Are you trying to lose weight, but find that eating less just makes you feel hungrier? The good news is, you can reduce your daily calories without starving yourself. Many foods are low in calories, yet are filling because they sit in your stomach for a longer time, which keeps you feeling full longer after a meal. These include high-fiber foods, high-protein foods, water-dense foods, and whole-grain foods. Check out our list of 20 low-calorie foods that can ward off hunger and help you eat less!
1. Oatmeal – Oatmeal is low in calories while providing lots of soluble fiber. According to one study, oatmeal significantly improves appetite control over a four-hour period compared to boxed breakfast cereal. Skip the sugary packets of prepared oatmeal and make your own oatmeal for a hearty, filling breakfast. Make it even healthier by mixing in fresh berries, honey, coconut, peanut butter, or protein powder.
2. Eggs – Eggs are incredibly nutrient-dense. Eating just one egg in the morning gives you six grams of protein, including all nine essential amino acids. Eggs are also very filling and will help you eat less for the rest of the day. In a hurry? A carton of Liquid Eggs, made from regular farm eggs, is an easy way to make breakfast without actually having to deal with the mess of separating an egg from its egg shell.
3. Greek Yogurt – Fat-free yogurt is a great source of high quality protein. Yogurt with fruit and oatmeal makes a filling, nutritious, low-calorie breakfast, snack, or dessert. Greek yogurt has twice the protein of regular yogurt; plus it has a thicker, creamier texture that’s more satisfying to eat. Kefir, a fermented milk product, is a popular Greek yogurt smoothie alternative that also will fill you up.
4. Cottage Cheese – The filling effect of cottage cheese is similar to that of eggs. Cottage cheese is high in protein, yet unlike other cheeses it’s low in fat and calories. Grab a bowl of cottage cheese and top it with fresh berries or pineapple.
5. Whey – Whey is one of the two proteins contained in milk and it is one of the most filling proteins you will find. Whey protein contributes to feeling fuller and consuming less calories throughout the day. That’s why whey protein powder shakes are popular among fitness and weight loss groups. This benefit is realized the most when consumed at breakfast, but whey is a good choice anytime. You don’t have to rely on a protein powder, either; you can find whey in milk, chocolate milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt.
6. Beans – Legumes such beans, peas, and lentils are some of the most nutritious low-calorie foods available. Black beans, pinto beans, and navy beans are all high in both protein and fiber, which makes them very filling. Beans are also good sources of iron, zinc, potassium and folate. We love Goya beans!
7. Boiled Potatoes – Boiled potatoes (whole, quartered, or cubed) are high in carbs but they also have a high water content, which fills you up and helps you eat fewer calories in total. Potatoes will provide more fiber if you leave the skins on, and they contain almost no fat. A boiled sweet potato has even more fiber and fewer carbs than a boiled white potato despite more sugar content.
8. Fish – All high-protein foods such as lean meats are very filling. Although it doesn’t seem like fish would be a filling food, some studies indicate that fish protein has a stronger effect on fullness than chicken or beef protein. Additionally, one study found that the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish actually increase the feeling of fullness in people who are overweight. Halibut, tuna, and salmon have been found to work the best. Oh, and if you’re currently eating a can of tuna in oil twice per week, switching to tuna in water will help you lose 5 pounds in a year, even without making other dietary changes!
9. Cruciferous Vegetables – Broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower have a high water content with a tiny number of calories, which means you can eat a large portion of these low-calorie foods to fill up. Look for creative ways to prepare them, such as making cauliflower rice.
10. Mixed Vegetables – Most vegetables contain water, which adds weight without calories. But take care how you cook them and what toppings you use: one pat of butter or one teaspoon of oil, for example, contains almost the same number of calories as 1 whole cup of raw broccoli. Mixing peppers and onions into scrambled eggs or an omelet at breakfast can make your meal bigger without adding many calories. Raw carrots, cucumbers, and celery with hummus or Greek yogurt dip are filling snacks and portable lunch options. Juicing your vegetables is one way of making sure that you get your “5-A-Day” and it’s also a great way to fill you up.
11. Soup – Soups are very filling meals, despite being in liquid form. Vegetable soups are actually more filling than solid meals containing the same ingredients. Avoid the creamy (i.e. fattening) variety.
12. Salad – Tomatoes and leafy greens like lettuce, arugula, and spinach are rich in fiber and water, which helps fill you up. Eating a salad before a meal will help you eat fewer calories overall. For dessert, have a fresh fruit salad instead of cake, pie, or ice cream which are NOT low-calorie foods.
13. Bananas – If you’re not a big breakfast fan or never feel hungry in the morning, you can at least fill up with a banana. It’s light and easy to grab while giving you plenty of fiber and water. Take note: dried fruits are concentrated sources of natural sugar and therefore have more calories per ounce and they won’t fill you up as much.
14. Berries – Raspberries and blackberries have twice as much fiber as strawberries and blueberries (7 or 8 grams per cup vs. 3 or 4 grams per cup), so they’ll fill you up more than other berries. They’re delicious on their own, tossed in a smoothie, or on top of oatmeal.
15. Apples – Apples and pears are both high in fiber. They also contain pectin, a gelatinous compound that helps to slow down digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness. Eating the whole fruit provides more fullness than merely drinking the juice. Keep a bowl of apples on the counter or in the refrigerator so it’s easy to reach for healthy fruit instead of high-calorie snacks such as cookies or chips.
16. Oranges – Oranges are low in calories but high in fiber and nutrients, making them a healthy snack. If you eat an orange before your meal, the fiber content of the fruit will make you eat less. Drink a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice (the more pulp the better) with breakfast and for an afternoon pick-me-up.
17. Watermelon – High fluid content and minimal number of calories makes watermelon a low-energy-dense food. This means you can eat a larger volume of watermelon without worrying about weight gain.
18. Avocados – Did you know the avocado is a fruit – a berry to be specific? It’s true! Rich in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, avocado can keep you full for hours while providing a tasty snack. Avocados are popular sliced or smashed on toast, in green smoothies, and as the main ingredient in guacamole.
19. Sourdough Bread – If you are serious about losing weight, you will want to cut back on bread because it’s high in carbs. If you must eat bread, make sure it’s high-fiber bread made with whole-grain flour which is more nutritious and filling. Even better, did you know sourdough bread has less calories and carbohydrates than conventional breads? In fact, sourdough bread is one the healthiest types of bread you can eat because it contains bacteria and “living” yeast that helps regulate your blood sugar levels, removing the spikes that cause hunger pangs. Beware of fake store-bought “sourdough,” though. The label of true sourdough bread will list sourdough starter or sourdough culture in the ingredients.
20. Popcorn – While movie theater popcorn won’t cut it as a healthy snack, making your own air-popped popcorn will. Refrain from adding a lot of butter or oil, which will increase the calorie content significantly. If you’re in a hurry, grab a bag of Smartfood popcorn to go. Popcorn is high in fiber so it’s much more filling than other popular snacks like potato chips, rice cakes, or chocolate.
21. Nuts and Seeds – Nuts are energy-dense, nutrient-rich snack options. Nuts and nut butters are filled with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, and other nutrients. Almond butter has more calcium and fiber than peanut butter. Spread some tasty nut butter on an apple or banana to add flavor and fullness, but watch your portion size when snacking on nuts. Pistachios are best because you basically can eat double the amount of pistachios than almonds for the same amount of calories. A study found that a mere 1.5 ounces of peanuts eaten with a breakfast of cereal and orange juice makes you feel fuller for a whole 12 hours more than eating a similar breakfast without the nuts. Adding healthy seeds (flax, chia, sunflower, pumpkin, quinoa) to salads, yogurt, or oatmeal can also help you ward off hunger longer.
22. Hummus – Despite the misconception that hummus is fattening, traditionally-made hummus is a wholesome spread made with chickpeas and olive oil – a heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Hummus is a nutrient-packed food rich in fiber and protein that can help you manage your weight while giving you a satisfying snack.
23. Pickles – Consuming pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented low-calorie foods can not only help fight carb cravings, they contain healthy probiotics that aid digestion and help you feel like your stomach is full.
24. Hot Sauce – Hot sauce contains just 3 calories per tablespoon serving. If you are watching your weight, you can use hot sauce in place of a higher-calorie condiment such as butter (102 calories per tablespoon). Hot sauce has additional weight loss benefits. Capsaicin, the ingredient that gives chili peppers their fire, increases metabolism which helps your body burn more calories and fat. It also makes you thirsty, so you drink more water and therefore eat less. And by keeping your food spicier, you will need to eat a little more slowly, so hot sauce is a great way to pace yourself if you tend to eat too fast. (The process of signaling your brain that you’re full takes around 20 minutes. So if you eat too fast, you can overeat without your brain being aware of it.)
25. Water – Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help decrease hunger and prevent overeating. Dehydration is often mistaken for hunger. So whenever you find yourself feeling hungry, first take a drink of water and wait ten minutes. Chances are your hunger pangs will subside. In addition, people who drink a glass of water before a meal consume fewer calories per meal. You can add a little fruit juice to your water to boost its flavor without adding a significant amount of sugar or calories.