Low-calorie foods are the main nutritional focus for anyone trying to lose weight or just be healthier overall.
Now, a calorie is a measure of energy and so it’s important to be mindful of how many you’re taking in per day. Roughly 3,500 calories equal one pound of body weight and so you’ll need to adjust your diet accordingly to be in a consistent deficit.
So, here’s a list of 35 low-calorie, nutritious foods you should be including in your diet…
Any type of berry from strawberries to blueberries and blackberries are all low-calorie fruits. They’re full of antioxidants which help to stave off illness and natural sugars which make them a good, clean source of energy. (1)
One cup of mixed berries: 70 calories
2. Lowfat Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a popular snack, especially before bed since it contains a slow-releasing source of protein. But since it’s low fat and low sugar, it’s a super healthy, nutritious option. There’s plenty of B-vitamins for cell energy and DNA health, calcium for bone health, selenium and phosphorous. (2)
4oz cottage cheese: 82 calories
3. Rice Cakes
Rice cakes are usually made from dehydrated brown rice formed into a round shape. And they’re an excellent breakfast food since they’re a healthy carb source and are low calorie.
You can definitely dress them up with some almond butter and bananas; however, you’d be upping the calories but it’s just an option if you can fit it in your macros.
One rice cake: 35 calories
Bananas are known for having a decent amount of potassium (422mg or 12%), which is an essential mineral for heart health, nerves and muscle contractions. And if you need a quick snack without having to worry about going overboard with the calories, then banana is an excellent option. (3)
Blend it in your shakes or slice them up for your cereal… the possibilities are endless.
One medium banana: 105 calories
5. Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is a lean, high-protein food which is probably the most popular form of meat for fitness-minded people. But because it’s a lower-fat part of a chicken, there are fewer calories since fat makes food higher calorie.
Shop for quality chicken breast, and although it may come with a higher price tag, it’s worth it.
1/2 boneless and skinless chicken breast: 142 calories
Tofu is a popular meat alternative option for vegetarians and vegans, made of soy. It’s got a decent amount of fat per serving (6g per 1/2 cup) and 10 grams of protein per 0.5 cup.
Soy is a complete plant protein containing all nine essential amino acids and research shows that soy lowers bad cholesterol and may be beneficial for blood pressure too. It also naturally has estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects. (4, 5)
½ cup: 94 calories
Watercress is one of the lowest-calorie foods you can eat and it’s also an aquatic plant species which is pretty neat! So if you’re trying to lose weight, you can eat these and not feel guilty. There’s zero fat in a serving and watercress is also a good source of vitamin A (Eye health and growth/development) and Vitamin C (Immune health). (6, 7)
One cup chopped watercress: 4 calories
There are so many things you can do with this nutritious, dark leafy green… add it to any dish or bake them for a crispy snack. But leafy greens are also low-calorie which is great for the health-minded individual.
There’s 2.9 grams of protein per 1 cup, plus a very generous amount of Vitamin A (133%), Vitamin C (134%), 10% of Vitamin B-6, and 7% magnesium.
One cup chopped: 33 calories
Spinach isn’t just Popeye’s leafy green of choice but it’s also a staple in many diets around the world due to its nutrient-dense nature. Spinach contains Iron (Healthy oxygen transport), protein (Muscle growth), Vitamin D (bone growth and immune function), and more. (8, 9, 10)
One cup raw or ½ cup cooked spinach: 7 calories
Chard is a healthy, leafy green that also boasts a super low-calorie profile with Vitamin A and C. You can sautee it with onions and garlic, then combine it with your meat or vegan food option of choice, although it doesn’t contain as many nutrients as other green options.
But it’s still nice to have a variety in any diet.
One cup of chard: 7 calories
11. Leaf Lettuce
A healthy salad is a great way to spice up any meal because you can add so many tasty foods to it. But if you’re going low-calorie then be careful what you include because the calories can add up really quickly.
But you can also use leaf lettuce in your sandwiches or as a wrap around your food of choice.
One cup shredded leaf lettuce: 5 calories
Tuna fish is a high protein, low-fat food when in water and it’s low calorie. Chunk light contains 70 calories with .5g of fat and 16g of protein. Plus, you get EPA and DHA omega-3s which can only be obtained through fish or supplementation.
Omega-3s are important for heart health, cell membranes, inflammation control and many other functions in the body. (11)
One 3oz can chunk light Tuna: 70 calories
13. Protein Shake
Protein shakes are an amazing way to get your much-needed protein intake for the day. They are generally low calorie, low fat, low sugar, and high protein, which is beneficial for supporting muscle growth.
Protein shakes are versatile because you can add additional ingredients to make them even tastier.
Calories vary but protein shakes generally have anywhere from 90 calories to 150. This is just an average and it really depends on the product.
14. Almond/Soy Milk
These plant-based milk alternatives are often preferred over their dairy counterpart for health reasons and they’re also very low calorie. But they also have a pleasant, nutty flavor, while containing 2.5g of fat per serving.
You can use Almond/Soy milk in your cereal, for protein shakes, with recipes, and for anything else that it’s suitable for as a liquid addition.
One cup of almond/soy milk: 30 calories
It’s hard to beat an egg (Pun intended) for its nutritional value…
An egg is a very pure form of protein (6g on average) and at roughly 70 calories per one; it’s hard to not include them in your diet. They make the perfect breakfast protein and are one of the most versatile foods in existence.
Eggs are healthy despite what the media says but moderation is key. Cholesterol content is generally high with an egg having an average of 4.5-5 grams of fat.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1 egg or 2 egg whites per day. (12)
But contrary to the long-time belief that yolks are bad for you, it actually contains most of the nutrition. But you can eat only the whites for pure protein and even fewer calories.
One large egg: 70 calories
Apples are muy deliciosa (Very delicious) and depending on the type, you can get your sugar fix for the day (Healthier sugar) although it’s always best to keep sugar intake on the lower end.
They have a decent amount of fiber, Vitamin C and even antioxidants.
But they make a great snack anytime.
One medium apple: 95 calories
Asparagus is a delicious green veggie and when cooked to perfection, it’s the perfect addition to any meal. But they’re actually pretty low calorie and you’ll still be well under your limit if you decide to eat a bunch of them.
Asparagus contains a lot of vitamins and minerals but most people would never guess they’re composed of mostly water. (13)
One spear: 3 calories
18. Boiled Chestnuts
Chestnuts are tasty although they may not be the most nutritious nut overall. But they do contain vitamins and minerals while having benefits for digestive health. (14)
One ounce boiled chestnuts: 37 calories
Beets have a decent amount of potassium and fiber but they do contain some sugar although not very high amounts. They’re a good source of Vitamin C, with some iron and magnesium but they supply a little of most of the important vitamins and minerals we need.
Beets also have a positive effect on blood pressure. (15)
One cup: 59 calories
There are so many varieties of soups out there but it’s generally known that light soups are low in calories. Unless of course, you pile it up with cheese, sour cream, etc.
Chicken noodle and veggie soups are generally pretty low calorie and one study even showed that eating soup before a meal reduces your overall caloric intake. This is good for those trying to shed some pounds. (16)
21. White Fish
Fish is high in protein and it contains essential fatty acids our bodies cannot produce on its own. Tilapia contains about 100 calories per fillet and 3oz of Cod has 70 calories.
One study found that satiety was greater after eating fish than eating beef and chicken. And this can go a long way to reaching weight loss goals quicker. (17)
3oz Cod: 70 calories
Pea, beans, lentils… legumes are low calorie and very filling.
One cup of cooked lentils contains about 230 calories and they are indeed filling as anyone would know who eats them regularly. They contain iron, vitamins, and minerals as well.
Boil them and then add in some of your favorite herbs and seasonings.
One cup lentils: 230 calories
The perfect summer fruit, watermelon is a crowd favorite which contains many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Watermelon is composed of more than 90% water and supplies plenty of electrolytes to stay hydrated.
And according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, watermelon contains more lycopene than any other fruit. Lycopene gives the red color and it’s also a strong antioxidant which is involved in the disease-fighting process. (18)
One cup diced: 46 calories
If you want another good seafood option then go with scallops. Seafood is great when you season it up and it can replace meat for some meals. 3oz contains a whopping 20g of muscle-building protein, with just 95 calories.
3oz scallops: 95 calories
Celery might be the most popular vegetable for dipping. You can slap some nut butter of your choice inside or have it with your favorite veggie dip. It’s also rich in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
But they’re amazing in soups, or any dish really!
100 grams: 16 calories
Popcorn is a light snack with 3.6 grams of fiber (Digestive health) per 1 oz. and 3.1g of protein. But an ounce of popcorn takes up more volume since it’s lighter and it’s a relatively low-calorie food. Of course, though, the munching can get out of hand with this fun treat but just be mindful of your quantities.
1oz of popcorn: 106 calories
Oatmeal is generally pretty low-calorie based on normal serving size and the fiber will keep you full. But oatmeal is also well-known for its benefits regarding healthy cholesterol. (19)
The Food and Drug Administration actually allows health claims on oatmeal packaging claiming to help reduce coronary heart disease by lowering cholesterol.
Cucumbers are mostly water and they’re great in just about anything because they’re both healthy and crunchy. They contain fiber plus a decent amount of vitamins C, K, and the minerals magnesium, and potassium. (20, 21)
One cup: 16 calories
29. Skim Milk
Skim milk contains fewer calories and fat than 1%, 2% and regular, whole milk. I cup contains 86 calories, with 8 grams of protein, 0.44g of fat, plus 30% calcium, and 12% potassium which is pretty good.
It might not taste quite as delicious as whole milk but it’s subjective.
One cup: 86 calories
30. Protein Bars
Protein bars are necessary nutritional tools for people on the go, or who just don’t feel like making a meal. They’re an alternative to protein shakes and some people prefer them.
One Quest bar contains 200 calories, 21g of protein, 8g of fat, 4 net carbs, 1g of sugar, and 15g of fiber. They’re super tasty and there is an endless number of flavors to choose from.
One Quest bar: 200 calories
Potatoes are very versatile food because there are so many things you can make with them. Potatoes are a good source of carbs for energy but one medium potato is high in potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and magnesium.
Baked is the way to go for a healthy option.
One medium potato: 163 calories
32. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a low-fat, low carb, and high protein food choice. You can add honey, seeds, granola, and fruit for even more nutrition.
But yogurt also contains probiotics for gut health since it provides healthy gut bacteria. (22)
½ cup: 85 calories
Plums are a sweet, tasty treat for any time and you’ll never believe how many calories one has… only 30 calories! That’s right, so go ahead and enjoy two of them.
It’s a low glycemic food and a good source of vitamin C.
One plum: 30 calories
Grapefruit is loaded with lots of vitamin C and with phytochemicals. (23)
But a study showed it to cause significant weight loss and positive effects on blood glucose levels. (24)
You can even add some powdered sweetener or make it into a fresh juice.
½ medium: 65 calories
35. Sugar Snap Peas
Sugar snap peas are a good source of fiber for digestion and immune-boosting vitamin C while also being pretty low in calorie content.
Peas of any kind are a staple as a vegetable source but sugar snap peas add a nice crunch to any dish.
One cup: 60 calories
These low-calorie foods are tasty, versatile, and nutritious. You have essentially every food group here and if your goal is weight loss or to be healthier overall, then look no further.
Each food has something to offer in the way of health which is important when choosing your foods.