Low Calorie Filling Foods

Karen Frazier
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Trying to lose weight - or even eating a healthy diet - can leave you with an empty feeling in your stomach. Many low-calorie foods are simply not very satisfying. It's important to find filling foods that are also low in calories because they can help you to stay satiated and stay on track with your weight loss and overall goals for health.

Satiation

One of the keys to long-term success on any nutritional program is satiation. If you are not eating foods that keep you satisfied, you are far more likely to slip back into unhealthy eating habits. Finding foods that satiate can help to keep hunger at bay, and keep you on track as you progress toward your goals.

The key is to find low calorie food that keeps you satiated so you won't start making trips to the refrigerator 20 minutes after your last meal.

Finding Satiating Low-Cal Food that Fills You Up

While they may taste great when you eat them, some low-calorie meals and snacks can leave you hungry. Fortunately, there are a number of low-calorie foods that will help to satisfy your appetite.

Fiber

Fiber plays an important role in satiation. Choosing foods that are high in fiber can help give your food staying power. High fiber foods that fill you up include:

Food Serving Size Fiber (g) Calories Notes
Quinoa 1/2 cup 3 grams 111 Quinoa is also high in protein, making it a very satisfying grain.
Oats 1/4 cup 8 grams 160 Best choices are steel cut oats. Instant oats typically have added sugars. To sweeten, use a little cinnamon.
Barley 1/2 cup 3 grams 87 Whole barley is also referred to as pearl barley, and is the highest in fiber.
Whole wheat pasta 1 cup 6.3 grams 174 When served with a vegetable sauce containing high fiber veggies, whole wheat spaghetti is very satisfying.
Popcorn, air popped 3 cups 3.5 grams 93 As soon as you add butter or oil to popcorn, the calories go up. Try sprinkling with a little sea salt or nutritional yeast for flavor.
Lentils 1/2 cup 7.8 grams 113 Cooked in water
Lima beans 1/2 cup 7.6 grams 108 Cooked in water
Garbanzo beans 1/2 cup 5.3 grams 143 Cooked in water
Black beans 1/2 cup 6 grams 106 Cooked in water
Vegetables Varies Varies Varies See Vegetables below
Raspberries 1 cup 8 grams 64 raw
Blueberries 1 cup 4 grams 80 raw
Blackberries 1 cup 8 grams 70 raw
Strawberries 1 cup 2.4 grams 40 raw
Pear 1 medium 4 grams 100 Includes skin
Apple 1 medium 5 grams 80 Includes skin
Sweet potato 1 medium 4 grams 103 Baked, with skin
Bran flakes 3/4 cup 5 grams 96 Cereal
Fiber One 1/2 cup 14 grams 60 Cereal

Low-fat Dairy

Low-fat dairy such as skim milk, yogurt and fat-free cheese can keep you satisfied. The dairy protein found in these foods burns more slowly than carbohydrates, staying in your system longer and keeping your body from experiencing food cravings and premature hunger.

Food Serving Size Calories Protein (g) Notes
Nonfat milk 1 cup 86 8.5
Nonfat plain yogurt 6 ounces 82 8.2 Avoid sweetened or fruit on the bottom yogurts. Add fresh berries for a low-calorie, fiber filled snack.
Nonfat plain Greek yogurt 6 ounces 105 18
Fat-free cheddar 1 ounce 45 9 Cheese may be high in salt, so if you are on a sodium restricted diet, keep this to a minimum.
Skim mozzarella 1 ounce 79 8
Nonfat plain kefir 6 ounces 60 5.7

Low-fat Protein

Low-fat protein such as white meat chicken, turkey, egg whites, fish and lean cuts of meat have a slower burn rate than carbohydrates and can therefore be more satisfying. To keep proteins lower in fat and calories, use a dry heat cooking method such as grilling or steaming.

Food Serving Size Calories Protein (g) Notes
Halibut 3 ounces 119 23
Salmon 3 ounces 175 19
Trout 3 ounces 144 21
Shrimp 3 ounces 101 19.4
Tuna 3 ounces 156 25.4 Fresh
Tuna 3 ounces 98 21.7 Canned in water
Lobster 3 ounces 87 18.6 Boiled or steamed
Scallops 3 ounces 74 14.1 Steamed or grilled
Venison tenderloin 3 ounces 125 25.4
Pork tenderloin 3 ounces 122 22.2
92 percent lean ground beef 3 ounces 120 15.75 Drain fat after cooking
Chicken breast 3 ounces 139 27.3 Skinless and boneless
Turkey breast 3 ounces 85 14.6 Skinless and boneless
Ground turkey 3 ounces 85 14.6 Choose ground turkey made from skinless breast meat
Egg whites 3 48 10.8

Fresh Vegetables

Fresh vegetables - especially fibrous vegetables - are very satiating. Likewise, you can eat a large amount of fresh vegetables for a very low calorie count.

Food Serving Size Calories Fiber (g) Notes
Celery 3 stalks 30 3 Raw
Kale 1 cup, chopped 34 1.3 Raw
Spinach 2 cups 14 1.4 Raw
Swiss chard 2 cups 12 1.2 Raw
Broccoli 2 cups, chopped 60 4.6 Raw
Cauliflower 2 cups 50 5 Raw
Brussels sprouts 1 cup 65 6.5 Cooked, steamed
Green beans 1 cup 44 4 Cooked, boiled or steamed
Carrots 1 cup, chopped 52 3.6 Raw
Artichoke 1 medium 64 10.4 Boiled or steamed
Peas 1/2 cup 62 4.4
Sweet corn 1 cup 124 3.4
Tomatoes 1 small, whole 16 1.1
Cabbage 1 cup, chopped 22 2.2 Raw
Edamame 1/2 cup 90 2.5 Shelled
Zucchini 1 small 19 1.5
Mushrooms 1 cup, sliced 15 1
Pumpkin 1 cup, mashed 49 2.7
Acorn squash 1 cup, cubes 115 9

Nuts and Seeds

While not traditionally considered a low-calorie food, nuts and seeds are extremely satisfying. The secret is portion control. One ounce of peanuts has less than 200 calories, but can keep you satisfied for hours. Likewise, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter added to whole grain piece of toast adds less than 200 calories, but adding that peanut butter can keep you from getting hungry for hours.

Food Serving Size Calories Fiber (g) Notes
Almonds 1 ounce 160 3
Hazelnuts 1 ounce 170 4
Walnuts 1 ounce 195 2
Chia seeds 1 ounce 44 3 When soaked, chia seeds also expand into a gel which many find filling.
Sunflower seeds 1 ounce 166 2.5
Pumpkin seeds 1 ounce 157 1.5

High Water Content Foods

Foods with high water content can also be filling and low-calorie. This is because large volumes of water in the food take up space, making portions larger but less calorically dense.

Food Serving Size Calories
Watermelon 2 cups, diced 80
Cantaloupe 2 cups, balls 120
Honeydew 2 cups, balls 128
Iceberg lettuce 2 cups, shredded 16
Romaine lettuce 2 cups, shredded 20
Grapefruit 1/2 medium 60
Cucumbers 1 cup slices 16
Onions 1 cup, chopped 69

Low Calorie Foods that Aren't Filling

There are a number of low-calorie foods that just won't fit the bill. These foods leave your system quickly and leave you hungering for more. In fact, if you eat the wrong low calorie foods, you may wind up consuming more calories than you would have had you eaten a more satisfying food, like those listed above.

  • Simple carbohydrates, starches, and sugars can be low in calories. Unfortunately, your body burns simple carbohydrates so quickly you may eat more than you intended, or you may be left hungry soon after eating. There is also some evidence that sugar and simple carbohydrates can also trigger further food cravings in sensitive individuals. Simple carbohydrates include sugar, white flour, white rice and pasta, to name a few. Also included are "diet snack foods" like low calorie cookies and crackers.
  • Artificial sweeteners not only have no effect on satiation, but they may trigger cravings for sweets and simple carbohydrates.
  • Processed foods like snack crackers, low-fat cookies and baked potato chips may seem like a good idea because they are low in calories. However, your body burns through them quickly. Instead of eating a lot of low-calorie processed foods, stick to the low-calorie foods you will find around the edges of the grocery store in the dairy, produce and meat aisles.
  • Beware of low-calorie frozen entrees. While these meals may be low in calories, many contain simple carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners. Look for frozen entrees that feature lots of vegetables and whole grains over those with simple carbohydrates like pasta and rice.
  • Fruit, while an essential part of a healthy diet, burns out of your system extremely quickly because of the high concentration of fructose. By all means, eat fruit, but don't count on a piece of fruit to satisfy your hunger for long. Some low-glycemic fruits (listed above) may be more filling and less likely to leave your system quickly.
  • Potatoes and corn, while relatively low in calories, burn off quickly due to their relatively high starch rate.

Choosing Filling Foods

When you are dieting, the key to success is in the foods you eat. By selecting low calorie foods with a high satiation factor, you will be well on your way towards a healthier you.

Low Calorie Filling Foods