10 Easy Ways to Sneak Fiber Into Your Diet
Fiber helps fill you up, supports digestive health, aids weight loss and so much more. If you’re looking to take advantage of all that fiber has to offer, read on for easy ways to sneak fiber into your diet.
What is Fiber?
When you think of fiber, you probably think of grandma’s chalky Metamucil drink. No. thank. you. But wait just a minute! Fiber might not seem like a *sexy* thing, but it sure can make you look and feel sexy.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate naturally found in plant-based foods like fruits, legumes, veggies, and whole grains. Unlike other carbohydrates (i.e. starches and sugars), your body can’t break this stuff down. So, fiber works its magic by sliding through your digestive system (mostly) undigested and unphased.
Fiber shows up in our foods in two different forms: soluble and insoluble. As soluble fiber passes through your gut, it absorbs water to make a gel beloved by substances like cholesterol and sugar. Insoluble fiber can’t absorb water and instead acts as nature’s broom, helping move things along and increasing stool bulk . Together, the soluble and insoluble fiber duo boast quite a resume. They can help lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and improve digestive health. Lucky for us, most fiber-rich foods contain both.
Benefits of a high-fiber diet
Fiber is the true MVP of carbohydrates. Getting more fiber into your diet can help:
- Lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel that traps things like cholesterol particles, preventing some from entering the bloodstream. In fact, research shows that increasing soluble fiber intake by 5–10 grams a day can yield about a 5% drop in LDL-cholesterol (aka “bad” cholesterol) levels.
- Stabilize blood sugar levels. That same “gel” formed by soluble fiber can also attract sugar molecules, slowing their absorption into the bloodstream. Fiber helps prevent those drastic sugar highs and lows that can happen when you consume a fiber-less high-carb meal or snack.
- Keep you regular. Fiber provides bulk to your stool and can help it move through you smoothly (gross, but also awesome).
- Support gut health. Some fibers function as prebiotics aka food for your good gut bacteria. As your good gut bacteria ferment these prebiotics, they release beneficial byproducts known as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which serve as a main energy source for the cells lining your colon.
- Support weight loss. A diet rich in fiber helps fill you up, stabilize blood sugar levels, and supports gut health, all of which can help you lose weight.
How much fiber do you need?
The daily fiber recommendation is about 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. Unfortunately, most Americans under consume fiber at only 15 grams a day (on average).
As a good rule of thumb, you should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day.
This may seem like a daunting and even impossible task, but don’t worry – I’ve got you covered! There are many ways to get more fiber into your diet with little effort. Here are my top 10 easy ways to sneak fiber into your diet.
Easy ways to sneak fiber into your diet
As if you need another reason to love avocados. Not only are avocados rich in heart-healthy fats, they are also high in fiber. One standard-sized avocado has about 13 grams of fiber.
There are tons of ways to enjoy this versatile fruit (yes, it’s a fruit): top your toast with it, use it as a creamy substitute for mayo in your sandwich, add it to your smoothie, make a creamy pasta sauce or pesto with it… the possibilities are endless.
Sip on a smoothie
Smoothies are the perfect vessel for good-for-you-stuff, like fiber! It’s so easy to fit a big dose of fiber into a smoothie without feeling like you’re chugging sawdust.
So, how do you build the perfect, fiber-rich smoothie? It’s simple. After picking your protein of choice (bonus, some protein powders like this one from Orgain have some fiber in them), add a serving each of fruit and veggies (like frozen chopped spinach or cauliflower rice).
All produce has some fiber, but you can up the fiber content of your smoothie even more by adding a couple of servings of fiber-rich healthy fats. Great options for a smoothie include flax seeds, hemp seeds, nut butters, and avocado.
Sprinkle on some seeds
Try adding a tablespoon or two of seeds, like chia, flax, or hemp, to your day. These seeds may be small in size but they’re mighty in nutritional power, providing you with fiber, heart-healthy fats, and protein. And since they’re relatively tasteless, it’s easy to incorporate them into a variety of your meals and/or snacks. You can:
- Blend ground flaxseed into your smoothie
- Add ground flaxseed to your baked goods
- Sprinkle hemp seeds on your avocado toast
- Use hemp seeds in a homemade pesto
- Make chia pudding out of chia seeds
- Mix flax and/or chia seeds into your oatmeal
Pick a better pasta
Don’t get me wrong here, there’s always a place for good ol’, Olive Garden-style white pasta in the diet. However, it’s in your best interest to choose whole grain and legume-based pastas most of the time.
Legume-based pastas like Banza chickpea pasta and Barilla lentil pasta provide 5 to 8 grams fiber per serving, at least double what white pastas provide. And don’t forget about whole grain pastas, too. One serving of Barilla Whole Grain Penne provides 7 grams fiber per serving.
Keep the peel on your potato
Did you know, about half of a potato’s fiber content is in its skin? So, next time you’re whipping up some creamy mashed regular or sweet potatoes, try making a skin-on version. Don’t worry, keeping the skin on adds a nice flavor and texture to the final product.
Other delicious potato dishes that are best enjoyed skin-on include “smashed” potatoes, herb roasted potatoes, potato wedges, and healthy stuffed potato skins.
Get creative with veggies
You seriously can’t go wrong adding more veggies to your diet. Non-starchy vegetables, like leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower, provide both fiber and volume for little calories.
Veggies can often seem bland and unappetizing, so it’s important to find creative ways to incorporate more veggies into your day. Here are some of my favorites:
- Mix some veggie noodles (i.e. “zoodles”) into your spaghetti dish
- Add some cauliflower rice to your fried rice (no need to completely replace the actual rice)
- Add some veggies to your smoothie (frozen cauliflower rice and spinach work great here)
- Blend veggies into your sauces (I love a good spinach pesto)
- Turn your morning eggs into a veggie omelet
- Serve sliced cucumber and bell pepper with your crackers and hummus
- Add some cauliflower rice to your morning oatmeal, like in this Banana Bread Cauliflower Oatmeal
Fill up on raspberries
Which fruit has the most fiber? All fruits contain fiber, but raspberries take first place. Just one cup of raspberries contains a whopping 8 grams of fiber – about a third of the daily fiber recommendation for women.
To easily incorporate raspberries into your diet, try enjoying some fresh raspberries as a snack on their own or as a yogurt topper. You can also add frozen raspberries to a smoothie.
Opt for oats
Oats are well-known for being rich in soluble fiber. As a quick refresher, that’s the kind of fiber that helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Oats are particularly rich in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that also functions as a prebiotic and may even stimulate the immune system.
You can enjoy oats for breakfast in a variety of ways: overnight oats, baked oatmeal, oat pancakes, Banana Bread Cauliflower Oatmeal, or my favorite Healthy Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies. For a less conventional ways of getting oats into your diet, try using them as a breadcrumb replacement in meatballs or your favorite veggie burger recipe.
Switch up your snacks
Snack time is one of the best times to up your fiber intake, since fiber can help you achieve satiety and pump the breaks on mindlessly snacking. There are so many fiber-rich snacks to choose from, but here are some of this dietitian’s faves:
- Roasted chickpea snacks, like these ones from Biena
- Air-popped, lightly-seasoned popcorn (tip: make your own snack mix to up the fiber even more by adding nuts and unsweetened dried or freeze-dried fruit)
- Apple slices with nut butter
- Sliced veggies with hummus and/or guacamole
- RXBAR or KIND nut bar
Swap some plant proteins for animal ones
The plant-forward movement isn’t stopping anytime soon, and for good reason. Plant and animal proteins each offer unique nutritional benefits, but there’s one big thing plant proteins have to offer that animal proteins completely lack: fiber.
Almost all plant proteins provide some amount of fiber, but those richest in fiber include: beans, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa (and other “ancient”/whole grains), tempeh, and nuts.
If you’re not accustomed to incorporating plant-based foods in the diet, start slow. Try participating in meatless Mondays or focusing on incorporating one plant-based protein into each day. You can also try subbing out an ounce or two of meat/poultry in your dish for about a quarter-cup of cooked beans, chickpeas, or lentils. For example, make a burrito bowl with two to three ounces cooked chicken breast and a heaping quarter-cup of black beans.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate we could all benefit from getting more of in the diet. It supports heart health, gut health, weight loss and more.
As you can see, there are many easy ways to sneak fiber into your diet, no supplements required. By incorporating some of the above into your daily routine, you can easily increase your fiber intake to meet the daily recommended levels.