When you're on the hunt for a satisfying snack, you might reach for something packed with protein. But don't underestimate the power of fiber, experts say.
High-fiber snacks — especially when they're combined with protein- and fat-rich ingredients — can keep you feeling full and energized.
Fiber performs many important jobs for your gut health and digestion, Grace Derocha, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells TODAY.com.
While soluble fiber slows down the movement of food through your system, insoluble fiber adds bulk, increases the feeling of fullness after a meal and speeds that movement up. Together, these types of fiber clear out excess waste, encourage the proper absorption of nutrients from food and help keep blood sugar and cholesterol under control.
Fiber is an essential snack ingredient
"Fiber, protein and fat are the trifecta nutrients to feel full and satisfied," Whitney Linsenmeyer, Ph.D., assistant professor at Saint Louis University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells TODAY.com.
When you're looking for high-fiber foods to include in your snacks, you should gravitate to plant-based foods because all plants contain fiber, Linsenmeyer says. That includes vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes and whole grains.
Combine those nutrient-rich foods with ingredients that contain healthy fats and protein — cheese, nut butter, olive oil — and you'll have a healthy snack to keep you feeling full and energized until your next meal, the experts say.
Nut butters, like peanut butter and almond butter, also contain some fiber, making them a great way to add flavor and extra nutrients.
High-fiber snacks dietitians love:
Hummus with veggie sticks
This simple snack packs a lot of fiber into every bite. Combine your favorite high-fiber veggies, such as baby carrots, raw broccoli and bell pepper with the healthy fats and protein in a creamy hummus. Plus, because hummus is made with fiber-rich chickpeas, you'll get a little bonus fiber in every bite — about 1 gram per tablespoon.
Whole-grain crackers with peanut butter
Another classic healthy snack, this one pairs the high-fiber goodness of whole-grain crackers with healthy fats from the peanut butter. You could also use other nutritious nut butters, like almond butter, if you prefer those.
Nuts and seeds
Seeds are a famously good source of fiber, especially the insoluble fiber that contributes to feelings of fullness. So it's a good idea to look for ways to add chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds to your snacks for a flavorful, high-fiber bonus.
One of the easiest ways to eat more seeds is to simply have a handful of seeds and filling nuts as a snack. Some nuts, like almonds and walnuts, also come with a good helping of fiber, the experts say.
Popcorn cooked in oil
For a simple homemade snack, try popping your own popcorn in oil. Popcorn is a whole-grain food, and a 3-cup serving of popped popcorn provides more than 3 grams of fiber. While you could also get that fiber from air-popped popcorn, popping it in avocado oil, sunflower oil or peanut oil means you'll also get the benefit of some satisfying healthy fats.
Homemade trail mix
Derocha recommends creating a snack mix to your taste with a few of the other options on this list, like nuts, seeds, mini whole wheat crackers, dried fruit and popcorn.
An "on-the-fly" trail mix is also Linsenmeyer’s go-to snack, she says.
“I whirl through the pantry and grab a small handful of nuts, dried fruits and a few chocolate chips to keep it real,” she explains. “It’s full of fiber, protein and healthy fats, and hits the ideal mix of sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy requirements.”
Beans and legumes may not always feel like a snack on their own, but edamame can be a great filling option, Derocha says. A cup of these vibrant green soybeans contains 8 grams of fiber and more than 18 grams of protein, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Edamame boils quickly in its shell — within about 5 minutes — and can be served with your favorite sauces and spices, like sea salt, ginger and garlic. Or you can use just the beans as an ingredient in a veggie dish like succotash.
Granola made with oats, nuts and dried fruit
Try making your own granola at home with rolled oats and whatever other high-fiber and high-protein ingredients you feel like adding. If you're not sure where to start, opt for add-ins like slivered almonds, dried cherries or raisins, and seeds, such as flaxseeds or chia seeds. These combinations provide a satisfying mix of fiber, protein and healthy fats.
Chickpeas roasted with olive oil and spices
Sure, you could add chickpeas to a salad or soup to make them part of a meal to add fiber. But you could also roast a big batch of them — it takes about 30 to 40 minutes — with your favorite flavorful spices and olive oil to make a crunchy, satisfying snack you can take with you all week.
Fruit can be an easy on-the-go snack, and many fresh fruits come with a healthy dose of fiber, as well. Look for berries (especially raspberries), bananas, apples, pears and avocados, Derocha recommends.
Toast with avocado or nut butter
Spread some peanut butter or mash some avocado on top of a piece of whole-grain toast, and you've got a perfectly balanced high-fiber snack, the experts say. One slice of whole-wheat bread can contain about 2 grams of fiber, and you'll get filling healthy fats from the nut butter or avocado, as well.
A serving of avocado, which is about a third of a medium-sized avocado, adds another 3 grams of fiber.
Chia seed pudding
Chia seeds are a fiber all-star, the experts say, but it can be challenging to eat a full serving of them to get all that fiber.
That's where chia pudding — one of Derocha's favorites — comes in. This flavorful concoction is made by soaking chia seeds in milk or a milk alternative overnight, which gives the mixture a gelatinous pudding-like texture. You can get creative by adding other nutritious ingredients you enjoy, like spices, peanut butter or Greek yogurt, and top it with fresh fruit in the morning.
You'll start with rolled oats or steel-cut oats (about 4 grams of fiber per quarter-cup serving for each) and then add milk or a preferred milk alternative, like almond milk, along with whatever spices, seeds, nut butters or sweeteners you want. Overnight in the fridge, the oats will absorb the liquid and soften into a delightfully soft and chewy texture.
Energy bites made with dates and nut butter
For a high-fiber snack you prep in advance, look no further than energy bites, Derocha says. These balls of protein and fiber can be endlessly reconfigured to your tastes and preferences.
Generally, you'll want to start with a nut butter, like peanut butter or almond butter, and add fiber-rich rolled oats, chia seeds or flaxseeds and spices and sweeteners of your choice. Then you'll refrigerate the energy bites until they hold their shape and you can grab one whenever you need a filling snack.
Feel free to play around with adding a bit of vanilla extract, chocolate chips or maple syrup to satisfy your sweet tooth. Or, take Derocha's suggestion and add dates for even more gut-healthy fiber.