Low-calorie and filling food… what a divine combination!
We have always been told that to lose weight we have to eat less and move more, but choosing the right filling foods, that are low in calories (yet have all of the nutrition needed) is a key step to ensure we embark on a sustainable and healthy journey.
While all macronutrients can help with hunger, they all do so in different ways; while carbohydrates can provide us with a quicker font of energy and fiber keeps us fuller for longer, eating protein is the ultimate satiating macronutrient, as it reduces the level of ghrelin (aka the hunger hormone), making us feel less hungry.
It is true though, that at different times of the day, with different needs and calorie budget left (and different taste in food), we need to mix things up, so here is a list of foods that are part of different macronutrient groups, but are all low-calorie filling foods.
So, here’s a list of 20 low-calorie, filling foods that are easy to find and add to most diets!
20 Low-Calorie Filling Foods
1 – Egg
Eggs have been called a super protein for some time now and it’s not hard to see why: they are nutrient-dense (meaning they are rich in nutrients while being low in calories) and offer all 9 essential amino acids.
An egg offers 6 grams of proteins, together with many minerals and vitamins, all for about 72 calories!
Different studies have been conducted and some show how starting the day with an egg can make one feel full for longer and reduce hunger; in addition to this, other studies focussing on proteins, showed how having a breakfast rich in them could decrease the calories eaten during the day by reduced snacking, slower emptying of the stomach, and as mentioned above, reduce the levels of ghrelin (also known as the hunger hormone).
As many of the nutrients and vitamins are found in the yolk, do not toss that away as many do; unfortunately, like many other foods, eggs are part of the list of healthy foods with an (undeserved) bad reputation.
~~ Interested in knowing what other foods people avoid because of a bad reputation? 10 Foods that are super-healthy and weight-loss friendly, but have a bad reputation – ‘bad’ foods that are good for you
2 – Potatoes
This is a vegetable that unfortunately is so highly associated with an unhealthy dish that is completely often dismissed from diets.
Potatoes offer fiber and also some proteins and choosing the right cooking method is essential for enjoying this tuber as part of a balanced diet most days; boiling or roasting potatoes are excellent ways to cook them.
Studies conducted to compare the satiety level offered by multiple foods, including brown rice amongst others, ranked potatoes at the top of the list with people claiming they felt still satiated and full two hours after eating a baked potato.
For a quite low-calorie amount of 58 calories per half a cup (75g), potatoes are part of not only the filling foods list… but also the versatile one!
When cooking them, try keeping the skin on and enjoy all of the vitamins, fiber, and nutrients potatoes have to offer.
3 – Cottage Cheese
This versatile high-protein cheese is an excellent choice when looking for food that is low in calories, tasty, and satiating.
One cup (about 226g) of this delicious dairy product contains a great amount of protein (28g!) and not too many calories, depending on the type chosen. Cottage cheese, either full-fat or low-fat is a relatively low-calorie choice, so it is important to read the label to see what else has been added to the low calorie one to make an informed decision.
As proteins reduce hunger levels, cottage cheese is an easy choice as it can be eaten as a snack or served with some vegetables as part of a meal… this is indeed a filling food for any time of the day!
Curiously, one study found that some people found eggs and cottage cheese to be equally satiating, and both make this list!
4 – Berries
Berries are known for being rich in antioxidants, but they are also rich in vitamins and minerals. Berries though, including blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, are also rich in fiber (and therefore a filling food choice!) and low-calorie.
Many diets focus on increasing fiber content to reduce hunger (fiber keeps you full for longer) and assist with weight loss.
Their high fiber content also boosts weight loss and reduces hunger. One of the most known types of fiber is pectin, which helps decrease the speed at which the stomach empties and increases how full one feels; this dietary fiber is found greatly in berries, making these sweet treats a good addition to most diets, as they may help lose weight by reducing the calories consumed.
5 – Mushrooms
Mushrooms are a very low-calorie choice while being a great source of nutrients, such as Vitamin D, antioxidants, and zinc.
Mushrooms have a great texture and are often used as a substitute for meat products because of it; they are also very low in calories, at only 15 per cup (70 g). This fungus is a great example of a low-carb vegetable!
~~ Interested in increasing your veggie consumption without exaggerating with carbohydrates? The 18 Best Low-Carb Vegetables | Popular, Versatile, and Easy to Cook and Integrate into Most Diets
6 – Oats
Oats are the King (or Queen!) of breakfast! Incredibly filling and extremely versatile, oats have very high fiber content and soak liquid very easily, meaning they take even longer to pass through the digestive system, making one feel fuller for a lengthier amount of time, giving them a very well deserved spot on this filling foods list.
Oats can be served in uncountable ways, hot or cold, cooked in plain water or with milk (dairy or non-dairy!), and flavored with pretty much anything, from nuts to honey, coconut shavings, or cinnamon spices… it’s impossible to get fed up!
Oats can be prepared the night before (ie: overnight oats) or in very few minutes in the morning, and even baked to have on the go in the form of biscuits!
Oats are not low-calorie per se when looking at the dry amount, but considering how much liquid they soak and how much control one has on the way they are prepared, it means a prepared bowl of this morning special can be as low-calorie or high-calorie as one needs, prefers and plans.
7 – Legumes
Legumes, such as lentils, are a great choice when looking for filling foods, as they are a great source of proteins and fiber, both known for being very satiating.
Lentils are very versatile, as they are available in different colors, cooking times, and consistencies once ready, so they can be easily added to stews, casseroles, or curries!
Legumes come in many formats, some more and some less low-calorie, but they are extremely filling and adding them in moderate portions to meals doesn’t add many calories, while making the meal very filling.
8 – Carrots
Carrots are not only low in calories, with only 53 calories per cup (128g), but also very tasty and versatile, as they can be prepared in many different ways and eaten raw or cooked, like boiled, roasted, sautéed, amongst others.
This vegetable is not only tasty and low in calories, but it is also rich in Vitamins, especially A, which it is famous for and necessary for proper vision.
9 – Radishes
With only 19 calories per cup (116g), it is easy to see why this crunchy and spicy vegetable is a great salad bulker!
Radishes are not only easy to add to salads, but they also last long in the fridge and are quite affordable.
A low-calorie option that non everyone appreciates because of its decisive taste, if unsure, try mellowing down its flavor with fresh tomatoes in a rich mixed salad… you may like it more than expected!
10 – Spinach
Spinach leaves are extremely filling and versatile: use them fresh to bulk up a wrap or salad, or add them to sauces, stews, or curry!
This leafy green is not only low in calories, with only 7 per cup (30g), it is also very rich in vitamins and nutrients, such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B-9 (folate), and Vitamin K.
11 – Cauliflower
One cup (100g) of cauliflower has only 25 calories and, because of its firm consistency, it is not a surprise that in the past few years it has become a very popular low-calorie and low-carb substitute for other foods that are higher in carbohydrates, such as potatoes or rice.
Cauliflower is an excellent font of Vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, and potassium and it is easy to add to most diets, as it can be simply boiled and served with a bit of olive oil instead of potatoes, or it can be added to curries or stews to have a larger portion without too many calories.
12 – Boneless skinless chicken breast
Chicken breast is a staple for many, probably because it is relatively low in calories while being quite filling, all while being very versatile and easy to cook.
3 ounces (86g) of boneless and skinless chicken breast have only 142 calories but a whole 20g of proteins, which can keep one full for quite some time!
Chicken can be grilled, roasted, or poached (among others) and can be served either hot or cold, making it easy to add to a stew or sauce, but also a salad or wrap.
13 – Soup
Soup is a great (low-calorie and filling) way to start a meal, but it is important to choose wisely!
It is mandatory to select lighter, either broth or vegetable-based soups, that do not have added cream or butter – not because these are bad for you (in moderation), but because if you’re looking for a filler that doesn’t add too many calories, it is better to skip those.
There are many options of soups full of fiber, and these can be either chunky or smooth, spicy or mild, of one or multiple vegetables… the sky is the limit!
14 – Apples
One cup (125g) of apples has only 57 calories while being very filling as it has almost 3 grams of dietary fiber and a lot of water in its composition.
Apples are a great and easy fruit to add to most diets, as there are many varieties, with different flavors, and can be found in different sizes and budgets. This great fruit can be eaten on the go, but it is also a great addition to yogurt, porridge, or smoothies.
15 – Tea
Yes, tea is not food but liquids are a great way of filling up your stomach… when chosen wisely!
It is important to choose the right drink, as prepacked drinks can be full of sugars and calories, so, if you fancy something different than water, perhaps brew your cup and select some different flavors of tea.
Some teas, such as lemon or berry flavored, for example, are great also cold, while hot teas can be flavored with a very little sweetener, sugar, or honey, while black tea can be softened with a dash of milk.
16 – Watermelon
One cup (152g) of watermelon contains only 46 calories and this fruit is not only rich in fiber and water (like the name suggests), it is also a great option for a sweet treat!
Watermelon can be eaten as it is, fresh, as a dessert, or as an afternoon snack, but it is also a good choice when looking to prepare a more exotic salad with some feta and mint leaves.
17 – Zucchini
One cup of zucchini (124 g) has just over 20 calories… all while being extremely versatile!
Zucchini (or courgettes) are a summer squash that comes with a very delicate flavor; this vegetable can be steamed or cooked in a pan on a low flame (no need for oil as it releases plenty of water) and dressed with a bit of lemon juice, grilled and served as a side with a bit of olive oil and garlic, roasted and left to cool down to add to salads, spiralized and used instead of spaghetti, or cubed and added to stews and sauces, or… and I could go on!
In addition to the low calories and its incredible versatility, zucchini is also a great source of Vitamin C, dietary fiber, and potassium.
18 – Coffee
Just like tea, simple coffee comes with a nearly inexistent calorie count (Lower than low-calorie!).
This easy to prepare (and available nearly everywhere) drink can be enjoyed hot or cold and flavored with dairy or non-dairy milk, and sweetened with syrups, sugar, honey, or sweetener… just ensure everything is done in moderation; try adding as few extras as possible and lowering the amount of those as you go… but also try not to overdo it with the coffee itself!
19 – Broccoli
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable (like Brussel sprouts and cauliflower) and is one of the most vitamin and nutrient-rich vegetables one can add to a diet!
One full cup (91g) of broccoli has more than 100% the amount of Vitamin C that most need in one day while only containing 31 calories!
This vegetable, like many others on this list, is also extremely versatile, as it can be eaten as a simple side dish, dressed with a bit of salt and oil, or added to sauces and stews to bulk them up without adding too many calories.
20 – Peppers
Peppers are available in a great selection of colors, flavors, sizes… there’s a type that works just fine for most recipes!
Bell peppers have only 46 calories per cup (149g) and are extremely tasty and easy to prepare; chop them in thin slices and roast them for 25 minutes and then, once cool, add them to a salad, or add them to a tomato soup for an extra kick!
They can also be eaten raw, so using them as vegetable sticks to have some hummus or tzatziki with is a great choice.