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42 Foods That Are Low in Calories

Reducing
your calorie intake
can be an effective way to lose weight.

However, not all foods are equal when it comes to nutritional
value. Some foods are low in calories, but also low in
nutrients.

When limiting your calorie intake, it’s important to choose

nutrient-dense foods
, which contain a lot of nutrients for
the number of calories they provide.

What’s more, a diet full of whole, nutrient-dense foods may
help you feel more satisfied while cutting calories (1).

Here are 42 foods that are low in calories — and most of them
are highly nutritious.

Foods With Calorie Labels

1–4: Meat and Poultry

Because they are high in protein,
meat and poultry are good foods to eat when you’re trying to
cut calories.

Protein helps you feel full for longer and may help you eat
fewer calories throughout the day (2, 3).

Meats that are lowest in calories are the ones that are very
lean. Fat is calorie-dense, so fattier cuts of meat have a
higher calorie count.

1. Eye of Round Steak

There’s no reason you can’t still enjoy a steak while cutting
calories. Beef is nutritious, and it’s a good source of vitamin
B12 and iron (4).

Iron is an essential nutrient that helps transport oxygen
throughout your body, while vitamin B12 is necessary to form
red blood cells (5).

However, note that eye of round is a very lean cut of beef. Be
sure not to overcook it, or it will be tough and dry.

Calories: 138 calories per 3-ounce serving, or
168 calories per 100 grams.

2. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

Chicken is a very versatile meat that is also an excellent
source of protein (6).

You can keep the calorie content low by trimming all skin and
visible fat.

Calories: 92 calories per 3-ounce serving, or
110 calories per 100 grams.

3. Turkey Breast

Turkey breast is high in protein, vitamin B6 and niacin. B
vitamins help your body break down the food you eat and
metabolize it into energy (7).

Calories: 93 calories per 3-ounce serving, or
111 calories per 100 grams.

4. Pork Tenderloin

The tenderloin is one of the leanest cuts of pork, making it a
great low-calorie option.

Pork is rich in several B vitamins, and it’s also an excellent
source of high-quality protein (8).

Calories: 122 calories per 3-ounce serving, or
143 calories per 100 grams.

5–8: Fish and Seafood

Two Dorado Fish on a Yellow Plate

Most fish
and seafood are highly nutritious, and they are excellent
choices when you are restricting calories.

Like meat, fish and seafood are high in protein. They also
provide important nutrients like vitamin B12, iodine and
omega-3 fatty acids (9).

Omega-3 fatty acids have
numerous benefits for your health
, including reducing
inflammation and improving heart health (10).

5. Cod

Cod is a lean, white fish that is high in protein but low in
calories.

It’s also high in vitamin B12, iodine and selenium, and it
contains a decent amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Iodine is
important for proper brain and thyroid function, but many
people do not get enough of this nutrient (11, 12).

Calories: 70 calories per 3-ounce serving, or
82 calories per 100 grams.

6. Salmon

Salmon is a fatty fish that is loaded with heart-healthy
omega-3s. It’s also high in vitamin B12, and is one of the few
foods that naturally contains vitamin D
(13).

This is important, as vitamin D deficiency is a common problem
around the world.


Vitamin D deficiency
is associated with all kinds of health
problems, such as osteoporosis, increased cancer risk,
autoimmune diseases and high blood pressure (14, 15).

Calories: 99 calories in a 3-ounce serving, or
116 calories per 100 grams.

7. Scallops

Scallops are a low-calorie shellfish with a sweet, mild flavor
(16).

But make sure to skip the high-calorie sauces and enjoy
scallops steamed, broiled or grilled.

Calories: 26 calories in 5 small scallops, or
88 calories per 100 grams.

8. Oysters

Just one oyster provides over 100% of the RDI for vitamin B12
and over half of the RDI for zinc and selenium (17).

An adequate intake of selenium may reduce the risk of prostate
cancer in men (18).

Calories: 41 calories per oyster, or 81
calories per 100 grams.

9–17: Vegetables

Young Brunette Holding Fresh Vegetables

Most vegetables are low in calories yet high in vitamins,
minerals, fiber and antioxidants. This makes them excellent for

weight loss
.

Many veggies are also high in both water and fiber, which help
you feel full without consuming a lot of calories (19).

Starchy vegetables like potatoes and winter squashes are higher
in calories but still very nutritious.

9. Chinese Cabbage

Chinese cabbage, which includes napa cabbage and bok choy,
ranks at the top of the list when it comes to nutrient density.
This cabbage is high in vitamins C and K and contains a decent
amount of folate
(20).

Sautéing Chinese cabbage gives it an excellent flavor and also
retains the nutrients.

Calories: 12 calories per cup, or 16 calories
per 100 grams.

10. Watercress

Watercress is a spicy, leafy green that’s one of the most
nutrient-rich vegetables you can eat.

It’s nearly calorie-free yet contains large amounts of vitamins
A, C and K. You can toss watercress into a salad or stir-fry it
along with other yummy vegetables (21).

Calories: 4 calories per cup, or 11 calories
per 100 grams.

11. Cucumbers

Cucumbers are low in calories because they consist of mostly
water.

Interestingly, they also contain a decent amount of vitamin K
and several beneficial plant compounds (22, 23).

Calories: 45 calories per cucumber, or 15
calories per 100 grams.

12. Radishes

Radishes are a peppery, cruciferous vegetable that is low in
calories yet full of flavor.

This crunchy vegetable provides a decent amount of vitamin C
and a small amount of folate (24).

Calories: 1 calorie per radish, or 16 calories
per 100 grams.

13. Celery

Celery is known among dieters as a low-calorie vegetable, but
it is also quite nutritious. It’s high in vitamin K and plant
compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties (25, 26).

Calories: 6 calories per stalk, or 16 calories
per 100 grams.

14. Kale

Kale
is an extremely nutritious veggie. You can get over 100% of the
RDI for vitamins A, C and K by eating just one cup of kale.

In fact, one cup of kale provides seven times the amount of
vitamin K you need in a day. Vitamin K is a very important
nutrient that is crucial for blood clotting (27).

Calories: 34 calories per cup, or 50 calories
per 100 grams.

15. Spinach

Spinach is high in folate, manganese and vitamins A, C and K.
It’s also rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants like flavonoids
and carotenoids (28).

Starting your meal with a salad made from spinach or other
leafy greens might help you feel fuller and eat fewer calories
in your meal (29).

Calories: 7 calories per cup, or 23 calories
per 100 grams.

16. Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are naturally sweet peppers that are high in
fiber, vitamin C and carotenoids (30).

Carotenoids are cancer-fighting plant compounds that may also
improve eye health (31, 32).

Calories: 37 calories per pepper, or 31
calories per 100 grams.

17. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are actually a fungus, but they are often classified
as a vegetable. They contain several B vitamins and a good
amount of potassium and selenium (33).

Mushrooms have been associated with several health benefits,
including a strengthened immune system, decreased inflammation
and a cancer-protective effect (34, 35, 36).

Calories: 15 calories per cup, or 22 calories
per 100 grams.

18–23: Fruits and Berries

Hands Taking Pieces of Fruit of a Plate


Fruits
tend to be higher in calories than vegetables.
However, most fruits are nutrient-dense and deserve a place in
your low-calorie diet.

18. Strawberries

Strawberries are rich in fiber and antioxidants. They also
provide a large dose of vitamin C (37, 38).

Calories: 46 calories per cup, or 32 calories
per 100 grams.

19. Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is a melon with pale, orange flesh that is high in
vitamins A and C (39).

Cantaloupes are also a rich source of beta-carotene, which is
important for healthy eyes and skin.

Calories: 60 calories per cup, or 34 calories
per 100 grams.

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20. Watermelon

Watermelon is made up of mostly water, hence its name. It also
contains a good dose of vitamins A and C (40).

What’s more, watermelon is also rich in lycopene — a plant
compound that may protect against heart disease and some
cancers (41, 42).

Calories: 46 calories per cup, or 30 calories
per 100 grams.

21. Blueberries


Blueberries
are a popular, highly nutritious fruit. They
are particularly rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K and
manganese (43).

The plant compounds that are abundant in blueberries have
numerous health benefits, including a protective effect against
heart disease (44, 45).

Calories: 84 calories per cup, or 57 calories
per 100 grams.

22. Grapefruit

Like many other citrus fruits, grapefruits are high in vitamin
C. These fruits also get their color from the important plant
compound lycopene (46).

Calories: 57 calories for half a fruit, or 42
calories per 100 grams.

23. Kiwifruit

Just one kiwifruit, without the skin, contains all the vitamin
C you need in a day. It also provides a good dose of fiber and
vitamin K (47).

Calories: 46 calories per fruit, or 61
calories per 100 grams.

24–25: Legumes

Three Types of Beans on Wooden Spoons

Legumes are one of the best
plant-based sources of protein
. And for the number of
calories they contain, legumes are very high in nutrients.

24. Black Beans

Black beans are a versatile and inexpensive protein source.

They are very high in fiber and folate and also contain a good
amount of B vitamins, iron, magnesium
and manganese (48).

Calories: 114 calories per half cup, or 132
calories per 100 grams.

25. Lentils

Compared to other legumes, lentils are quick and easy to
prepare. They’re also high in protein, fiber, folate, thiamin,
iron, potassium and manganese (49).

What’s more, lentils contain fiber
and protein. This makes them incredibly filling even though
they are low in calories (50).

Calories: 165 calories per half cup, or 116
calories per 100 grams.

26–29: Dairy and Eggs

Measuring Tape Wrapped Around Three Glasses of Milk

When it comes to dairy
products
, the calorie count varies with the fat content.

So if you’re trying to keep your calorie intake low, stick with
low-fat or non-fat dairy products.

26. Skim Milk

Skim milk is a low-calorie source of high-quality protein. Milk
also contains calcium, and most milk manufacturers supplement
their products with vitamin D (51).

Calories: 86 calories per cup, or 35 calories
per 100 grams.

27. Plain Non-Fat Yogurt

Yogurt is high in protein and calcium. Some yogurts also
contain live bacteria, which benefit your digestive health
(52, 53).

Choose
plain, unsweetened yogurt
because flavored yogurts contain
lots of sugar and excess calories. Add fresh fruit or berries
for flavor and natural sweetness.

Calories: 137 calories per cup, or 56 calories
per 100 grams.

28. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese


Cottage cheese
is a soft, creamy fresh cheese that is low
in calories and high in protein.

Most grocery stores carry cottage cheeses with varying fat
contents. For the lowest calorie count, choose cottage cheese
with 1% milkfat.

Calories: 82 calories per half-cup, or 72
calories per 100 grams.

29. Eggs


Eggs
are an inexpensive and nutritious source of
high-quality protein.

They’re also incredibly filling. Studies have shown that eating
eggs for breakfast can help you eat fewer calories, which can
boost weight loss (54, 55).

Calories: 72 calories per large egg, or 144
calories per 100 grams.

30–34: Grains

Red, Black and White Quinoa in Wooden Scoops

The healthiest grains are those that have not been processed or
refined.

Fiber-rich whole grains may help you feel full for longer,
which can help you eat fewer calories (50).

30. Popcorn

Popcorn
is a type of corn that expands and pops when it’s exposed to
heat.

Air-popped popcorn is a healthy, low-calorie snack, as long as
you don’t smother it with butter or unhealthy toppings.

Calories: 31 calories per cup, popped.

31. Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki
noodles
are Japanese noodles that are made from a yam-like
tuber called konjac. They are nearly calorie-free and are high
in fiber.

Calories: 5 calories per 100 grams.

32. Oats and Oatmeal

Oats are a hearty
cereal grain
rich in fiber and antioxidants. They also
contain protein, some B vitamins and manganese (56).

Studies have shown that eating oats is associated with lower
“bad” LDL cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. A few
studies also suggest that eating oats may help with weight loss
(57, 58, 59).

Calories: 124 in 3/4 cup, cooked, or 71
calories per 100 grams, cooked.

33. Wild Rice

Wild
rice
is cooked and eaten much like regular rice. However,
it’s slightly lower in calories than white or brown rice.

Wild rice also provides fiber, protein, some B vitamins, zinc
and manganese (60).

Calories: 166 calories per cup, or 101
calories per 100 grams.

34. Quinoa

Quinoa
is a gluten-free pseudocereal that is often considered to be a
“superfood,” due to its nutrient and antioxidant content.

It contains more protein than most grains and also contains
several B vitamins, iron, magnesium and manganese (61).

Calories: 222 calories per 1 cup, cooked, or
120 calories per 100 grams, cooked.

35–36: Nuts and Seeds

Cashews, Almonds, Pistachios and Walnuts

In general, nuts
and seeds are high-calorie foods. However, they’re also highly
nutritious and should be included in your diet even if you’re
restricting calories.

35. Unsweetened Almond Milk

Almond milk is made from ground almonds and water.

It’s a popular substitute for those who are allergic to cow’s
milk, but it’s also significantly lower in calories than cow’s
milk.

The calcium content of almond milk is similar to cow’s milk,
and it is also high in vitamin E (62).

Calories: 38 calories per cup, or 17 calories
per 100 grams.

36. Chestnuts

Chestnuts are lower in calories than most other nuts. They’re
also high in fiber, vitamin C and folate (63).

Calories: 63 calories per ounce, or 224
calories per 100 grams.

37–40: Beverages

Glass of Water with Ice Cubes and a Blue Background

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the enemy of weight loss.
Alternatively, most sugar-free beverages are low in calories.

Always check
the label
to make sure your drink does not contain added
sugar. Additionally, fruit juices are high in sugar and should
be avoided.

37. Water

Water
is the best beverage you can consume, and it is always
calorie-free.

Calories: Zero

38. Unsweetened Tea

Unsweetened tea is calorie-free and also contains beneficial
plant compounds. Green tea, in particular, has been associated
with
all kinds of health benefits
(64).

Calories: Zero

39. Black Coffee

Sugary drinks from coffeehouses are loaded with calories. On
the other hand, black coffee is a calorie-free beverage that is

actually healthy
.

Interestingly, some studies have shown that coffee drinkers
have a lower risk of some chronic diseases (65, 66, 67, 68).

Calories: Zero

40. Sparkling Water

Sparkling water is a refreshing
and healthy alternative
to sugary soft drinks.

Most sparkling waters are simply water infused with carbon
dioxide, but check the label of your favorite brand to be sure
sugar has not been added.

Calories: Zero

41–42: Condiments

Glass Jug of Apple Cider Vinegar and a Plate with Apples on It

Some condiments are full of sugar and can add calories to your
meal. However, there are plenty of flavorful condiments to
choose from that are very low in calories.

41. Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to your food.
Several even have health
benefits
.


Cinnamon
, turmeric, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper are
spices that are particularly rich in antioxidants and
beneficial plant compounds.

42. Low-Calorie Condiments

Here are some condiments that pack a punch of flavor with very
minimal calories:

  • Vinegar: 3 calories per tablespoon (69)
  • Lemon juice: 3 calories per teaspoon
    (70)
  • Salsa: 4 calories per tablespoon (71)
  • Hot sauce: 0.5 calories per teaspoon
    (72)
  • Horseradish: 2 calories per teaspoon
    (73)

Take Home Message

A low-calorie diet does not have to be boring or bland. In
fact, there are plenty of healthy
foods
that are full of flavor but low in calories.

Consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods will ensure your
body is getting the nutrients it needs, and may also increase
your satisfaction with your diet.

Choose whole, unprocessed foods, which tend to contain the most
nutrients.

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