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50 Low-Calorie Foods that Are Healthy and Filling

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Low-calorie foods - Dr. Axe

Filling your diet with a variety of low-calorie foods is one of the most simple strategies to lose weight. However, this doesn’t mean you have to scale back on everything but rice cakes, iceberg lettuce and broccoli. In fact, there are a number of nutritious foods out there that are versatile, delicious and still low in calories.

Ready to learn more? Keep reading for 50 surprisingly low-calorie foods that you can easily incorporate into a healthy diet when you’re looking to lose weight.

What Are Low-Calorie Foods?

The term “calorie” refers to a unit of energy. Most of the foods and beverages that we consume provide calories, which help fuel our cells and keeps our bodies working efficiently. We also burn calories throughout the day through both exercise and normal activities like breathing, sleeping and eating.

In order to lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you consume, which can involve either reducing your daily caloric intake or increasing your physical activity.

Just as filling up on high-calorie, low-fat foods can contribute to weight gain, filling your diet with a range of low-calorie foods can help keep your waistline in check.

Of course, maintaining good health is not all about cutting back on your caloric consumption. Focusing on low-calorie foods that are also rich in essential nutrients can help support long-lasting weight control while also providing your body with the vitamins and minerals that it needs for better overall health.

Benefits

If you’re looking to lose weight, filling your diet with a variety of healthy, low-calorie foods that fill you up is absolutely essential.

Not only can these foods help support weight loss by keeping energy intake low, but they’re also typically higher in essential nutrients like fiber and protein, which can help keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Other potential benefits of including a variety of nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods in your diet include:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Better blood sugar control
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Enhanced heart health
  • Higher energy levels
  • Protection against chronic disease

Top 50 Low-Calorie Foods

Meat

1. Chicken Breast

Not only is chicken one of the best low calorie meats available, but it’s also loaded with protein and low in fat, making it an awesome addition to a well-rounded weight loss diet.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 138

2. Lean Ground Beef

Ground beef is a great low calorie food for weight loss because it’s versatile and easy to incorporate into a variety of recipes. Look for lean cuts that have less than 8 percent fat to keep your calorie consumption in check.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 182

3. Turkey Breast

Turkey may be considered a Thanksgiving staple, but it’s also a great dietary addition that can be enjoyed all year round. Not only is it rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, but it’s also high in protein to help keep you feeling full between meals.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 135

4. Flank Steak

Flank steak is a thin cut of meat that is taken from the belly of the cow. It’s a great alternative to other high-fat cuts of meat like ribeye steak because it’s much  leaner and lower in calories.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 163

5. Venison

With a whopping 26 grams of protein packed into every serving, venison is one of the most filling low calorie foods out there. Venison works especially well in stews and soups, which is thanks to its rich and earthy flavor.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 134

Seafood

6. Salmon

No low-calorie foods list would be complete without salmon, which is often considered among the healthiest types of fish available. In addition to being relatively low in calories, each serving is also loaded with protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 177

7. Mackarel

A type of saltwater fish recognized for its rich taste and flaky texture, mackerel is full of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, selenium and niacin. Go with Atlantic variety that has less mercury than the King version.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 174

8.  Flounder

Flounder is a popular type of flatfish with a firm texture and sweet, flaky taste. It can be baked, pan-fried or broiled and works especially well paired with lemon, herbs or butter.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 77

9. Cod

Like other types of fish, cod is high in protein and other essential nutrients like vitamin B12, niacin and phosphorus. It’s also low in fat and calories, earning it a slot as one of the top high-energy, low-calorie foods on the market.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 89

10. Mahi Mahi

A lean fish with a sweet flavor, mahi mahi is found in tropical and subtropical areas like Hawaii and Costa Rica. It’s low in fat and calories, but high in B vitamins like vitamin B12, niacin and vitamin B6.

Calories per serving (3 oz.): 93

Vegetables

11. Cucumbers

Thanks to their high water content, each serving of cucumbers is very low in calories. Try adding them to your favorite low-calorie snacks by pairing them with hummus, salad dressing or nut butter.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 16

12. Bell Peppers

Vibrant, delicious and full of flavor, bell peppers are one of the best cheap, low-calorie foods to add to your diet. Plus, they’re also a great source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium and vitamin A as well.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 46

13. Spinach

In addition to being very low in calories, this nutritious leafy green supplies a wealth of important nutrients, including iron, vitamin C, magnesium and calcium.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 7

14. Tomatoes

Although technically considered a fruit, tomatoes are typically used as a vegetable in a variety of recipes ranging from soups to salads, sauces and stir-fries. Tomatoes are a great source of several key nutrients including lycopene, a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant and gives tomatoes their signature red color.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 32

15. Celery

Celery is low in calories yet high in fiber and can bring a crisp, crunchy texture to snacks and side dishes alike. Try combining it with other veggies to make a refreshing salad or pair the stalks with cream cheese or nut butter for a simple snack.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 16

Fruit

16. Watermelon

Watermelon is a summertime staple and an excellent addition to a healthy weight loss diet. It has a high water content and also offers a variety of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 46

17. Apples

Turns out there may be some truth to the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Not only are apples low in calories, but they’re also rich in fiber to help curb cravings and keep your appetite under control.

Calories per serving (1 medium): 95

18. Blueberries

Blueberries are tiny but packed with important nutrients, securing them a spot on the list of low-calorie filling foods. Adding these tasty berries to your diet can boost your intake of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants to help fight free radical damage.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 85

19. Cantaloupe

Like other types of melon, cantaloupe is low in calories due to its high water content. It’s also a great source of several nutrients; in fact, a single serving can nearly knock out your daily recommended intake for vitamins A and C.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 53

20. Grapefruit

With its sweet, slightly tart flavor, grapefruit is equal parts nutritious and delicious. Plus, it’s loaded with powerful antioxidants such as lycopene, beta-carotene and vitamin C as well.

Calories per serving (1/2 fruit): 52

Legumes

21. Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are one of the most popular legumes and are often enjoyed whole, mashed or refried. They’re often used as a filling for Mexican dishes like burritos, but can also be used to make soups, dips and salads.

Calories per serving (1/2 cup): 123

22. Black Beans

Besides bringing loads of fiber and protein to the table, black beans are also low in fat, super versatile and easy to enjoy.

Calories per serving (1/2 cup): 113

23. Chickpeas

Also sometimes called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a high-fiber and healthy legume. They’re also high in protein, plus other important micronutrients like folate and manganese.

Calories per serving (1/2 cup): 134

24. Lentils

Lentils are one of the most budget-friendly sources of protein for your favorite low-calorie meals. They’re also incredibly nutrient-dense, offering plenty of iron, magnesium and vitamin B6 as well.

Calories per serving (1/2 cup): 115

25. Kidney Beans

Although kidney beans are a beloved ingredient in southern cooking, they’re also used in cuisines around the world. Kidney beans are an especially great source of potassium, which is an important mineral that helps protect against kidney stones, bone loss and high blood pressure.

Calories per serving (1/2 cup): 109

Dairy and Eggs

26. Skim Milk

Milk is high in protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and phosphorus, along with an array of other vital nutrients. Selecting skim milk over full-fat varieties can help cut calories quickly to support weight loss.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 89

27. Non-fat Yogurt

Although it’s often considered a popular breakfast food, yogurt can be enjoyed any time of day as part of a balanced and delicious diet. Opt for plain yogurt whenever possible and bump up the flavor at home with fresh fruit, nuts, seeds or cinnamon.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 120

28. Eggs

With a hearty dose of protein packed into each serving, eggs are an excellent addition to a healthy diet. Try whipping up an omelette first thing in the morning to get your day off on the right foot or enjoy a boiled egg between meals for a nutritious snack.

Calories per serving (1 egg): 78

29. Non-fat Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is a mild-flavored cheese product that brings big benefits to the table. It’s low in calories but rich in a long list of nutrients, including selenium, vitamin B12 and riboflavin.

Calories per serving (1/2 cup): 80

30. Kefir

In addition to being low in calories and high in protein, this fermented milk drink is also packed with probiotics. Probiotics are a beneficial form of bacteria that can enhance gut health, improve immune function and reduce inflammation to help keep you feeling your best.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 150

Grains

31. Oats

Oats are a great source of fiber, including a specific type of soluble fiber known as beta-glucan. Some studies show that beta-glucan may help boost immunity, fight cancer cell growth and support healthy cholesterol levels.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 150

32. Popcorn

If you’re looking for some healthy snack ideas, air-popped popcorn is one of the best low-calorie foods available. Try seasoning it with your choice of herbs and spices like garlic, cumin, onion powder or cinnamon to dial up the flavor even more.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 30

33. Couscous

This healthy whole grain can easily be swapped in for other grains like rice, barley and bulgur in your favorite recipes. Couscous is high in antioxidants, fiber and beneficial nutrients like selenium and manganese.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 176

34. Farro

Farro is an ancient grain that’s rich in both fiber and protein. With its nutty flavor and chewy texture, it works especially well in risotto, grain salads and soups.

Calories per serving (1/4 cup, dry): 160

35. Quinoa

Besides being low in calories, quinoa is also one of the few plant-based foods that is considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids that your body is unable to produce on its own. For this reason, it’s also one of the most popular high-carb, low-calorie foods for bodybuilding and muscle growth.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 222

Nuts and Seeds

36. Chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts may be a holiday favorite, but this low-calorie and nutritious nut can be enjoyed at any time of year as part of a healthy diet. With 68 calories, 1 gram of protein and 1.5 grams of fiber per ounce, it’s undoubtedly one of the top high-fiber, low-calorie foods that you can add to your diet.

Calories per serving (1 oz.): 68

37. Chia Seeds

With tons of fiber and protein packed into every serving, chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition.  Try sprinkling chia seeds to your next cup of yogurt, mixing them into almond milk to make chia seed pudding or tossing them into your smoothie to bump up the health benefits.

Calories per serving (1 oz.): 137

38. Cashews

Cashews are a popular type of nut high in protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats. While they may be slightly higher in calories than some other foods, they can help keep you feeling fuller for longer to reduce your calorie consumption during the day.

Calories per serving (1 oz.): 157

39. Flax Seeds

Not only are flax seeds low in calories, but they also boast a pretty impressive nutrient profile as well. In  fact, flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber along with thiamine, magnesium and manganese.

Calories per serving (1 oz.): 150

40. Pistachios

Known for both their bright green hue and distinct flavor, pistachios are very nutritious and can be seamlessly incorporated into a healthy diet.

Calories per serving (1 oz.): 159

Drinks

41. Water

Drinking more water is great if you’re looking to lose weight and trim your waistline. Not only is it free of calories, but it can also support satiety and fullness to help you reach your health goals.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 0

42. Coffee

Good news for coffee lovers: your morning cup of joe is completely free of carbs and calories. Of course, adding sugar, milk or creamer can increase the amount of calories in your cup, so choose wisely to keep the calories from stacking up.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 0

43. Tea

No matter what type of tea is your favorite, you can easily enjoy this healthy beverage on a weight loss diet. However, be sure to stick to low-calorie mix-ins like lemon juice, ginger or stevia whenever possible.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 0

44. Sparkling Water

Also known as seltzer, sparkling water is a type of carbonated beverage that contains several natural minerals. Like regular water, it’s totally free of calories and can be a good alternative to other beverages to reduce your daily calorie consumption.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 0

45. Celery Juice

The trendy drink of celery juice is actually relatively low in calories and can be a great way to squeeze some of the nutrients found in celery into your diet.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 40

Condiments

46. Salsa

Made using fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onions and cilantro, a scoop of salsa can liven up just about any recipe. Go for homemade varieties whenever possible, such as this Chunky Tomato Salsa.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 70

47. Horseradish

Horseradish sauce is usually made by mixing grated horseradish with salt and vinegar, giving it a unique, spicy flavor that’s great for adding a kick to your favorite dishes.

Calories per serving (1 tbsp): 6

48. Kimchi

Kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine that is made by fermenting vegetables like napa cabbage. In addition to being super delicious, kimchi also provides plenty of probiotics in each serving to help support gut health.

Calories per serving (1/2 cup): 15

49. Sauerkraut

Similar to kimchi, sauerkraut is a type of cabbage that has undergone fermentation, giving it a distinctly sour taste and aroma. It’s also rich in probiotics and can be easily made at home with this simple sauerkraut recipe.

Calories per serving (1 cup): 27

50. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar that is well-known for its many health-promoting properties. Try mixing it with olive oil, salt, pepper and your choice of seasonings to spice up any homemade salad dressing.

Calories per serving (1 tbsp): 3

Risks and Side Effects

Although creating a caloric deficit is an important component of weight loss, it is definitely possible to reduce your energy intake too much.

Not supplying your body with adequate calories can lead to low energy levels, impaired immune function and a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to start filling up on high-calorie, low-carb foods or foods high in fat and sugar to meet your daily needs.

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to decrease your daily intake by around 500 calories to lose approximately one pound per week. This can be from either swapping out high-calorie ingredients for low-calorie foods or incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine.

If you start to notice symptoms like weakness, fatigue or low energy levels, consider increasing your intake to help provide your body with the nutrients it needs. Alternatively, consider consulting with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to find a healthy weight loss plan that works for you.

Final Thoughts

  • No matter what you’re craving, there are tons of different foods and beverages out there that are low in calories and delicious.
  • From fruits and veggies to meat, fish and poultry, there are plenty of options that can help add a bit of variety of a healthy weight loss diet.
  • Be sure to select nutrient-dense ingredients whenever possible and avoid cutting calories too low to ensure that you’re supplying your body with the vitamins and minerals that it needs.
  • In addition to incorporating these nutritious, low-calorie foods into your diet, you can also add more physical activity to your daily routine as part of a healthy lifestyle to promote long-term weight control.
Josh Axe

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