Eating healthy does not have to mean eating boring food and starving, counting down the minutes until your next meal. It took me years of trial and error to find certain tricks and foods that I enjoyed eating and helped me cut and then maintain my ideal weight. If one or two of the below tricks and foods helps you, you can be well on your way to a lasting change! I enjoy eating everything below and the low calorie density of these foods means that I can feel full while still remaining in a calorie deficit.
Low Fat Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt. I put that shit in everything. Greek yogurt first came onto my radar as a substitute for sour cream. It is almost indistinguishable and ⅓ of the calories. Plus, it is packed with protein so it will keep you full for longer.
Greek yogurt can be a delicious breakfast or dessert too with a couple simple additions. My personal favorite is adding a scoop of protein powder for flavor and some fresh fruit. This combo leaves me full for hours and I could eat it over and over again.
Greek yogurt can be used to replace ingredients in plenty of different dessert and baked goods recipes, like the following:
- Spinach Artichoke Dip (same flavor, ½ the calories)
- Brownies (swap the sugar for stevia to cut the calories even further)
- Protein Ice Cream (skip the freezer if you are impatient like me)
A ripe strawberry or watermelon is probably one of my favorite snacks. These two fruits are also some of the lowest calories fruits you can find. 100 calories is 15 medium sized strawberries or an average bowl size of watermelon.
These two fruits are a great way to have some guilt free sweet snacks without packing in the calories. Add these to a bowl of greek yogurt for a killer combo.
Plenty of fruits can fall into this category. Strawberry and watermelon are just my two favorites. Bags of frozen fruit are also a great thing to keep around and add to different meals, as long as you buy the bags that do not have sugar added. Frozen fruit has just as much, or even more nutrients than the fresh version due to it being frozen very quickly after being picked, locking in the nutrients
Smart Pop Popcorn
This popcorn is magical. The lowest calorie popcorn that I have found. A normal size bag is only 240 calories and they have 100-calorie snack sized bags. The amount of volume of food you get per the calories makes sure that you are full and satisfied while keeping your calories very low. The popcorn does have some flavor on its own, but I prefer to add stevia and cinnamon or salt and pepper to kick the flavor up without compromising the low calories. Try one of the low calorie butter seasonings like Moly McButter to add some of that delicious buttery goodness as well.
Your mom was onto something when she would tell you to finish your veggies. As long as you do not drench the vegetables in oils while you cook them, they have a low calorie density so you can eat a lot of them and feel full without packing in the calories. Properly prepared vegetables can be delicious and there are plenty of great low effort recipes online. Try experimenting with different seasonings on them. I have included a few of my favorites below. Give them a shot!
Bonus tip: Next time you sit down for a meal, try to fill ⅓ to ½ of your plate with vegetables and eat them first. This way you feel full before even eating your main course. I like to feel full when I eat and this helps me walk away from a meal satisfied while not eating too many calories. One of my favorite ways to do this has been to fill up ¾ of the container I bring for lunch with spinach, along with my main meal. The spinach then gets pseudo steamed while I heat up my meal in the microwave.
- Sheet Pan Brocolli (I throw baby carrots, frozen cauliflower, and frozen brussel sprouts on the sheet as well with this recipe)
- Sheet Pan Summer Veggies (really love the sheet pan for cooking a lot of veggies for multiple meals)
- Stir Fry (magic of stir fry is you can just add any veggies you might have into it and it will be delicious)
Zero Sugar Jello
This one might come across as a bit weird, but I spotted a 4-pack of jello that was bragging about being 5 calories per container at my local grocery store for $1 a pack. Being the thrifty shopper I am, I just had to give it a shot. I don’t know what I expected but it is 100% jello. It tastes just like its sugar laden counterpart. I like to keep a couple packs in my pantry for when I have a craving for something sweet. Now, instead of going out to grab something sweet, I can usually keep my cravings at bay by having one or two of these.
I love peanut butter (crunchy > smooth. Don’t @ me). However, peanut butter is one of those foods that is wayyyyy too easy to eat more calories than you think you are. One spoonful of peanut butter can easily be 200+ calories. I don’t know about you, but when I eat peanut butter, one spoonful is just not enough. For this reason, I have had to stop keeping peanut butter in my house to remove the temptation.
Even though standard peanut butter is usually off limits for me, I have found that using PB2 powdered peanut butter is a great way to add the flavor to some of my meals without risking overeating on calories. PB2 powder removes a lot of the fat content from the peanut butter, cutting it down to ⅓ of the calories. This allows me to get that peanut butter taste that I crave. You can mix PB2 powder directly into your meals or add a bit of water to get it back to a creamy peanut butter consistency. Give this a shot if you would be scared and alone without peanut butter, like me.
Low Calorie Condiments/Dressings
One place a lot of extra calories sneak into your diet without you realizing it is through condiments. Next time you go to use a salad dressing or sauce, take a lot at the calories and serving size on the back of the bottle. You can easily be adding 200+ calories to a meal without noticing it.
Now I am not saying to avoid using condiments. That would be crazy talk. I like it saucy as much as the next guy. However, now I seek out lower calorie dressings and condiments.
A good rule of thumb for salad dressings is that the less thick it is, the less calories it will be. Balsamic vinaigrette and italian dressing are usually my go to.
As for condiments, by aiming for no calorie sauces, no sugar ketchup, or a no sugar BBQ sauce,, you can cut out hundreds of calories from your diet. These condiments are not a fantasy and they do exist. I have links to some of my favorites below. They are delicious. I personally prefer G Hughes over many full sugar BBQ sauces and many of my friends agree.
Full disclosure: Some of these products, like the sauces and jello, use artificial sweeteners to gain their sweetness. Artificial sweeteners versus sugar is a whole other topic but my quick summary of current research is that they are no worse for you than sugar. I will be posting an analysis that draws from many research papers on the topic in the near future. Make sure you sign up for the monthly newsletter to find out when I post this article.
Disclaimer: the links for products on amazon are affiliate links and I will get a few shiny pennies and nickels if you buy from these links. Amazon has a lot of these overpriced and if you can find them at your local grocery store the price is usually better. These are all products I fully endorse and use myself, the links are meant to show you what they look like. If you do want to buy from amazon and throw me some shiny pennies, I won’t be mad though 😉