Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of any healthy eating or weight loss plan, but they can also be challenging if you’re looking to curb your hunger. After all, if you’re starving soon after eating them, you’ll be less likely to stick to your goals. So which fill you up best? The secret is in the fiber. “Fiber helps keep us feeling fuller longer. It slows gastric emptying, keeping food in our stomach as it breaks down,” says Bridget Murphy, MS, a registered dietitian at NYU Langone Medical Center.
“The average American consumes only about 12 grams of fiber per day. That’s less than half the recommendation of 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day for women, and 30 to 35 grams for men,” notes Murphy. One fiber-filled veggie she recommends is artichoke—one cup of artichoke hearts has nearly nine grams!
One filling veggie that’s undeservedly gotten a bad rap over the years is the potato. “This vegetable receives a lot of criticism for contributing to weight gain,” says Jeanne Piga-Plunkett, RD, co-director of the Dietetic Internship Program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). But that’s because there’s a tendency to fry spuds or douse them in butter or sour cream.
Prepare them without all the additives and they can be healthy and fill you up with fiber. “Fiber contributes to that feeling of fullness and satiety,” Piga-Plunkett says. A 2018 study found that when overweight or obese women ate less-energy-dense foods—including potatoes—early in the day, they dropped weight and kept it off. Researchers suspect this is because the women stayed full throughout the day without relying on high-calorie alternatives.
Sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index but still high in fiber, Piga-Plunkett says. Or, try butternut squash. “It’s low calorie—100 grams equals 45 calories—and is an excellent source of fiber,” she says. On the other hand, these 20 foods are never worth the calories.