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 favor toward fat burning rather than fat accumulation. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of the 40 best foods from different aisles in your grocery store. There’s even a handy list for you to print out!
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. In fact, of the 40 foods profiled here, 35 contain 100 or fewer calories per serving!
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 flavor.
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 your diet: A study from the Centers 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.1 Like other cruciferous vegetables, watercress also packs plenty of antioxidant power.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 diced pears, 1 diced white potato, and 1 tablespoon chopped ginger to pan; heat 2 minutes. Pour in 4 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
Add 2 bunches watercress, 2 tablespoon red vinegar, and 2 tablespoon fresh tarragon to pan. Heat 5 minutes, stir in juice of 1/2 lemon, and puree soup. Return to pan, stir in 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, and heat 2 minutes.
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.
For a quick lunch sandwich, toast a couple sandwich thins. Spread Dijon-style mustard on one toasted thin and top with sliced prosciutto, sliced apple, a handful of arugula, and the remaining bread thin.
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.
For an insignificant amount of calories you get healthy amounts of vitamin K, a must-have nutrient associated with lower risk of death from diseases like heart disease.2
Spoon up some tummy-filling chicken noodle soup. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion, chopped carrot, and chopped celery to pan and heat until onion has softened.
Add 4 cups chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 tespoon chili flakes. Simmer until veggies are tender, then stir in sliced cooked chicken, cooked soba noodles, and fresh thyme.
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-thwarting antioxidants. It also has a milder flavor than many dark leafy greens to appease picky eaters.
Separate bok choy leafy tops from their stalks and roughly chop leaves. Thinly slice the stalks. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add bok choy stems, 2 chopped shallots, and 2 sliced garlic cloves; heat 3 minutes or until stems are tender.
Stir in bok choy leaves and 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest; heat just until the leaves have slightly wilted. Remove from heat, stir in 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and season with salt to taste.
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.
Toss 1 pound halved radishes with oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and heat in the oven at 400 degrees F for 35 minutes or until wrinkled and tender, stirring once halfway. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt, 1 teaspoon curry powder, and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Serve roasted radishes with yogurt sauce.
ZUCCHINI 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 fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and manganese.
Using a serrated vegetable peeler or sharp knife, slice zucchini into long noodle-like strips and sauté for a couple of minutes in olive oil. Top cooked zucchini noodles with a tomato meat sauce for a low-carb riff on pasta night.
CUCUMBER 22 CALORIES PER 1/2 CUCUMBER
Cukes 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 fiber, leave your vegetable peeler in the drawer, since the peel is where much of the grit in a cucumber is found.
For a no-fuss salsa, combine chopped cucumber with diced bell pepper, cubed avocado, minced jalapeno pepper, chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, and a couple pinches salt. Serve over cooked fish.
PLUM 30 CALORIES PER PLUM
Bob Dylan famously sang, “Everybody must get stoned.” If he was referring to eating copious amounts of this low-calorie stone fruit, then good on you, Mr. Dylan! 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.
Add 4 pitted and sliced plums, 1/2 cup port wine, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, 1 teaspoons fresh thyme, 1 teaspoons grated orange zest, 3 whole cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a medium-sized saucepan.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until plums soften (about 12 minutes). Serve over grilled chicken breast.
GRAPEFRUIT 37 CALORIES PER HALF 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.3
For a washboard-friendly side dish, segment a red grapefruit over a bowl and reserve any juices. Combine grapefruit segments, sliced avocado, and thinly sliced fennel. Stir together reserved juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a couple pinches salt and pepper. Toss dressing with salad and garnish with fresh mint.
STRAWBERRIES 49 CALORIES PER CUP
Now ubiquitous in supermarkets year-round, strawberries are not only light in calories and high in fat-fighting fiber, 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.4,5
What’s more, a 2014 Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry study found that eating plenty of the rosy fruit and the payload of antioxidants it delivers may help keep coronary woes at bay by improving blood cholesterol numbers.6
For a tasty riff on the ultra-nutritious Spanish soup known as gazpacho, blend together 1/3 cup water, 1 cup strawberries, 3 medium-sized tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 cucumber, 2 scallions, 1/3 cup fresh mint or basil, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
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.
For a refreshing salad, toss baby spinach together with cubed honeydew melon, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, crumbled feta cheese, and toasted almonds.
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 fiber—a whopping 8 grams per cup to help fill you up without filling you out.
By slowing down digestion, a high-fiber diet is essential to helping you feel full, and a primary reason why roughage has been shown to contribute to shedding body fat.
Other items that contribute to blackberries’ impressive nutritional resume are antioxidants and vitamin K.
Place 2 cups blackberries, 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
Dissolve 2 teaspoons cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water, stir into blackberry mixture, and heat 1 minute. Serve this sauce over oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, cottage cheese, or yogurt.
BULGUR 76 CALORIES PER 1/2 CUP (COOKED)
Made from whole-grain wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and then cracked, the high amount of fiber 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 for nutritional dreck.
For a calorie-controlled breakfast porridge, bring 2 cups water, 2 cups low-fat milk, 1 cup bulgur, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the bulgur is tender and the consistency of oatmeal, 10-15 minutes.
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.
Cook soba noodles according to package directions (unlike normal pasta, be sure to rinse well after cooking), and then toss with cooked salmon, cooked peas, sliced carrots, and chopped scallions. Season with a dressing made with soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and a hot sauce like Sriracha.
TEFF 128 CALORIES PER 1/2 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 fiber, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Teff has a malty-nutty taste, and because it expunges its starch during cooking, you can use it to make calorie-controlled puddings, riffs on polenta, or a breakfast porridge similar in consistency to Cream of Wheat.
For a physique-friendly pudding, bring 2 cups water and 1/2 cup teff to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until the water has absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Let teff cool, then puree with 1 ripe banana, 1/3 cup light coconut milk, 3 tablespoons molasses or maple syrup, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a blender or food processor. Chill for 2 hours or more before serving.
WHEAT BRAN 31 CALORIES PER 1/4 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 fiber in a quarter-cup serving can help you stay satisfied and slim.
To make tasty wheat-bran cakes, stir together 1/2 cup wheat bran, 1/2 cup oat flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Combine 1 whisked egg with 1 cup low-fat milk. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and drop 1/4 cup batter for each pancake into a hot skillet.
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.
For an Asian-inspired snack, stir together 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, and grated zest of 1 lime. Toss spice mixture with popped popcorn.
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 flavored options to steer clear of sugars and other sketchy ingredients.
For a quick snack, slather some low-fat ricotta cheese on a rice cake and top with blackberries!
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 fiber called glucomannan, shirataki noodles are virtually calorie-free.
They have a rather nondescript taste, but they soak up the flavors of accompanying sauces and spices beautifully. You can find shirataki noodles in liquid-filled bags at Asian markets and an increasing number of local grocery stores.
For a quick side dish, prepare shirataki noodles according to package directions, then toss with prepared pesto and halved cherry tomatoes.
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 fiber.
Make near-instant individual pizzas by topping toasted sandwich thins with tomato sauce, cooked Canadian bacon, and shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese. Microwave until cheese has melted.
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.
For a quick, six-pack-friendly snack, slice vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and cucumber into matchsticks. Spread some Dijon mustard on turkey slices, top with sliced veggies, and roll.
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.7 If possible, source out cod that was caught in Alaskan waters, since it’s one of the most sustainable options.
Blend 2 cups arugula, 1/2 cup parsley, 1/3 cup almonds, 1 chopped garlic clove, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 cup olive oil in a food processor or blender until well combined. Serve over pan-seared cod.
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.
A European Journal of Sports Science study suggests getting your fill of omega-3 fats may help bolster exercise performance by improving blood flow, maximum oxygen uptake by working muscles.8
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet. Sauté a chopped onion and 3 minced garlic cloves until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup white wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes.
Add 1 pinch halved cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon each red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper to the skillet. Simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 4 minutes.
Add 2 pounds mussels to the skillet, cover, and steam for 8 minutes or until they open. Discard any that remain shut.
TURKEY LEGS 91 CALORIES PER 3 OZ.
Time to embrace your inner Flintstone. This flavorful 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.
Braising turkey legs in liquid will convert the abundant amount of connective tissue to gelatin, which helps lubricate meat, making it tender and lip-smacking moist.
Heat oil in a skillet large enough for the turkey legs to fit comfortably in over medium-high heat. Season turkey with salt and pepper. Add legs to the pan and brown on both sides, about 6 minutes. Remove legs from pan and reduce heat to medium-low, adding more oil if needed. Add 1 sliced leek, 2 sliced garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon chopped ginger; cook 5 minutes, stirring often, or until leeks have softened and browned.
Add 1-1/2 cups chicken broth to pan and scrape up any brown bits from bottom of pan. Stir in 1 cup orange juice, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, 3/4 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Return turkey legs to pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to reach a mild simmer, and cook covered for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until meat is very tender, flipping drumsticks every 30 minutes.
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.
High-protein intakes can help in the battle of the bulge in two ways: by keeping you feeling satiated, and by increasing the thermic effect of feeding, which is the amount of calories you burn by simply digesting food.
To keep chicken breast moist, try poaching it. Place breasts in a large pot and add enough water to completely cover by at least 1 inch. Bring water to a very slight simmer with just a few bubbles breaking the surface.
Do not boil! Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until meat is cooked through. Adjust heat as needed during cooking to maintain the slight simmer, and skim off any foam that forms.
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.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan. Cook 1 diced onion, 1 pound of sliced pork tenderloin, and 2 minced garlic cloves for 5 minutes. Pour in 1 cup red wine and simmer 5 minutes. Add one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, 1 cup water, 1 cup brown rice, 1 diced green bell pepper, 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each cayenne, salt, and pepper. Simmer until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
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.
In a shallow baking dish or container, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, juice of 1 lime, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder. Add 1-1/2 pounds eye of round, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, flipping once. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat.
Remove steak from marinade, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning once, about 8-10 minutes total for medium rare. Let steak rest 10 minutes, then cut thinly across the grain. Try serving in tacos.
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.
While not a candidate for stir-fry, silken tofu works well in blended dishes like puddings, smoothies, dips, and salad dressings to keep calories in check and to supply a source of fairly high-quality plant-based protein.
To make a low-calorie post-training shake, try blending together 1 cup coconut water, 3 ounces silken tofu, 1 scoop protein powder, 2 tablespoon ground flax seed, 1 cup frozen mango cubes, and 1 teaspoon fresh ginger.
REFRIED BEANS 91 CALORIES PER 1/2 CUP
Made up of mashed pinto beans, this Mexican staple delivers a wallop of hunger-quelling dietary fiber along with a range of must-have nutrients including magnesium, phosphorus, and energy-boosting iron.
Just be sure to read the ingredient list on the can and be sure that no fats are added.
Stir together refried beans, chipotle chili powder, cumin powder, and fresh lime juice.
Spread on toast and top with a poached or fried egg.
CANNED KIDNEY BEANS 108 CALORIES PER 1/2 CUP
Kidney beans are a quick way to add low-calorie plant protein and fiber to your diet. The protein and fiber 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.
For a hunger-squashing lunch salad, stir together a drained and rinsed can of kidney beans with chopped bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, and parsley. Toss with a lemon dressing.
LENTILS 115 CALORIES PER 1/2 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 fiber, and a laundry list of vitamins and minerals. And they’re budget-friendly, too!
For a veggie burger that doesn’t suck, place 1-1/4 cups dried green lentils in a medium-sized saucepan with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside to cool. Add lentils to a food processor and pulse until most of the lentils are broken down but not until completely smooth.
Add 1/2 cup quick-cook oats, 4 ounces soft goat cheese, 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, 1/3 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 chopped garlic clove, and salt and black pepper to taste; pulse until well combined.
Form mixture into 6 equal-sized patties and cook in a greased skillet.
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.
The egg whites are pasteurized, meaning that you can eat them straight from the carton, so consider using them to add a protein boost to smoothies.
Heat 1/2 cup liquid egg whites, 1 chopped zucchini, and 1 cup chopped plum tomatoes in a skillet until egg whites are set, stirring often. Season this low-cal scramble with hot sauce.
MOZZARELLA, PART-SKIM 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.
Make a caprese pasta salad by tossing together cooked whole-grain penne pasta with flaked canned albacore tuna, diced part-skim mozzarella, sliced cherry tomatoes, and chopped fresh basil. Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Toss dressing with salad.
SKIM 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.
Make no-cook oats by stirring together 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup plain or vanilla protein powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons chia seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir in 2/3 cup skim milk, and top with sliced strawberries and chopped nuts. Cover and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.
PLAIN NONFAT 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!
Place 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 avocado, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon chipotle or ancho chili powder, and a pinch of salt in a container and blend until smooth. Use as a sauce for tacos, sliced steak, or fish.
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.
Recharge after a workout by blending together 1 cup almond milk with 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt, a couple tablespoons powdered peanut butter, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 cup frozen strawberries.
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 fiber. You can even add the powder straight up to items like oatmeal and protein shakes!
Reconstitute powdered peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon according to package directions and spread between celery sticks for a snack that’ll make you feel like a kid again.
RED WINE VINEGAR 3 CALORIES PER TBSP
If you want to add a splash of flavor 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, which works to improve blood-glucose control and bolster satiety.9
For a tasty salad dressing, blend together equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar with chopped shallot, chopped garlic, Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, salt, and black pepper.
THYME 3 CALORIES PER TBSP
Fresh herbs like thyme, basil, and dill are an excellent way to liven up dishes with bright flavor and very little calorie cost. These flavor boosters also contain an arsenal of antioxidants to help assure that your low-calorie eating plan is also a disease-fighting one.
Stir together 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, grated zest of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Use as a rub for chicken, steak, or pork.
CINNAMON 6 CALORIES PER 1 TSP
When it comes to oatmeal, smoothies, and pancakes, cinnamon can help you go big on flavor 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.10
For a pudding with less gut-busting consequences, heat 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just under a simmer. Remove pan from heat, add 3 ounces chopped dark chocolate and 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, and let sit for 5 minutes.
Stir until chocolate is smooth. Stir in 2 teaspoon grated orange zest, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder. Place chocolate mixture, 1 package silken tofu, and 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Chill pudding for at least 2 hours before serving.