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Low-calorie doesn't have to mean low on flavour or nutrients. Fill your fridge with these healthy, calorie-friendly foods that support your health goals and weight-loss efforts! While zero-calorie doughnuts have yet to be invented, that doesn't mean your search for foods that fit nicely into your low-calorie diet or easily fill out the last remaining macros of your day, is at an end. After all, think of all that extra exercise you have to do to burn off a whole pizza or towering hot fudge sundae. Choosing the right low-calorie foods can tip the scales in your favour toward fat burning rather than fat accumulation.
While it's really a myth that certain foods have a strong "negative" caloric effect, meaning they burn more calories to digest than they contain, that doesn't mean the grocery store and farmers' market aren't stocked with plenty of nutritious foods that are very low in energy and cost you almost nothing calorie-wise. When you're mindfully watching your calorie intake to trim down your waistline, it's vital that you saturate your diet with plenty of edibles that don't leave you feeling hungry. After all, you don't want to be starving all day long.
The good news for your palate and muscles is that not all low-calorie grub is rabbit food. In fact, meat, dairy and other aisles in the supermarket are home to a number of items that, despite being light in calories, are heavy in important stuff like protein and good flavour. If you're looking for foods to munch on but can't spare too many calories, these edibles can help you get something for nearly nothing.
Watercress—4 calories per 1 cup - You need this low-calorie veggie in yourdiet: A study from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that, among items in the produce aisle, watercress is one of the most nutrient-dense, meaning that those diminutive green leaves provide lofty amounts of nutrients. Like other cruciferous vegetables, watercress also packs plenty of antioxidant power.
Arugula—5 calories per cup - This peppery green can fill out a salad or sandwich for very little calorie cost. What it lacks in calories, arugula makes up for with plenty of bone-strengthening vitamin K. Similar to other leafy greens, arugula can also be considered an antioxidant powerhouse. Look for it alongside other tender greens such as baby spinach at the grocer.
Celery—6 calories per stalk - It might not have been awarded the superfood status that has lead kale to be a regular fixture in the crispers of hipsters, but celery adds a lot of crunch to a calorie-controlled diet. It's an exceptionally high-volume food, meaning you can eat bushels of it without going into calorie overload.
Bok Choy—9 calories per 5 leaves - While kale and spinach might get all the press, this Asian green is a worthy addition to a calorie-controlled diet. This member of the cruciferous vegetable family is a nutritional standout with respectable amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A, disease-thwartingantioxidants. It also has a milder flavour than many dark leafy greens to appease picky eaters.
Radish—17 calories per cup - Delivering tempered peppery heat and great texture to dishes, radishes might be stingy when it comes to calories, but they supply good amounts of vitamin C. Our bodies require adequate amounts of vitamin C to support growth and repair of bodily tissues, including your expanding muscle mass. And don't forget the leafy green tops, which are very much edible and packed with a low-calorie nutritional windfall.
Zucchini (Courgette)—31 calories per medium zucchini - When it comes to "squashing" some of the calories from your diet, be sure to steer your grocery cart toward this veggie. Do so and you'll also take in a range of good stuff like hunger-quelling fibre, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin K and manganese.
Cucumber—22 calories per ½ cucumber - Cucumbers are about 95 percent water, which is why they're one of the lowest-calorie options in the produce department. This high amount of water can even help keep you hydrated and feeling full so you're less likely to give into cookie-jar temptation. For a little extra bit of fibre, leave your vegetable peeler in the drawer, since the peel is where much of the grit in a cucumber is found.
Plum—30 calories per plum - Their inherent sweetness is a great way to settle down a raging sweet tooth without any repercussions to your physique. What's more, even the supermarket standard is packed with antioxidants.
Grapefruit—37 calories per ½ grapefruit - It's time to pucker up if you're searching for a fruit that keeps sugar calories in check. As with other citrus, grapefruit is a vitamin C heavyweight. University of Arizona (Tucson) researchers determined that daily intake can help lower waist circumference, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, making it a ticker-friendly low-calorie fruit option.
Strawberries—49 calories per cup - Now ubiquitous in supermarkets year-round, strawberries are not only light in calories and high in fat-fighting fibre, they also supply a wallop of vitamin C. Studies suggest that higher intakes of vitamin C may make breathing easier during exercise, particularly in those who suffer from exercise-induced asthma.
Honeydew Melon—61 calories per cup - The sweet, juicy flesh of the honeydew melon contains few calories, but plenty of vitamin C and heart-protective potassium. Wedges are great as a stand-alone snack, but you can also work it into smoothies, yogurt, salsas and salads. If you have never bought this melon before, look for one that feels heavy for its size with a waxy rind. Avoid any with soft spots.
Blackberries—62 calories per cup - When it comes to berries, these are blackout good. Not only are blackberries light in calories, they're brimming with fibre, a whopping 8 grams per cup to help fill you up without filling you out.
Bulgur—76 calories per ½ cup (cooked) - Made from whole-grain wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and then cracked, the high amount of fibre in quick-cooking bulgur can help prevent your blood sugar from going on a roller coaster that can lead to sagging energy levels and cravings.
Soba Noodles—113 calories per cup (cooked) - Containing about 50 percent fewer starchy calories than whole-wheat spaghetti, this Japanese-style noodle gleaned from gluten-free buckwheat is more conducive to your six-pack pursuit. Just be sure to look for brands made with 100 percent buckwheat since it can sneak in some wheat flour, which will drive up the calories.
Teff—128 calories per ½ cup (cooked) - Ounce for ounce, this Ethiopian staple delivers fewer calories than other whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Because of its itsy-bitsy size, the bulk of the teff grain is mostly the bran and germ, the most nutritious parts of any grain. This makes diminutive teff a nutritional giant that's rich in a range of nutrients including fibre, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.
Wheat Bran—31 calories per ¼ cup - Think of flaky wheat bran as an easy way to add low-calorie nutrition to your diet. On top of a laundry list of nutrients including magnesium and B vitamins, the 6 grams of fibre in a quarter-cup serving can help you stay satisfied and slim.
Popcorn, Air-Popped—31 calories per cup - The butter-strewn offering from the multiplex is a calorie bomb, but when it comes to a low-calorie snack choice, air-popped popcorn is a definite waistline-friendly option. Since popcorn contains a lot of volume, it can fill you up on fewer calories than most snack foods.
Rice Cakes, Plain—35 calories per cake - When you're craving something crunchy, rice cakes can satisfy your need without a significant number of calories. Made from puffed brown rice, the cakes can also provide a source of whole grains and energizing carbohydrates. Avoid flavoured options to steer clear of sugars and other sketchy ingredients.
Shirataki Noodles—0 calories per 3 oz. - These translucent, gelatinous noodles are made from the powdered root of the Asian konjac yam plant. Consisting mostly of a highly soluble, indigestible fibre called glucomannan, shirataki noodles are virtually calorie-free.
Sandwich Thins—100 calories per thin (2 halves) - These flattish, slimmish rolls can save you plenty of starchy calories when making your lunch sandwiches and breakfast toast. Case in point: Two slices of regular bread can have twice as many calories. As with other bread products, look for thins that are made with 100 percent whole grains so you bite into extra hunger-fighting fibre.
Turkey Breast Deli Meat—72 calories per 3 oz. - When it comes to building your lunch sandwich, pile on this sliced meat for a low-cal option. Indeed, turkey breast is one of the leanest meats at the deli counter. To sidestep added sugars, be sure to avoid the honey-roasted versions.
Cod—70 calories per 3 oz. - It may not contain a boatload of calories, but the tender white flesh of cod delivers impressive amounts of selenium. Acting as an antioxidant, increased intakes of selenium may help reduce levels of oxidative stress and muscular damage associated with stiff workouts. If possible, source out cod that was caught in Alaskan waters, since it's one of the most sustainable options.
Mussels—73 calories per 3 oz. - Here's more proof that you should cast your line and reel in mussels! With 10 grams of high-quality protein in a serving, they offer an exceptional protein-to-calorie ratio. This is on top of the fact that they're very inexpensive, considered one of the most sustainable choices among your seafood options and deliver a dose of ultra-healthy omega-3 fats.
Turkey Legs—91 calories per 3 oz. - Time to embrace your inner Flintstone. This flavourful and low-calorie cut of poultry supplies an impressive 16 grams of protein in a mere 3-oz. serving to keep muscle growth going in full force. Just go easy on the fatty skin, since the calorie number above applies to just the meat.
Chicken Breast—92 calories per 3 oz. - It might not be the most exciting meat that you can toss in your grocery cart, but if you're looking for a huge amount of low-calorie, muscle-building protein, it's hard to beat reliable boneless, skinless chicken breast.
Pork Tenderloin—92 calories per 3 oz. - Pork tenderloin is a good value meat that won't put a significant dent in your daily calorie intake. It does, however, contain laudable amounts of thiamine, a B vitamin your body uses to convert the food you eat into energy to power you through a workout. And one should not overlook the protein windfall: 18 grams in a mere 3-ounce serving.
Eye of Round Steak—100 calories per 3 oz. - If you're on the hunt for an economical cut of beef that won't break the calorie bank, look no further than eye of round. Gleaned from near the rear legs of the cattle, or the "round," this red-meat option has a fantastic 6-to-1 protein-to-fat ratio, meaning it will help you better pack on the muscle. Marinating the meat prior to cooking can help tenderize it so it's less likely to dry out during cooking.
Silken Tofu—31 calories per 3 oz. - There are a wide variety of tofu textures available. Silken tofu, which can be available as "soft," "firm," or "extra firm," is a style of tofu that has not had much (if any) of its water pressed out, resulting in a custardy texture and lower-calorie brick than pressed, firm-style tofu.
Refried Beans—91 calories per ½ cup - Made up of mashed pinto beans, this Mexican staple delivers a wallop of hunger-quelling dietary fibre along with a range of must-have nutrients including magnesium, phosphorus, and energy-boosting iron.
Canned Kidney Beans—108 calories per ½ cup - Kidney beans are a quick way to add low-calorie plant protein and fibre to your diet. The protein and fibre in inexpensive kidney beans results in a slow burn of the complex carbs found in the legume for sustained energy and satiety levels. Some companies such as Eden Organics now offer canned kidney beans that are not packed in a salty liquid.
Lentils—115 calories per ½ cup - Few foods deliver as much nutritional bang for your buck as lentils. Not only are they stingy when it comes to calories, lentils supply plenty of muscle-sculpting protein, core-carving fibre and a laundry list of vitamins and minerals. And they're budget-friendly, too!
Liquid Egg Whites—25 calories per 3 tbsp - If you're looking for pure, low-calorie protein, consider picking up a carton of liquid egg whites. In recipes, you can use them like regular eggs (3 tablespoons equals 1 large egg) without the need for any cracking. The protein within egg whites is especially rich in essential amino acids, making them a muscle-building superstar.
Mozzarella, Part-Skimmed—71 calories per 1 oz. - Eat too much calorie-laden fatty cheese and your six-pack will very likely be a few cans short. But you can still have your cheese and eat it too if you keep a chunk of low-fat mozzarella in your fridge. Compared to regular cheddar cheese, part-skim mozzarella has about 61 percent fewer calories. Try it on your sandwiches, pizzas, tacos, and scrambled eggs.
Skimmed Milk—83 calories per cup - This great white lets you take advantage of the top-notch protein in moo juice minus the fatty calories. Each glassful also contains a trio of bone builders: calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. If you don't mind the splurge, opt for organic skim milk, which is sourced from cattle not pumped full of antibiotics.
Plain Non-fat Yogurt—137 calories per cup - Fat-free yogurt is a stellar way to add quality protein and beneficial bacteria called probiotics to your daily menu without the added calories found in higher-fat or sweetened varieties. Beyond the power to bolster your immune and digestive health, probiotics might even be an ally in the battle of the bulge!
Almond Milk, Unsweetened—30 calories per cup - This nutty, dairy-free alternative—which is made by grinding skinned almonds with water and filtering out the mixture, contains very little of the fat found in whole nuts, so it's a calorie-conscious option for your cereal, post-training shakes, or weekend stack of pancakes. Look for the word "unsweetened" on the carton as your guarantee that no sugars were pumped into the faux milk.
Powdered Peanut Butter—45 calories per tbsp - Brands such as PB2 make their powdered peanut butter by taking peanuts and pressing them to remove much of the fat. When mixed with water, the end result is a creamy spread with about half the calories of regular peanut butter. But similar to the regular spread, you still get the nutritional bonuses of protein and dietary fibre. You can even add the powder straight up to items like oatmeal and protein shakes!
Red Wine Vinegar—3 calories per tbsp - If you want to add a splash of flavour to dressings and sauces for essentially no calories, be sure to keep your pantry stocked with vinegars like red wine. Some research suggests that the acetic acid in vinegar can slow down digestion of a meal.
Thyme—3 calories per tbsp - Fresh herbs like thyme, basil, and dill are an excellent way to liven up dishes with bright flavour and very little calorie cost. These flavour boosters also contain an arsenal of antioxidants to help assure that your low-calorie eating plan is also a disease-fighting one.
Cinnamon—6 calories per 1 tsp - When it comes to oatmeal, smoothies and pancakes, cinnamon can help you go big on flavour without the calories. A number of studies, including a recent report in Nutrition Research, have linked cinnamon with improved blood-sugar control, which not only reduces the risk of diabetes but may also aid in satiety, improved energy levels, and less risk of fat storage on your midriff.