Have you ever called a friend after going to a flash sale and crowed how much you bought for so little money? That feels GOOD, right? Let’s explore how we can do that with food and “calorie” money.
What’s the skinny?
- This article will explore foods you can eat high volumes of that do not have a lot of calories
- Knowing these foods and having them on hand will help you when you have the “munchies” and also result in feeling fuller because of the high volume of fiber and water content many of them contain.
- Keep these foods in front of your fridge or pantry, ready to eat.
Here are my top 10 foods you can eat a lot of without gaining weight:
Most fruit is 70 percent or more water, so it is no surprise that eating a lot of fruit will hydrate you and keep you full, plus water is not high in calories, so you have the assurance that eating a lot of fruit won’t have a lot of calories. By “a lot” I mean that the amount of fruit that it typically takes to make you feel full doesn’t have a lot of calories. For example, not a pound of watermelon. But you can have a lot – at least 2 cups for less than 100 calories. And you can have 10 strawberries, for ony 40 calories. That’s my go-to when I want something sweet.
Tomatoes, which are also a fruit, are an excellent choice.I get that tomatoes are technically a fruit, but I want to call it out separately., My dad has always enjoyed eating tomatoes in his special way, so this recommendation is a little nostalgic. But his recipe is really good – take some sweeter tomatoes, like campari, or heirloom and then slide them into quarters. Next, drizzle with red wine vinegar and a touch of olive oil and add salt and peper. It is tangy and delicious, and just having a few tomatoes makes you super full because of the fiber and the water.
Which brings me to smoothies and fruit juices. I plan to do a whole other post about this but basically juicing or blending fruits causes the fiber to dissipate and also causes volume distortion – for example, you could easily juice four apples into a cup but could you EAT 4 whole apples at a time (very few people could). So keep fruit consumption to whole fruits, so you get the most out of it and don’t end up inhaling a lot of calories.
Another food that is make of mostly water. Studies show that eating soup before a meal actually causes you to eat less at the meals. You want to make sure, however, that you are eating broth based soups, because creamy soups can pack on the calories. On restaurant menus, you will want to watch out for words like “bisque” and puree” because those usually imply that the soup has cream. As for Asian soups, you will want to be cautious around “Tom Kha” soup for Thai food, because restaurants are notorious for caking in the coconut milk, which can have X calories for only ¼ cup.
This is no reason to replicate some of these soups on your own – for example, you could make this healthier Tom Kha soup recipe with lite coconut milk. If you are ordering out, however, you probably want to stick to broth based, like Tom Yum.
Same logic applies to Pho. Pho is really healthy, but usually comes with way too many noodles. I do have an amazing Pho recipe with shirataki noodles that I have shared in my recipe section. Otherwise, if you are ordering, then ask for the noodles on the side and eat half.
3. Cucumbers and pickles
This is for all your “salt” tooth peeps out there. You know, you salt and vinegar chip types. We know not everyone is into just chocolate. It’s normal to crave salty foods, especially when you work out a lot, and it’s actually a good thing to get a certain amount of salt to balance your electrolytes. Pickles have the crunch and salty flavor without the calories of chips. You can even buy bags of pre-sliced pickles at most convenience stores. For a healthier alternative, slice some cucumber spears and sprinkle with salt. Cucumbers are about 95 percent water, so that balances out the salt AND makes you feel food. I always do this when I get munchy watching Netflix.
In its unsaturated form, tuna, shrimp, and most fish like salmon is really low in calories. It doesn’t take much to punch any of these up. Shrimp cocktail is one of my favorite appetizers for this reason; it’s usually only about a 150 calorie dish even with the large shrimp. Salmon can be seasoned with the right rub; and you don’t need any extra oi, because the fat from the fish is enough. You can also head over to my recipes for my low-fat tuna salad recipe. Even pouched tuna comes in fun flavors from the store like thai chili, and buffalo wing flavor (see, e.g., Starkist Tuna creations which you can eat in a pouch on the go).
5. Chicken and turkey breast
Both of these lean proteins only clock in at about 100-120 calories for four ounces, which is a decent size serving of 30 grams of protein. Also, these proteins go with every salad and sandwich. Plus there are so many different sauces you can add to punch up the taste. I will go over the calorie-friendly ones in an upcoming post.
6. Cottage cheese
Another high protein winner, this is one of the quickest ways to get full from a rushed breakfast, and great to add to a salad for some extra creaminess. It’s another winning high protein, low calorie food, usually at only about 160 calories a cup. Also it’s very versatile – you can use it as a topping, a dip, a dessert-type food (eat and drizzle with a little bit of honey), or have fruit. I hear a lot of people complain that they don’t like cottage cheese because it’s runny. I used to feel that way too until I started buying the full-fat kind, for example from the 365 whole foods brand. The fat gives it a creamy texture, and even with that version you are only looking at about 110 calories a serving and 5 grams of fat. And some fat is needed when you are eating protein to get the benefits of the nutrient and slow the digestion down even more. Plus, if this is a breakfast food, and you are taking fat soluble vitamins (see my supplements post), this is just enough fat to make sure your body can absorb those.
Olives again appeal to the “salt tooth” and make great snacks and salad toppers. I prefer adding a bunch of olives to my salad instead of olive oil, because I can less fat for way more taste in my month. Plus, they are healthy. Olives are very high in vitamin E and other powerful antioxidants. Studies show that they are good for the heart and may protect against osteoporosis and cancer. I eat about a handful of olives every day. They make a great snack to pair with some turkey slices or even are great with some nuts.
Eggwhites should be a major part of your diet if you are one of those people who complains about being hungry all the time. You will see on my meal plan that a frequent breakfast of mine consists of eggwhites and a one egg scramble and that’s because a full cup of eggwhites is only about 120 calories. And this is a LOT of protein – 26 grams! Usually I combine a ½ or ¾ cup of eggwhites with one egg. Egg yolk has gotten a bad reputation – which is probably why standalone eggwhites were invented – but it’s actually really good for you in moderation – egg yolks contain choline, which our body needs for liver health and digestion. On the vanity side, it contains nutrients that help nourish dry hair. That serving of egg and eggwhtes is only about 170 caloiries, and works beautifully topped with salsa, hot sauce, or Greek yogurt, which brings me to my next item.
9. Greek yogurt
You guys may have noticed that I am a yogurt freak by my mealplan, but it’s just such an important part of my diet for several reasons. First, it is an excellent source of protein with at least 10 grams of protein for a ½ cup serving. I will spoon out a little on the side of my eggs and it is basically like topping it with sour cream. To make it more sweet, I drizzle it with some honey. If it is later at night and I want to keep the carbs down, I sweeten it with a little bit of vanilla stevia. Eating carbs earlier in the day will give your body more time to burn them off. But, beware the yogurt with added sugars, like the fruit flavors. Stick with getting the plain variety, and add your own fruit or other toppings so that you don’t end up eating yogurt mixed with jam.
Also, note I did NOT say frozen yogurt. This is one of the fakest health foods ever. The portion size from the dispensers is way off and even with the fat free flavors, there is lots of sugar. If you want ice cream, just get ice cream and make it your 20.
10. Sweet potatoes
We all like eating warm, carby foods, don’t we? Sweet potatoes provide the carbs your body craves without all of the calories and fat. In fact, an entire cup of sweet potatoes only has 114 calories, and no fat. If you have an air fryer, you probably are aware that you can make sweet potato fries and get that crispy satisfaction without the oil Whihc brings me to my next point. DO NOT be fooled into thinking that sweet potato fries are healthier than regular fries and that this gives you the license to constantly order them from a lot of places that have caught on to this myth. Often these are deep fried and just as unhealthy as regular fries. So if you want regular fries, or just like the taste of sweet potato fries, order those as a “20” and make your own at home.
Knowing what foods come at a low calorie price will help you feel more satisfied for a smaller calorie price tag. All of these foods are delicious, healthy and have a lot of extra nutritional benefits. Keep this list in mind when you are making your grocery lists and planning your meals.