If you're looking to follow a healthy diet, you'll want to fill your kitchen with high-fiber, low-calorie foods. Not only does fiber help to fill you up and aid with digestion, it also may reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Foods that are low-calorie help to promote weight loss and tend to be lower in fat and sugar. High-fiber, low-calorie foods are naturally delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet.
Fruit is low in calories, usually 100 calories or less per serving, and is high in fiber and many essential vitamin and minerals. Some fiber-filled options include apples, bananas, pears, oranges and berries. Blueberries, for example, contain 4 grams of fiber and 84 calories per cup. Adults should aim to get 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit per day, while children need 1 to 2 cups per day. Top yogurt with sliced berries for a tasty breakfast, snack on a banana when hunger strikes or reach for grapes or pineapple for a sweet after-dinner treat.
Like fruit, vegetables are nutrient-packed. They are very low in calories, yet extremely filling due to their high fiber content. Spinach, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, sweet peppers and tomatoes are some healthy options to choose from. One small sweet potato, for example, contains 3 grams of fiber and 87 calories. Adults need at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day, and children need 1 to 3 cups per day. Include a variety of vegetables in meals, such as baby carrots and cucumber slices for lunch and a green salad and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner. In addition, you can snack on veggies, like bell pepper strips, with a little low-fat dip.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes, like black beans, chickpeas and lentils, are low-calorie, high-fiber foods that are an excellent source of protein and high in many important vitamins and minerals. Lentils, for instance, contain 8 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein in a 110-calorie, 1/2-cup serving. Beans and legumes are inexpensive and versatile. Use cannelloni beans, kidney beans and lentils in soups and chili. Top salads with chickpeas and add black beans to tacos.
Packed with fiber and high in protein, iron and B vitamins, whole grains provide a healthy, low-calorie addition to your diet. Oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice and whole-wheat bread are a few options to try. One cup of cooked oatmeal provides 143 calories and 4 grams of filling fiber. Start your day with whole-grain cereal like oatmeal. Use whole-grain bread, pitas or wraps for your lunchtime sandwich. Include a side of brown rice, wild rice or quinoa at dinner time. Swap out your usual pasta, pizza crust and tortillas for the whole-grain varieties.
A low-calorie diet can be a successful weight-loss strategy, because losing weight requires you to consume fewer calories than you expend. Limiting your food intake to cut calories, however, can leave you feeling hungry. Reduce your hunger by choosing high-fiber, high-protein foods. Keep in mind that a balanced diet, which includes some healthy fats, is best for long-term weight control and health.
Go for Vegetables
Vegetables are the lowest-calorie food group and the foundation of a nutritious low-calorie diet. Their high water content and dietary fiber makes them filling options. Green salads for a main course or on the side can fill you up without providing many calories. Raw vegetables with low-calorie dips are filling snacks and portable lunch options. Cooked vegetables in scrambled eggs, an omelet or a breakfast burrito at breakfast, or in casseroles, sauces and stews at dinner, can make your meal bigger without adding many calories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reach for Fruit
Most fruit is low-calorie and high-fiber. Keep a bowl of ready-to-eat fruit on the counter or the refrigerator so that you reach for fruit instead of high-calorie snacks, such as cookies or chips. Include fruit in a meal to reduce your calories from other sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests serving yourself less cereal and filling your bowl instead with fruit, which is lower-calorie. Stewed apples or pears with cinnamon, fresh fruit salad, and grilled peaches with orange juice and ginger are ideas for desserts that are lower in calories and higher in fiber than cakes and pies.
Fat-Free Yogurt Ideas
Fat-free yogurt is a source of high quality protein, which is a hunger-suppressing nutrient that delays food from emptying from your stomach so you feel full for longer after a meal. Greek yogurt is higher in protein than regular yogurt, and it has a thicker, creamier texture. Choose plain yogurt instead of flavored yogurt sweetened with sugar, which has extra calories and no extra nutrients. Yogurt with fruit and oatmeal can be a nutritious, low-calorie breakfast or snack. Eat it plain or use it as a dip for vegetables.
Beans, Peas and Lentils
Cooked legumes -- beans, peas and lentils -- are nutritious and low-calorie. A half cup of legumes provides 100 to 130 calories; 7 to 9 grams of protein; and 4 to 7 grams of dietary fiber. They are sources of iron, zinc, potassium and folate. Feature beans as protein sources in vegetarian dishes, such as burritos, salads with beans and bean burgers. Lentil and pea soups are filling meals that can be low-calorie. Add vegetables -- such as celery, kale and onions -- to make them higher in fiber and more filling, but not much higher in calories.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Eat More - Weigh Less?
- USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Much Fruit Is Needed Daily?
- USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily or Weekly?
- Whole Grains Council: Whole Grains - An Important Source of Essential Nutrients