiber, the average intake is 9-11 grams. Women need between 30-35 grams of fiber and men need 38 grams of fiber. Children need fiber too, add the number 5 to a child’s age to calculate their fiber needs.

How should someone try to increase their fiber intake? Do you have some simple snack/meal ideas to share?

The best sources of fiber come from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. To boost your fiber intake, start off your day with ½ cup of high fiber cereal, 1 cup of berries (5-8g) and a Greek yogurt for protein.

Lunch is a great time to squeeze in most of your vegetables, add beans and high fiber veggies such as hearts of palm, artichoke hearts and broccoli for an extra fiber boost.

For a mid afternoon snack opt for a high fiber cracker with peanut butter, this will hold you over until dinner.

Many diets and meal plans such as Nutrisystem are based on carbs that are low on the glycemic index. Is high fiber all that matters when it comes to eating carbs, or should we also pay attention to the glycemic index?

Relying on foods with a low GI is a faulty premise for weight management. There are many foods with a low GI that are unhealthy, for example both pound cake and sweet potato have a low GI. Fat slows down digestion placing certain foods that are high in fat low on the GI, many of which are not healthy options. On the other hand, foods high in fiber are both naturally low on the GI, and healthy.

Are all fruits good to eat? Are there fruits that are higher in fiber than others?

All fruits are inherently healthy, the key, like all foods is to eat them in moderation. Fruits contain sugar which when eaten in excess can lead to body fat. I recommend choosing fruit with the highest fiber content. Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries), apples and pears are the highest in fiber when it comes to fruit. Raspberries have an impressive 8 grams of fiber while bananas only have 1 gram of fiber. I recommend consuming 1-3 servings of fruit a day and focusing on eating a large amount of vegetables.

After reading through the F-Factor Diet, it seems more of a nutrition strategy than a restrictive diet. For example, you describe the importance of focusing on foods to add to your diet, rather than foods to omit. Can you briefly describe the specific nutrition strategy you recommend?

The F-Factor Diet is a lifestyle. I focus on educating rather than dictating: people are then able to apply the tools that they learn in their own lives and make informed decisions. I find that empowering my patients with this information leads to a sense of accomplishment and feelings of confidence.

By adding high fiber foods into your diet and combining them with lean proteins patients and those who follow the F-Factor diet naturally lose weight without the typical feelings of hunger and deprivation that are usually associated with diets.

In your book, you mention the importance of combining high fiber foods with lean meats to create a feeling of fullness, which I think is great advice. But it seems like everyone is constantly bashing meat consumption, as the number of vegetarians in the U.S. continues to climb. Is eating meat as bad as everyone says it is? Does it depend on the kind of meat we eat?

I emphasize combining high fiber foods with lean proteins. The combination of fiber and protein keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time than each on their own. Lean meats are part of a healthy and well balanced diet. When you don’t eat enough protein during weight loss it leads to the deterioration of muscle. Protein is essential to maintaining muscle mass, which leads to a healthy metabolism. People are usually surprised when I tell them that they can eat lean cuts of steak (filet mignon, sirloin, tenderloin and round) on the program. Lean cuts of turkey, chicken and fish are all excellent sources of protein as well. If you are a vegetarian choose light versions of tofu and seitan, if you are trying to lose or maintain weight.

Many Paleo diet experts describe whole grains as harmful phytates, glutens, and lectins that promote inflammation, and negatively affect the immune and digestive systems. Do you have an opinion on the grain consumption debate?

Whole grains are a wonderful source of fiber. Fiber assists in weight management, helps to control blood sugar levels and can even lower cholesterol. Just one cup of barley provides 6 grams of fiber. Not only are whole grains a great source of fiber, but they also provide many essential vitamins. B-complex vitamins such as niacin, thiamin and riboflavin are all needed to promote growth and energy. The bottom line is that choosing whole grains is a smart, delicious way to get fiber and so many other nutrients you need.

Most of your nutrition counseling clients are busy New Yorkers. What is the biggest challenge that most of them face and what is your advice?

The biggest challenge that my clients face before they begin the program is not knowing what to eat when dining out. There is a common misconception that you cannot eat out while on a “diet”. My clients find that one of the most appealing aspects of the F-Factor diet is that they are able to dine out from day one on the program. For many patients, another benefit is that they can also drink wine and liquor.

I never want my patients to sacrifice their social life because they are following my program. When a patient comes in for their initial consultation I ask them where they like to dine out, and by the next visit I have menus from their favorite restaurants highlighted with F-Factor approved dishes.

I always tell my patients to eat a mid-day snack that will hold them over until dinner and to begin their meals by ordering a soup or salad as an appetizer to avoid dipping into the breadbasket.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is author of the The F-Factor Diet owner of a private nutrition counseling practice based in NYC, and creator of skinnyinthecity.com, which provides diet and nutrition information along with the latest beauty and fashion news. Her most recent venture, theskinnyondietitians.com, is an interactive and innovative RD directory so you can find a qualified registered dietitian who is a good fit for your needs, budget and location.

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6 Comments

  • Mary says:

    I love your website! I will definitely incorporate more berries into my diet instead of other fruits. I also need to make better choices when eating fiber. Thank you.

  • Leila says:

    Thank you for this highly informative post; given that fiber-rich foods are also known to benefit the immune system, there's additional incentive to incorporate them into the diet. Am looking forward to checking out Tanya's book!

  • Cori says:

    The only negative I have with the diet, (I have been following it for a month), is the artificial sweetener found in Fiber One and the Splenda in some of the recipes. For the most part I find the diet easy and healthy. I use Kashi Go Lean and Uncle Sam's cereal instead of the Fiber One and I use stevia instead of the recc. Splenda.

  • Carolyn says:

    Hands down some of the most helpful tips, especially for if you dine out often too.

  • Brian says:

    I heard that fiber carbs are excluded from the calorie total on US foods' Nutrition Facts labels. Is this true?

  • Eddie says:

    I love your last name. It means sugar bread in German.

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