Much Ado About Calories
Any internet search and study about eating healthier and losing weight will eventually lead you to the word “Calories”. Any self-respecting weight loss article points to calories as a major component of making sure that their diet is effective in slimming people down.
So what is a calorie? A calorie is a unit of energy. Scientifically, a calorie is measured by the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. But what does that have to do with you and your weight-loss journey, you ask? (1) Calories are in every type of food! They’re in fats, proteins, carbohydrates, or sugars. Calories are important as it provides the energy we need to be able to live and function.
A calorie is not an inherently bad thing. What is important in your weight loss journey is being able to track or have an idea of the number of calories that you are consuming like the type of food that you eat and expending and or based on the activity level of an individual. Of course, a person who works in an office and doesn’t exercise will require remarkably less caloric intake to maintain their lifestyle.
Fun Fact: In 2008, Michael Phelps made headlines when he revealed that he used to eat 10,000 calories a day. An average person’s recommended calorie intake is around 2,000 calories a day. (2)
Not all foods are created equally. There are foods that have low calorie content while others are very heavy on calories like highly processed foods. For this article, we will be tackling low calorie but filling foods. Here’s a list of foods that will help you shoo away your cravings and lessen your food intake by focusing on those that are healthier and can keep you full.
Top 20 Filling Foods
Above everything else, water has no calories. Water also does not contain any fats, carbohydrates, or proteins. If you’re looking for a way to be able to effectively satiate yourself and get yourself over the cravings, the always reliable water is a smart go-to choice with its complete lack of calories.
There are also numerous additional benefits to drinking water such as aiding in digestion, preventing constipation, cushioning joints, protecting organs and tissues, regulating body temperature, carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells among others. With its wealth of health benefits, keeping hydrated with water is not only a smart weight loss solution, but also a smart overall health choice decision. (3)
2. Unsweetened Tea or Black Coffee
If ever you find that you want to drink something other than water, consider these alternatives instead. Depending on the tea leaves and the black coffee, one can get a variety of benefits.
Given the nutritional value jam-packed into an apple, the saying – an Apple a day keeps the doctor away may not just be a popular saying but a piece of viable health advice. The round red fruit is not only high in fiber and Vitamin C, they’re low in calories. A large apple would be a great snack that’s readily available for you that will satiate your appetite but not compromise your diet.
Don’t forget to eat the skin of the apple! It has been found that apples are high in polyphenols, which function as antioxidants. These antioxidants are not just in the meat of the apple but also the skin.
Calories: 130 per large apple (4)
4. Black Beans
If you’re looking for a diet staple, beans would be a great addition to your diet. Beans are great since they are a great source of protein. This is also the reason why they’re popular in vegetarian diets as they’re one of the easily available plant foods that have high protein content. Beans are an integral part of diet in some countries.
Beans also come in multiple varieties, in general, they’re packed with protein and fiber but are low in fat and calories. Depending on the variant of the bean they also have high nutritional value in the form of vitamins and minerals.(5) (6)
Calories: 114 calories per 1/2 cup (86 grams)
Lentils are not known to be light in calories. Lentils however have high nutrient content and also have the distinction of not only providing protein at 18 grams per cup but also carbohydrate at 40 grams per cup. A lot of the carbohydrates are in the form of fiber, which lowers calorie content as fiber is not easily digestible by humans.
With 1 gram of fat per cup, lentils are considered low in terms of fat content.
One of the advantages lentils have is that they pair well with dishes, serving lentils with chilled cucumber, olive, and a salad or with parsley and falafel is a quick and satiating meal. Lentils are a staple food in various parts of the world. (7)
Calories: 165 per 1/2 cup (142 grams)
Blueberries have recently jumped to renown after recent market trends have referred to them as superfoods. A claim that is actually supported by science, as it is found that blueberries are not only low in caloric content but are also packed with various vitamins and nutrients. They are a great source of several vitamins, antioxidants, and other important nutrients.
They might look unassuming as small, round, purple, or blueberries but they are a certified heavyweight when it comes to providing nutrients.
Blueberries are light in calories and fat and are mostly composed of carbohydrates, water, and a respectable amount of fiber. Among the vitamins and minerals that blueberries are reported to have are Vitamin K1 for blood clotting and bone health, Vitamin C for skin health and the immune system, and Manganese, an essential mineral needed for amino acid, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism. Reportedly, blueberries are also especially rich in antioxidants which may be a reason for their numerous health benefits. Research has also yielded that blueberries are great for the heart, brain, and blood sugar.
Calories: 84 per cup (147 grams) (8)
Popular diet food, celery, has always been a modern favorite as it is considered to be a low-calorie diet snack, the crispy and crunchy celery’s reputation is well earned. Just in case you need a quick refresher, here are some of their best features. It’s a great source of antioxidants, reduces inflammation, supports digestion, rich in vitamins and minerals with a low glycemic index. Don’t forget that when buying celery, look for ones with sturdy stalks and crisp leaves, best to eat them within five to seven days to ensure nutritional value. (9)
Calories: 6 per stalk (38 grams)
Also known as “Nature’s Multivitamin”, eggs have a reputation that they live up to. They contain antioxidants and strong brain nutrients that are much needed in people. Other than this, they’re very much loaded with nutrients such as Vitamin B12, B2, A and Selenium. Interestingly enough they’re also known to contain trace amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral needed by the human body. Eggs are also known to improve one’s cholesterol profile, by improving good cholesterol and having an effect on the risk of heart disease. They’re also loaded with Choline, an essential nutrient for the human body. It also contains essential amino acids as well as protein and antioxidants that are needed in protecting the eyes.(10)
Eggs are not only filled with all sorts of nutritional benefits, but they’re cheap and versatile, fitting in with all sorts of different food preparations and cooking food. It’s almost impossible to go wrong with adding eggs into your diet.
Calories: 72 per large egg (50 grams)
Cucumbers are great for your diet, they have large amounts of beneficial nutrients, plant compounds, and antioxidants. They are low in calories but include a multitude of important vitamins and minerals. Fun Fact: Don’t forget to eat the cucumbers with the peel to make sure you get the maximum amount of nutrients. Cucumbers have shown that they help lower blood sugar and may be able to prevent diabetes-related complications. They also have potent health benefits, affecting weight loss, hydration, and digestive regularity. They can also be turned into pickles which can help with your gut biome and probiotic health. (11)
Calories: 45 per cucumber (300 grams)
Full-fat yogurt is a popular and healthiest dairy product. It contains probiotics, which are live bacteria that are known to have beneficial health effects including the enhanced immune system, lower cholesterol, digestive health, and protection from diarrhea and constipation. One of the few downsides of yogurt is that in can negatively affect people who are lactose intolerant and have milk allergies. Keep in mind that it would best to consume yogurt that has limited sugar content. Go for Greek yogurt!
Calories: 137 per cup (245 grams) (12)
Cantaloupe is not at the top of the mind of most consumers when it comes to must-buy fruits. But it might be time to change that. Research into the fruit seems to have yielded that the unpopular variant of musk melon is a particularly good diet choice. It has Beta-carotene, even having more content than mangoes, peaches, oranges, Vitamin C, Folate, Fiber, and Potassium as well as trace amounts of different vitamins and minerals. Cantaloupe can be served as a smoothie, salad, sorbet, and even roasted!
Calories: 60 per cup (176 grams) (13)
Without a doubt, no movie night is complete without the presence of popcorn. Not a lot of people know that popcorn is actually a healthy snack alternative when air-popped and served without ingredients high in fat, salt, or sugar. It also has a lot of important nutritional value such as Vitamins B1, B3, B6, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, and Fiber. Do consider as well that prepackaged microwave popcorn may not be a healthy snack as one that is homemade, it may contain chemicals that are harmful as well as unhealthy trans fats, the same goes for popcorn you might buy at your local cinema due to the high amounts of unhealthy fats, artificial flavorings, and sugar and salt content.
Calories: 31 per popped cup (11 grams)(14)
Quinoa may be something you’re familiar with because of that one vegetarian friend you have that swears by it. You might be annoyed with them but they might be onto something. Quinoa is actually one of the few non animal sources of protein. A cup can easily provide around 8 grams of protein. The benefits don’t stop there! It contains all nine essential amino acids. These are critical in supporting muscled development and immune activity.
Quinoa also has a high fiber content as well as a source of antioxidants and nutrients like folate, iron, magnesium, and manganese. (15)
Calories: 222 per cooked cup (185 grams)
14. Steel Cut Oats
Although oats, regardless of variant, are a great and healthy way to start your day. We will have to make a small preference towards steel cuts oats. The least processed of the three main variants. Steel cuts oats have the lowest glycemic index as well as slightly higher fiber compared to the other variants.
Oats are also easy to pair with other healthy snacks for a very filling meal without harming your diet. Adding fruits or berries is a quick and easy way to your daily serving of oats exciting.
TIP: Make sure to avoid the sweetened variant as they are a likely source of excess sugar.
Calories: 124 in 3/4 cooked cup (175 grams)
It may be a fatty fish, but it’s swimming in nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. Due to how it is marketed, salmon is currently known as one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acid. Omega 3 fatty acids is great to have as it is known to help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and decrease risk factors for disease. Salmon is indeed a great source of lean protein! 100 grams of salmon is known to contain around up to 25 grams of protein.
Salmon also has several varieties of B vitamins which help in producing energy, controlling inflammation, and protecting heart and brain health. It also contains potassium which helps manage blood pressure and prevent too much fluid retention. Other key nutrients that salmon are known to have are, Vitamin D, Phosphorus, Vitamin A, and Astaxanthin. Consuming salmon also helps manage your weight loss journey by reducing your appetite, temporarily boosting metabolism, and decreasing
Calories: 99 in a 3-ounce (86-gram) serving (16)
16. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are low in calories, and rich in Vitamin C and other antioxidants. Bell peppers are mostly made up of water and carbohydrates with a majority of carbohydrates coming from glucose and fructose. They also provide a decent source of fiber and are loaded with vitamins and minerals, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K1, Potassium, Folate, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A. Fun fact: Bell peppers are so rich in Vitamin C that a single one is capable of providing up to 169% of the recommended daily intake.
Plant compounds such as capsanthin, violaxanthin, lutein, quercetin and luteolin are also found in bell pepper. These plant compounds and antioxidants are helpful in a variety of ways such as helping prevent chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer. It also helps in improving eye health and reducing the risk of anemia.
Calories: 37 per pepper (119 grams) (17)
Being fat-free, low in sodium, low in calories, and free of cholesterol, mushrooms almost sound like a dream food but its real and they’re not only healthy, they’re delicious as well! Not only that they also have antioxidants, beta-glucan – which helps improve cholesterol and strengthens heart health among other things, different variations of Vitamin B, copper for red blood cells, and potassium for heart, muscle, and nerve function,
Another great thing about mushrooms are their versatility, they’re not only easily prepared but they can also be prepared in all sorts of ways such as grilling, sauteing, and even roasting. You can also add them in your salads, sandwiches, and all sorts of snacks. They’re also popular side dish dishes such as steaks and burgers. (18)
Fun fact: Mushrooms are almost 90% water. (19)
Calories: 15 per cup (68 grams)
18. Chinese Cabbage
Originally cultivated in Asian countries, Napa Cabbage also known as Chinese Cabbage has proven not only to be a delicious addition to the kitchen but also a healthy one. Napa Cabbage is a great source of Vitamin B9, providing a great effect on the heart, circulatory system, and red blood vessels. It also provides a great source for Riboflavin, Pantothenic acid, and Thimin. Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Iron, Calcium, Manganese, Fiber, and Antioxidants. (20)
Calories: 12 per cup (75 grams) (21)
19. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
Who doesn’t like eating chicken? The good news, being on a diet doesn’t mean that you can’t eat meat anymore. Boneless, skinless chicken breast isn’t just a great source of protein, it’s also low in its caloric content when you trim out the skin and visible fat. An additional nutritional value such as Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Zinc can also be sourced from chicken breast.
Baking or stir-frying boneless, skinless chicken breast is a great way to prepare it to retain as much nutritional value and at the same time not add too many unnecessary calories to the meal.
Calories: 92 per 3-ounce (86-gram) serving
20. Low Fat Cottage Cheese
Cheese is surprising to see in lists of low calories. But when you factor in its low fat and carbohydrate content while still remaining high in protein, it’s easy to see why we couldn’t take it off the list. Just make sure to practice portion-control as it is quite easy to underestimate the amount you are using or consuming. (22)
Calories: 82 per 1/2 cup (114 grams) (23)
Keep a healthy body weight by consuming healthier food choices! Eat fewer calories and avoid saturated fat, processed foods, junk foods like potato chips, and more! Focus only on nutritious foods that are low in calories.