9 Low-Calorie Foods That Are Actually Filling

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Happy woman smiling in the kitchen looking in the fridge picking up lettuce or a healthy vegetable
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The key to losing weight — and keeping it off — is not skipping meals or starving yourself. Quite the contrary. The real trick is to focus on eating more nutrient-dense foods and fewer energy-dense foods. What’s the difference?

Nutrient-dense foods have a hefty supply of vitamins and minerals. But what makes these foods so satisfying is their water, fiber and protein content — all nutrients that slow down digestion and make you feel fuller for longer.

Whereas energy-dense foods are mostly fat and sugar. While fat can be filling, it’s also high in calories — 9 calories per gram compared with protein’s 4 calories per gram.

Once you understand the power of nutrient-dense foods, it’s easy to choose them. The tough part, however, is deciding exactly which snacks and staples to stock up on.

Following are some of the best low-calorie foods that fill you up. Be sure to put these at the top of your shopping list every week.


Man buying apples at a grocery store
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Apples are more than 86% water, which explains why they are such a filling, low-calorie snack you can enjoy anytime, anywhere.

That said, if there’s one ideal time to eat an apple, it would be before dining out. By pre-filling your belly with water and fiber, you’ll naturally eat less of the oversized restaurant meal without feeling deprived.


fresh artichokes at farmers market
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Artichokes have one of the highest concentrations of fiber. Just one medium artichoke supplies nearly 7 grams of fiber, which is approximately 25% of your daily needs. And because of its distinct nutty flavor, the artichoke doesn’t need much dressing up.

Keep the calories low by steaming a fresh artichoke and dipping the fleshy petals into a low-fat sauce. Too much work? Jarred artichoke hearts are a perfectly acceptable alternative, especially when you thoroughly drain and rinse them before eating.


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Whether you call them chickpeas or garbanzo beans, these legumes are a delicious and nutritious choice. Chickpeas offer plant-based protein, plus soluble and insoluble fiber.

Actually, all legumes are suitable for a healthy diet, in large part because of their fiber content. However, chickpeas are arguably the most versatile. They can be roasted for a crunchy snack, stewed in soup or blended into a Mediterranean-inspired dip.

Cruciferous vegetables

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Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, kale, arugula, bok choy and Brussels sprouts are all considered cruciferous vegetables. Compared with other vegetables, cruciferous vegetables are particularly high in fiber and low in calories.

These vegetables have also been well researched for various health benefits. For instance, broccoli consumption has shown to increase endocrine function, energy metabolism and gastrointestinal microbiota.


Sliced cucumber
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With fewer than 8 calories in a ½-cup serving, sliced cucumbers are virtually calorie-free. And since cucumbers are about 95% water, you will most certainly feel full and well-hydrated from a single serving.

Of course, most of that water is found in the flesh of the cucumber. Meanwhile, the peel contains all the vitamins, minerals and fiber you want. So, whether you’re eating cucumbers sliced, blended or quartered in a salad, leave the peel securely intact.

Egg whites

Egg whites separated from egg yolks for cooking with cracked eggshells in the background
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There’s nothing wrong with eating whole eggs (in moderation). In fact, the yolk supplies precious nutrients, such as choline, folate and vitamin A. But if your goal is to cut calories, cut out the yolk.

Egg whites offer a significant amount of satiating protein (about 26 grams per cup), plus key electrolytes sodium, potassium and magnesium. You’ll stave off hunger for hours and won’t have to worry about cholesterol — because there isn’t any.

Non-fat Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt
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Yogurt has long been known as a belly-friendly food, but it’s also kind to your waistline. Greek yogurt is a slightly superior choice, because it’s higher in protein and lower in sugar than regular yogurt.

Opt for the plain, nonfat variety to spare yourself calories while expanding your horizons. Unflavored, non-fat Greek yogurt can be used in place of mayonnaise in homemade chicken salad, blended into a smoothie for extra protein or substituted for sour cream in almost any recipe.


Women watching TV
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A family-size bag of chips has as many empty calories as it has excess air. Lightly salted popcorn, on the other hand, does not. According to The Popcorn Board, “air-popped popcorn has only 30 calories per cup.”

Even lightly buttered air-popped popcorn checks in at fewer than 100 calories per cup. Popcorn also serves up nutrient-rich whole grains, which even the lowest calorie baked chips will never have.

Spaghetti squash

spaghetti squash
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When fully cooked, spaghetti squash lives up to its name. The tough winter squash breaks down into stringy, noodle-like pieces that can easily fool you to believe they’re the real deal.

Unlike traditional pasta, however, spaghetti squash is made up of about 90% water. This means you get the consistency and satisfaction of spaghetti without the carbohydrate overload.

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