When finding a healthy eating plan that works for you, it's often a fine balance (eat more of this and less of that, and so forth). Up until a few years ago, I was personally able to eat most of what I wanted without gaining weight—but that meant I wasn't eating anywhere near as healthily as I should have been (aka chips for dinner). I'm actually thankful that my metabolism finally caught up with me and my poor eating habits, so now I'm always on the hunt for powerhouse items to add to my diet like high-fiber low-carb foods that will keep me in shape and feeling good.
"Following a low-carb diet tends to promote weight loss at a faster rate," explains Juliana Shalek, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of The Nutrition Suite. "Cutting carbohydrates reduces blood glucose and insulin levels, which in turn minimizes fat storage in the body." Shalek says that it can be very motivating for those who have tried and been unsuccessful using other weight-loss methods like calorie-counting in the past.
So the low-carb part makes sense, but where does fiber come in? Registered dietician nutritionist Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Maya Feller Nutrition, says that the daily fiber recommendation for women is 25 grams (although women over 50 should aim for 21 grams instead) "Most Americans are not meeting their daily fiber needs," the expert explains. "Low-fiber diets can have a negative impact on both gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health."
Since fiber is neither digested nor absorbed, it actually takes up space in your intestine, giving you a feeling of fullness (and making it easier to minimize snacking and overeating). So now that you know that the reason high-fiber, low carb foods are good for you, it's time to learn more about them including which you should add to your diet ASAP—and how to plan a healthier daily menu.
This nut is high in protein, too. "But be mindful of the serving size because they are high in fat," warns Shalek. That's why she suggests choosing unsalted almonds no matter whether you're eating them whole, sliced, or shaved.
Fiber per serving: 4 grams per 1/4 cup
Even though almonds are not the lowest in carbs compared to other foods, Shalek says they're high in fiber and help optimize blood glucose control as well as keep you full. "They're a great protein source, and if you are mindful of portion size, they're the perfect addition to any meal in whole or pureed form," she says.
Fiber per serving: About 3 grams per 1/4 cup
Shalek loves the versatility of avocados since you can eat them as a spread, dip, or even on their own. "Avocados are a healthy fat that is high in monounsaturated fatty acids as well as important nutrients," she explains. Feller can't help but agree: "It's so nutrient-dense—it has 20 vitamins and minerals."
Fiber per serving: About 3.4 grams of fiber per 1/4 an avocado
There's no doubt that greens are good for you. Collard greens in particular are filled with vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A and C, says Feller. On top of that, they're a great source of iron and only one cooked cup will give you 32% of your daily fiber.
Fiber per serving: 8 grams per cooked cup
"This is a great low-calorie and low-carb option to have with hummus or dip instead of chips or crackers," says Shalek. Plus, this vegetable is high in vitamin C to help with immune function and high in vitamin A for vision support.
Fiber per serving: 2 grams per bell pepper
You likely don't have this fruit in your fridge on the regular—but it might be time to stock up. Shalek suggests this berry because it's high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, and folate, all of which have a positive impact on your health. She does warn to be careful of portion size because they contain sugar; however, the berry does prevent significant sugar spikes because of its fiber content.
Fiber per serving: 4 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup
"This food is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the body and lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease," says Shalek. And it's a protein powerhouse, too. Incorporate chia seeds into your diet by adding them to smoothies, salads, yogurt, and even cottage cheese (if that's your thing).
Fiber per serving: 5 grams per tablespoon
Broccoli rabe is another green to eat more of, but it can be bitter—add a dash of lemon juice or even a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity while cooking. "It's a great source of plant-based iron, and one serving will give you 7% of your daily value of fiber," says Feller.
Fiber per serving: 2.7 grams per serving
Now, let's talk about another berry that's packed with fiber (and according to Feller, just half a cup will give you 16% of your daily value). It's rich in antioxidants, a good source of vitamins and minerals and is just as good for you raw as it is cooked.
Fiber per serving: 4 grams per 1/2 cup
"Kale and spinach are what I like to call 'good bang-for-your-buck' foods," says Shalek. "What I mean by that is you can fill up on them without taking in an abundance of calories, and they keep you full between meals." Added perk: They also contain important vitamins, such as vitamins C, A, and K and are high in iron.
Fiber per serving: 4 grams per cup
Throw some sesame seeds on your salad or on your favorite protein (they taste great with chicken, among other things). And you don't need a lot—one tablespoon will give you 1.1 grams of fiber, says Feller.
Fiber per serving: 1.1 grams per tablespoon
According to Shalek, this non-starchy vegetable is low in calories and serves as a great side dish. "It also contains vitamin C to give your immune system a boost," she adds.
Fiber per serving: 3 grams per cup
Looking for something else to put in your salad other than kale? Cabbage is one of Feller's go-tos. She says that on top of being chock-full of vitamins and minerals, the veggie is also rich in phytonutrients (a type of chemical that can fight off disease).
Fiber per serving: 2.2 grams per raw cup, chopped
If you're a fan of eggplant, you may want to add it to your shopping list more often. Shalek says to reach for this veggie because other than being high in fiber, it contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. A few to highlight include folate, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
Fiber per serving: 2.5 grams per cup
According to Feller, a steamed artichoke is a great addition to any meal. (Did you know you can eat the "meat" on the leaves, too?) The vegetable is high in protein, calcium, and vitamins C and B.
Fiber per serving: 7 grams per artichoke
Cauliflower is pretty amazing—Shalek says it has antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body. "It's super versatile—it can be used to make lower-carb and lower-calorie versions of pizza crust and rice, too," says Shalek.
Fiber per serving: 3 grams per cup
"Flaxseeds happen to be a good source of omega-3 fats, which are shown to reduce inflammation in the body and promote overall heart health," says Shalek. Plus, protein and fiber-rich foods also help with blood glucose control.
Fiber per serving: 3 grams per tablespoon
"Lentils are a great non-meat protein source to add to any meal," says Shalek. She says that the fiber helps with digestion and heart health and also promotes fullness which can help with weight management.
Fiber per serving: 4 grams per 1/4 cup
Feller's High-Fiber Low-Carb Menu
Breakfast: Breakfast salad of chopped cabbage, kale, and radish topped with a poached egg
Lunch: Lentils topped with sliced almonds served with steamed collards and sliced red peppers, plus grilled fish of your choice
Dinner: A steamed artichoke served with an avocado/yogurt dill dip and grilled lemon chicken
Snacks: Snack-sized bag of bell peppers, green beans, and radish plus one serving of nuts of your choice
Shalek's High-Fiber Low-Carb Menu
Breakfast: Omelet (can use one whole egg and two egg whites) with feta cheese, tomatoes, spinach, quarter avocado, one slice of whole grain toast or small whole wheat pita
Lunch: Chopped salad with spinach, 1/2 cup chickpeas, grilled shrimp, tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, one tablespoon unsalted sunflower seeds, grated parmesan cheese; tossed with light olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Dinner: Grilled chicken with eggplant slices with tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of lentils, side of sautéed kale or grilled asparagus, seasoned with garlic powder
Snacks: 1/4 cup unsalted almonds, 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese with an apple, one cup unsalted air-popped popcorn (can sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top for extra flavor), bell peppers or baby carrots with two tablespoons of hummus
Up next: why you should be wary of getting your nutrition advice from the Internet.