One of the most challenging aspects of weight loss is cutting back on the amount of calories you eat. Many low-calorie foods can leave you feeling hungry and unfulfilled between meals, making it much more tempting to overeat and indulge.
Fortunately, plenty of healthy foods exist that are both filling and low in calories.
Here are 10 low-calorie foods that are surprisingly filling and will help you on your path to weight loss.
1. Greek Yoghurt
Greek yoghurt is a great source of protein that can help curb cravings and promote weight loss.
Though the exact numbers vary between brands and flavors, a 2/3-cup (150-gram) serving of Greek yoghurt typically provides about 130 calories and 11 grams of protein.
One study in 20 women examined how a high-protein yoghurt snack affected appetite compared to unhealthy high-fat snacks like chocolate or crackers. Not only did the women who ate yoghurt experience less hunger, but they also consumed 100 fewer calories at dinner than those who ate crackers or chocolate.
Meanwhile, in another study in 15 women, high-protein Greek yoghurt helped reduce hunger and increase feelings of fullness compared to lower-protein snacks.
Berries—including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries—are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can optimize your health. Their high fiber content also boosts weight loss and reduces hunger. For example, 1 cup (148 grams) of blueberries supplies just 84 calories but packs 3.6 grams of fiber.
Berries are also a great source of pectin, a type of dietary fiber that has been shown to slow stomach emptying and increase feelings of fullness in human and animal studies. This could also help cut calorie consumption to aid weight loss.
One study noted that a 65-calorie afternoon snack of berries decreased calorie intake later in the day compared to a 65-calorie confectionery snack.
Eggs are extremely nutrient-dense and rich in many vital nutrients, making them one of the best low-calorie foods. A single large egg has approximately 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, and a wide array of important vitamins and minerals.
Studies suggest that starting your day with a serving of eggs can reduce hunger and boost fullness. In a study in 30 women, those who ate eggs for breakfast instead of a bagel experienced greater feelings of fullness and consumed 105 fewer calories later in the day.
4. Chia Seeds
Often hailed as a serious superfood, chia seeds pack a high amount of protein and fiber into a low number of calories. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of chia seeds provides 137 calories, 4.4 grams of protein, and a whopping 10.6 grams of fiber.
Chia seeds are especially high in soluble fiber, a type of fiber that absorbs liquid and swells in your stomach to promote feelings of fullness. In fact, some research observed that chia seeds can absorb 10 to 12 times their weight in water, moving slowly through your digestive tract to keep you feeling full.
Adding a serving or two of chia seeds to your daily diet can curb cravings and reduce appetite.
Fish is rich in protein and heart-healthy fats. For instance, a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cod provides over 15 grams of protein and under 70 calories.
Research points out that increasing protein intake can decrease appetite and reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger. What’s more, fish protein may be especially beneficial for reducing hunger levels and appetite.
One study evaluating the effects of beef, chicken, and fish protein showed that fish protein had the greatest impact on feelings of fullness.
To cut calorie consumption even further, opt for lean fish like cod, flounder, halibut ,or sole over higher-calorie options like salmon, sardines, or mackerel.
6. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a great source of protein and an excellent snack for those looking to lose weight. One cup (226 grams) of low-fat cottage cheese packs about 28 grams of protein and just 163 calories.
Multiple studies demonstrate that upping your protein intake from low-calorie foods like cottage cheese can decrease appetite and hunger levels.
What’s more, it has been found that cottage cheese and eggs had similar effects on fullness in 30 healthy adults.
7. Lean Meat
Lean meat can efficiently reduce hunger and appetite between meals.
Lean meats like chicken, turkey, and low-fat cuts of red meat are low in calories but loaded with protein. For example, 4 ounces (112 grams) of cooked chicken breast contains about 185 calories and 35 grams of protein.
Research suggests that insufficient protein intake could increase hunger and appetite, while eating more protein can reduce calorie intake and hunger levels. People who ate a high-protein meal including meat consumed 12% less food by weight at dinner than those who ate a high-carb, meatless meal.
Because of their high protein and fiber content, legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils are great low-calorie foods and can be incredibly filling. One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils provides about 230 calories, as well as 15.6 grams of fiber and nearly 18 grams of protein.
Legumes have a powerful effect on hunger and appetite. One study in 43 young men noted that a high-protein meal with beans and peas increased feelings of fullness and reduced appetite and hunger more than a high-protein meal with veal and pork.
Another review of nine studies reported that people felt 31% more full after eating pulses, a type of legume, compared to high-carb meals of pasta and bread.
Watermelon has a high water content to keep you hydrated and full while supplying a minimal number of calories. One cup (152 grams) of diced watermelon contains 46 calories alongside an assortment of essential micronutrients like vitamins A and C.
Eating foods with a low-calorie density, such as watermelon, has been shown to have similar effects on feelings of fullness and hunger compared to high-calorie-density foods.
Plus, foods with a lower calorie density have been linked to lower body weight and decreased calorie intake.
When it comes to dieting, broccoli is an all-star food with many health benefits. While low in calories, broccoli is rich in essential vitamins and minerals, in addition to fiber.
Raw broccoli contains almost 90% water, 7% carbs, 3% protein, and almost no fat, providing only 31 calories per cup (91 grams). It’s easy to see why broccoli is always the star of each diet.
Broccoli isn’t just low in calories, but it’s also packed with micronutrients. A cup of cooked broccoli offers as much vitamin C as an orange and is a good source of beta-carotene. Broccoli contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, too. It also provides fiber.
The Bottom Line
Cutting back on calories doesn’t mean you have to constantly feel hungry or unsatisfied between meals.
Eating a wide variety of filling foods with plenty of protein and fiber can fight cravings and decrease hunger to make weight loss easier than ever.
Paired with an active lifestyle and well-rounded diet, these low-calorie foods can keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day.
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Featured photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via unsplash.com