Plus, how to morph them into super-satiating snacks.

Krissy Brady
December 17, 2019

Many of us have a strained relationship with snacking—either we associate snacks with junk food and intentionally avoid munching between meals, or we attempt to snack healthily and end up hungry again (what feels like) 10 minutes later.

But it turns out we should try harder to fine tune this particular relationship. According to experts, snacks are actually an important part of a healthy eating pattern.

"Think of them as small bridges between meals to prevent being too hungry leading up to mealtime," says Florida-based registered dietitian Sandra Gultry, RDN. "Snacks should pack enough nutrient-rich calories to hold a person for 1-2 hours, on average."

Related: These Are the 10 Best Snacks for Weight Loss

So how do we ensure that our healthy (translation: fruit- and veggie-based) snacks are legit filling? "The key to creating snacks that are satiating is to eat at least two food groups," says Gultry. "For example, avoid just eating cheese, a piece of fruit, raw veggies or a handful of nuts. This alone may only buy you 30 minutes before you're ready to graze on something else."

All fruits and veggies are nutrient-rich and have high water content, which aides in satiation. Alone, these foods are low in calories, so combining them with another food group—such as a protein or fat—adds to the number of calories, creating a longer sense of fullness.

Related: Try Our Delicious Clean-Eating Snack Recipes

To start snacking like a pro, here are 12 fruits and veggies dietitians find are the most filling, and what to pair them with to tide you over until your next meal (for real this time):

1. Pears

Recipe pictured above: Roasted Pears with Brie & Pistachios

One medium pear contains roughly 4 grams of dietary fiber. "Of this, over half is viscous fiber, a subset of soluble fiber that forms a thick gel when blended with water," says Brooklyn-based registered dietitian Maya Feller, RD. "The high water content in the fruit, in conjunction with viscous fiber, allows for a larger volume of space taken up in the stomach, resulting in improved satiety."

Pair it with ½ ounce of pistachios, suggests Gultry, a powerhouse nut that's a good source of plant-based protein, heart-healthy fats and fiber to keep you satisfied until mealtime (learn more about why pistachios are so good for you).

2. Apples

Apples are an excellent source of fiber, with 80% of it coming from a soluble fiber called pectin. "Pectin is a viscous fiber that forms a gel-like substance when consumed in our bodies," says Feller. As well as being 85% water, apples bring in the crunch factor, which slows down the eating experience and makes it feel more satisfying.

Pair your apple with a handful of almonds or almond butter: "Combining the fiber and carbs from the apple with the good fats and protein from the nuts will aid in satiety," says Feller.

3. Blackberries

Recipe pictured above: Berry Yogurt Parfaits

A cup of blackberries clocks in at around 8 grams of fiber per serving, says Gultry, and is lower in sugar compared to most fruits at only 7 grams per serving. Not only does this high fiber, low sugar one-two punch keep you fuller longer, it also keeps your blood sugar in check—the more balanced your blood sugar, the more satisfied you'll feel post-nosh (and the less likely you'll be to experience ravenous cravings).

Pair them with a serving of plain Greek yogurt: Studies suggest that snacking on protein-packed yogurt can improve appetite control, satiety and may even prevent overeating at your next meal.

4. Oranges

Oranges are surprisingly filling, thanks to the viscous gel-forming fibers—pectin, hemicellulose, lignin and cellulose—that constitute the majority of fiber in this fruit. "The high water content in oranges contributes to the bulking mechanism in our digestive system that makes us feel fuller longer," says Feller.

Pair your orange with a hard-boiled egg to amp up your intake of healthy fats and protein. "Eating protein can help reduce levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and boost levels of peptide YY, a hormone that makes you feel full," says Arizona-based registered dietitian Gillean Barkyoumb, RDN.

5. Bananas

Recipe pictured above: Peanut Butter-Banana Cinnamon Toast

If you're looking for a portable, high-fiber snack, a banana is where it's at. "An average medium banana contains about 3 grams of fiber," says Barkyoumb. "The key is to choose an underripe banana, which contains a significant amount of resistant starch (fiber)." Bonus: These starches act as a prebiotic, which is highly beneficial for the gut, says Feller (read more about why resistant starch is so good for you).

Pair one with some nut or seed butter, like almond or sunflower. "Like fiber, the fats in nut or seed butter move slowly through the digestive tract—and take more energy for your body to digest than carbs—so you'll feel fuller longer," says Barkyoumb.

6. Carrots

One serving (1/2 cup) of carrots clocks in at roughly 4 grams of fiber in just 50 calories. They're also sweet without being high in sugar, and their crunchy texture slows down the eating experience and can amp up feelings of satisfaction—especially if you're someone who's always hitting up the vending machine for chips, says Barkyoumb.

Pair them with 1-2 ounces of hummus for additional complex carbs (thanks to the chickpeas), heart-healthy fats (sesame seeds and olive oil), and some plant-based protein to help keep hanger at bay.

7. Avocados

Recipe pictured above: Everything Bagel Avocado Toast

Avocados are loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats and a large amount of fiber (roughly 7 grams per half, which accounts for 1/4 of the average person's daily fiber needs, says Feller), making them one of the most filling fruits.

Pair an avo half with a piece of 100% whole-grain toast. "The slow-burning carbs from the toast make for a balanced and nutritious snack containing healthy fats, proteins, and complex carb," says Feller.

8. Celery

Okay, it's probably not the most popular snack on the block, but celery is packed with nutrients (like potassium, calcium and vitamin A), and its fiber and water content can help with keeping you full on barely any calories. "Celery definitely has the crunch factor, aiding in prolonging the eating experience and giving the sense of feeling satisfied and full," says Gultry.

Pair 1 cup of celery with 1-2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter, suggests Gultry: "Peanut butter provides additional carbs, as well as heart-healthy unsaturated fats and plant-based protein, rounding out the macronutrients." (And in case you're thinking of drinking your celery, read what the science says about celery juice.)

9. Brussels Sprouts

Recipe pictured above: Garlic-Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Don't let their size fool you: 1 cup of brussels sprouts contains 6 grams of fiber, and 2/3 of that fiber is soluble, says Feller. "They're also 89% water, and are sometimes referred to as a vegetarian meatball, since they actually have 4 grams of protein per cup," she adds.

Pair them with olive oil for a hit of healthy fats: "Brussels sprouts can be more filling and nourishing when prepared with olive oil, as the nutrients become more bioavailable," says Feller, who recommends roasting them with cumin.

10. Artichokes

Artichokes are an excellent source of fiber—they contain roughly 7 grams per medium-sized head. "The fiber in artichokes is also unique in that it's an inulin," says Feller. "Inulin acts as a prebiotic to help support our gut bacteria." A healthy gut may be linked to improved hormone regulation—including our hunger and satiety cues.

Pair that cooked artichoke of yours with a yogurt-based dip to complete the fiber-protein-fats trifecta necessary to get the most out of your snack break.

11. Broccoli

Recipe pictured above: Air-Fryer Broccoli & Cheese Baked Potatoes

This cruciferous veggie can be very filling—one cup of broccoli has approximately 4 grams of fiber. "Another unique property of broccoli that makes it extra-satiating is it contains about 4 grams of protein per serving, and is one of the higher-protein vegetables," says Feller.

Pair it with—you guessed it—cheese dip. The cheese brings in more protein and some fat to round out the macronutrients, says Gultry, providing a satisfying and filling snack.

12. Zucchini

Zucchinis are a wonderful (and versatile) fiber-filled veggie to help keep us full. "They contain roughly 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, both soluble and insoluble," says Feller.

Pair it up with a protein smoothie: Blending zucchini into a protein smoothie will give it the same creaminess and added bulk that bananas do to keep you full, but with fewer calories. (It also won't dominate the flavor of the smoothie the way bananas can, but you'll want to add some fruit to help sweeten it up with natural sugar.)

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