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Last Updated on December 17, 2020

10 Best Low Calorie Foods That Help You Lose Weight Fast

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10 Best Low Calorie Foods That Help You Lose Weight Fast

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.[1]

One study in 20 women examined how a high-protein yoghurt snack affected appetite compared to unhealthy high-fat snacks like chocolate or crackers.[2] 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.[3]

2. Berries

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.[4]

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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.[5] 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.[6]

3. Eggs

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

Adding a serving or two of chia seeds to your daily diet can curb cravings and reduce appetite.

5. Fish

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.

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Research points out that increasing protein intake can decrease appetite and reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

Multiple studies demonstrate that upping your protein intake from low-calorie foods like cottage cheese can decrease appetite and hunger levels.[14]

What’s more, it has been found that cottage cheese and eggs had similar effects on fullness in 30 healthy adults.[15]

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.

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Research suggests that insufficient protein intake could increase hunger and appetite, while eating more protein can reduce calorie intake and hunger levels.[16] 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.

8. Legumes

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.[17]

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.[18]

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.[19]

9. Watermelon

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.[20]

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.[21]

Plus, foods with a lower calorie density have been linked to lower body weight and decreased calorie intake.

10. Broccoli

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.

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Raw broccoli contains almost 90% water, 7% carbs, 3% protein, and almost no fat, providing only 31 calories per cup (91 grams).[22] 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.

More Weight Loss Tips

Featured photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Self-Nutrition Data: Greek Style Yoghurt
[2] Nutr. J.: Effects of high-protein vs. high- fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in healthy women.
[3] Appetite: Low, moderate, or high protein yogurt snacks on appetite control and subsequent eating in healthy women
[4] Self Nutritional Data: Raw Blueberries
[5] Journal of the American College of NutritionEffect of pectin on satiety in healthy US Army adults.
[6] Appetite: An afternoon snack of berries reduces subsequent energy intake compared to an isoenergetic confectionary snack.
[7] Self Nutritional Data: Egg, Whole, Raw, Fresh
[8] Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects.
[9] Self Nutritional Data: Seeds, Chia Seeds, Dried
[10] Journal of Food Science and Technology: Nutritional and therapeutic perspectives of Chia (Salvia hispanica L.): a review
[11] Self Nutritional Data: Fish, Cod, Pacific, Raw
[12] The Journal of nutrition: A comparison of the effects of beef, chicken and fish protein on satiety and amino acid profiles in lean male subjects.
[13] Self Nutritional Data: Cottage Cheese
[14] The American Journal of Clinical NutritionEffect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response.
[15] Appetite: The satiating effects of eggs or cottage cheese are similar in healthy subjects despite differences in postprandial kinetics.
[16] International Journal of ObesityEffects of a high-protein meal (meat) and a high-carbohydrate meal (vegetarian) on satiety measured by automated computerized monitoring of subsequent food intake, motivation to eat and food preferences.
[17] Self Nutritional Data: Lentils
[18] Food & Nutrition Research: Meals based on vegetable protein sources (beans and peas) are more satiating than meals based on animal protein sources (veal and pork) – a randomized cross-over meal test study
[19] Obesity (Silver Spring).Dietary pulses, satiety and food intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis of acute feeding trials.
[20] Self Nutritional Data: Watermelon
[21] Nutrients: Link between Food Energy Density and Body Weight Changes in Obese Adults
[22] Healthline: Broccoli 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

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Published on August 24, 2021

What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts
  • Water

This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

What Is a Whole Food Diet?

By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

  • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
  • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Berries five times a week
  • Five or more servings of nuts a week
  • Olive oil five times a week
  • Whole grains five times a week
  • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
  • Legumes and pulses five times a week
  • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
  • Vitamin D supplement
  • Minimally processed foods
  • No more than one glass of wine a day
  • One or two coffee or tea a day max
  • Two liters of water a day

That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

Whole Foods and the Gut

Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

Whole Foods and the Brain

The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains

Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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1. Practice Batch Cooking

Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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Reference

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