Low-Cal Foods That Keep You Full
These ingredients might be low in calories, but they're surprisingly effective at keeping hunger pangs at bay.
One of the biggest problems dieters face is constantly feeling hungry. If you're cutting the normal amount of calories you usually eat per day as part of a healthy diet for weight loss, it's inevitable that your body will feel hungrier, especially in the beginning stages. The good news is that certain foods are chemically engineered to keep the body full, and not all of them are high in calories and fat. Below, our top low-calorie ingredients guaranteed to keep you way more full than standard diet fare like celery and dip.
When looking for low-calorie foods that will fill you up, focusing on protein is a great place to start, and few ingredients are as much a protein powerhouse as the egg. One large egg contains only 78 calories but 6 g of protein, about a 1/7 of your average daily requirement. Eggs also contain virtually no carbs, so are a great option for those on low-carb or other restrictive diets. If you want to cut down on the calorie intake even more, just get rid of the yolks-- the egg white contains only about a 1/5 of the egg's total calories but 2/3 of its total protein.
Chia seeds are a great option for vegan and vegetarian dieters to stay energized for a relatively low amount of calories. Just one 28 oz. serving contains 4.4 g of protein for just under 140 calories, which is pretty impressive for a plant food. Chia seeds are also incredibely rich in soluble fiber, containing a whopping 10 g per serving. Along with protein, fiber and especially soluble fiber is another nutrient you want to look out for if you're reducing your calories, as it expands in the stomach as it absorbs water, therefore creating a feeling of fullness. In fact, in a small 2017 study, participants who consumed a serving of chia seeds every day reported lower levels of hunger and feeling fuller for longer than those who didn't eat chia seeds.
If you're looking for the perfect filling low-cal snack, look no further than popcorn. One cup contains only 31 calories and an impressive 1.2 g of dietary fiber, which helps keep you full for longer. When compared to other snack foods especially, there's no comparison. One cup of potato chips contains 5 times the calories and yet studies indicate do a lot less to keep you full. One 2012 study found that participants who ate 100 calories worth of popcorn reported feeling fuller and more satisfied than those who consumed 150 calories worth of potato chips. Remember that these impressive benefits only apply to air-popped popcorn made without the use of fatty oils, and without any additional caloric toppings like butter.
Lean meats like chicken and turkey are packed with protein but relatively low in calories, making them the perfect filling food if you're trying to cut calories. One 140 g serving of chicken breast contains just 231 calories and 5 g of fat but 43 g of protein, almost the full daily requirement. While fattier red meats like steak also contain large amounts of protein, they tend to come in higher on the fat and calorie count. 140 g of steak, comparatively, actually contains 5 g less of protein than the same amount of chicken breast, but comes in at 353 calories and 8 g of fat. White and fatty fish are also great sources of lean protein for a relatively low amount of calories.
This one might be obvious, but we can't stress it enough: if you're cutting calories and trying to stay full, water is your biggest ally. Water takes up space in your stomach, for one, tricking your body into thinking your full when you're not. Experts say that the body can also easily confuse hunger with thirst; if you have a hunger pain, chances are you might just be thirsty. Drinking enough water also keeps your body functioning smoothly, including systems necessary for weight loss, like the metablism and digestive system.
Oats tick all the boxes when it comes to staying full on a diet; they're high in protein and high in fiber but low in fat and calories. Just one cup of cooked oatmeal contains 6 of protein and 4 g of fiber for just under 160 calories. In fact, a study at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that participants who consumed a serving of instant oatmeal each morning felt decreased desire to eat more compared to participants who ate a serving of cold breakfast cereal.
Salad greens like kale, romaine lettuce, arugula and spinach should be a mainstay in your refrigerator if you're cutting down on calories. This is because they are all low high-volume, low-calorie-density foods, ie foods that contain a relatively low amount of calories for their portion size. Weight loss experts have long championed foods with low-calorie densities as helpful to weight loss, as they take up space in the stomach without imbuing the body with a high amount of calories. Leafy lettuces are also high in fiber, which also helps keep you full for a long time.
Watermelon is the ultimate high-volume, low calorie-density food. This is because watermelons are almost entirely made of water; up to 90% of their weight in most cases. This means that a full pound of watermelon comes in at just a teensy 140 calories. While watermelon doesn't have many nutrients to offer, all that water in your stomach will keep you full for a long time, not to mention offer some diet-friendly hydration.