When you think "diet foods," you likely picture celery. And while celery has plenty of weight loss benefits that make it an effective diet food, that doesn't mean you're stuck eating endless amounts of plain celery sticks while you lose weight. Pair celery with other healthy ingredients to make flavorful snacks and meals, and add it to your favorite recipes so you can enjoy a larger portion size without many extra calories.
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Low in Calories for Weight Loss
Celery has a reputation as a diet food for a reason -- it's incredibly low in calories, so you can enjoy it without putting much of a dent in your daily calorie "budget." A cup of chopped raw celery has just 16 calories, which is just 1 percent of the daily limit in a 1,500-calorie diet, and each large celery stalk has just 10 calories. Boiled celery has slightly more calories, at 27 calories per cup, but this still takes up less than 2 percent of your daily calorie budget on a 1,500-calorie diet.
Cutting calories is essential for weight loss, and replacing higher-cal foods with celery helps you lower your calorie intake to lose weight.
Other Weight Loss Benefits of Celery
Celery offers essential nutrients that support your weight loss journey. For example, it contains dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrate that might help control your appetite. Despite not having any calories itself, fiber absorbs water to help fill your stomach, and fiber-rich foods tend to require more chewing, so you slow down and savor your meal instead of chowing down quickly and accidentally eating too much. Even though a cup of raw celery takes up about 1 percent of your daily calorie intake, it offers 6 percent of the daily value for fiber. Boiled celery is higher in fiber, offering 10 percent of the daily value per cup.
Eating celery also boosts your intake of essential vitamins to keep you active and healthy as you lose weight. You'll get a generous amount of vitamin K -- 37 percent of the daily value for a cup of raw celery, and 71 percent for the same-size serving of boiled celery -- which helps your blood clot, plus it supports bone health. And celery also provides potassium, which helps your nerves function and supports cardiovascular health. A cup of raw celery has 8 percent of the daily value for potassium, while cooked celery has 12 percent.
Celery Snack Ideas
Snack on celery throughout the day to feel satisfied between meals without adding too many calories. Celery sticks paired with hummus are a crunchy and satisfying snack that travels well, and you can experiment with different types of hummus -- like roasted garlic, curry-flavored or red pepper varieties -- to avoid boredom. Make grown-up "ants on a log" by serving celery sticks with a tablespoon of all-natural almond butter, sugar-free dried cranberries and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Or eat celery sticks in place of tortilla chips as a healthy alternative to chips and salsa or chips and guacamole. Swapping out 2 ounces of tortilla chips for 2 large stalks of celery, cut into sticks, saves you over 240 calories. Make that switch three times a week for a year, and you'll save enough calories to lose almost 11 pounds of fat -- and that doesn't count any weight lost from other diet changes.
Meal Ideas and Tips
Use celery to add bulk to your meals without adding tons of calories. Finely chopped celery and carrots can work well as a meat "extender" for burgers and meatballs -- simply mix the celery into the meat before shaping it into patties or balls. This technique can also add flavor to your meat. Simply sauté the chopped celery until it starts to brown, blot away excess water; then add it to the meat for mixing.
Add liberal amounts of sliced celery to vegetable or meat soups to add bulk without calories, add finely chopped raw celery to tuna or chicken salads to boost your portion size and add satisfying crunch, or use extra celery in stir-fries. Or try lightly coating celery stalks in a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and roast them, seasoned with rosemary and sea salt until tender, for a delicious side dish.