Eating enough fiber on the reg is tricky business. We need this nutrient because it helps our bodies do some really important things—namely, it keeps digestion regular, blood sugar levels normal, and helps you stay full (which is especially useful if you’re trying to lose weight). But the recommended daily intake (RDI) is kind of a lot (25 grams for women), and sometimes it can seem like the only way to really meet this goal is by throwing back beans and apples like there’s no tomorrow.
Luckily, you don’t have to restrict yourself to an all-chili diet to actually fulfill that RDI. Fiber is lurking in a bunch of unexpected ingredients. Edamame, berries, and avocados are just a few foods that pack in that gut-friendly nutrient. But that’s not all: There are also a few surprising ways you can put unsurprisingly fiber-packed ingredients (like beans and oats) to new uses. Let these eight sneaky tricks guide you to the fiber-filled life.
1. Add a little spinach to everything.
Baby spinach is a great affordable green to keep in your fridge, because it has a delicate, mild flavor that makes it easy to use in anything. And while this veggie may not have as much fiber as some other sources (1 gram per cup), spinach is known to cook down, so you can eat a lot without feeling like you’ve eaten a lot. Maxine Yeung, M.S., R.D., owner of The Wellness Whisk, likes to add it to smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and soups. You can also toss it into egg scrambles and pastas.
2. Say hello to chia seeds.
Cha cha cha chia! No, I’m not talking about chia pets, I’m talking about chia seeds. This tiny food is one worth celebrating because it’s packed with fiber and easy to incorporate into just about anything. You can bake them into muffins, pancakes, or scones, blend a tablespoon of them into your next smoothie or juice, even turn the little fellas into pudding. And a little goes a long way: One tablespoon has about 10 grams of fiber.
3. Eat avocado for dessert.
Avocado for dessert? Yeah we know it sounds weird, but it sure tastes amazing. This popular fruit has a creamy, dairy-like texture that makes it the perfect candidate for everything from ice cream to popsicles. Bonus: One half of an avocado has six grams of fiber, so eating one of these eight desserts is a super simple way to reach your fiber goals at the end of the day.
4. Stick with whole grain products.
When it comes to choosing carbs, you’ll basically always want to opt for those made from whole grains. They’re the superior carb in every way, because they’re higher in both protein and fiber, and they really don’t taste all that different from carbs made with refined white flour. And switching to whole grain carbs is an incredibly simple swap to make—whole grain breads and pastas are just as readily available as other types, and they really don’t cost much more either.
5. Swap out chips for popcorn.
Corn is full of fiber (12 grams per one cup), and the same is true of popcorn. One cup has 1 gram of fiber and only 32 calories. Yeung loves to snack on popcorn because it gives her something crunchy and salty to munch on, while being lower in both calories and saturated fats than savory snacks like chips and pretzels.
6. Bake with beans.
This one isn’t as crazy as it sounds. A favorite ingredient among the gluten-free community is chickpea flour. Chickpeas, like other beans, have a pretty decent amount of fiber (12 grams per one cup). So using this alternative flour in place of white or whole wheat flour will up the nutritional benefits of all your favorite baked goods: pancakes, bread, muffins, you name it.
Black beans are another great option when it comes to squeezing a bit more fiber into your baked goods. The affordable legume is quite the chameleon, and one cup has 15 grams of fiber. With the help of some creative recipes you can use it to make brownies, cookies, and more.
7. Instead of hummus, try a different kind of dip.
Hummus has a decent amount of fiber as it is (4 grams per 100 gram serving), but there’s another amazing dip that has even more: edamame hummus. The preparation process is almost identical to that of classic hummus, but just one serving of this easy recipe has 5 grams of fiber and just 172 calories. You can find edamame in the freezer section at your grocery store.
8. Try oats or nuts instead of breadcrumbs.
Using nuts instead of breadcrumbs isn’t just an excellent carb-cutting trick: It will also get you a bit more fiber. Coating your meat or veggie of choice in nuts is easy. Simply press the nuts into your desired food until they stick, and get cooking. If you aren’t into nuts, using oats instead is another (albeit higher carb) fiber-packed option.