What Are the Best Ideas for Low Calorie Meals?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Good low calorie meals need to provide the nutrition and fulfillment of full meals, but without excess calories that can lead to weight gain. To find the best low calorie meals, it is important to understand what constitutes a healthy level of calories for the day, then find foods that can help a person stay within a calorie level while still providing adequate nutrition. Some of the best ideas for low calorie meals include scrambles, healthy salads, vegetarian eating, and favorite foods cooked in a healthier way.

Garbanzo beans are high in protein but low in calories.
Garbanzo beans are high in protein but low in calories.

Scrambles are a powerful breakfast staple that can provide a heavy portion of protein and nutrients while staying light on calories. To make scrambles into low calorie meals, use a light cooking spray on the frying pan, or wipe out excess healthy oil with a paper towel before adding ingredients. Scrambles can be made with one or two eggs or tofu as a base, then complimented with lots of healthy, naturally low calorie vegetables. With a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese on top, scrambles can be healthy, fast, low calorie meals that keep a dieter full for hours.

Low calorie meals may include salads.
Low calorie meals may include salads.

Salads can be great low calorie meals, as long as certain pitfalls are avoided. To stay within calorie limits, salads should be chock-full of healthy vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, and celery. Items to avoid include heavy cheeses, creamy dressings, croutons, and lots of nuts. For a nice low calorie salad, use lime juice, salt, and pepper instead of dressing, and toss in a handful of garbanzo beans for protein instead of cheese. Try mixing up salad ingredients with unusual vegetables, such as jicama, heirloom tomatoes, and watercress to add some variety.

Certain condiments like mustard, ketchup, and relish, are low in calories.
Certain condiments like mustard, ketchup, and relish, are low in calories.

While a life of vegetarianism isn't for every person, switching out fatty meat staples with vegetarian substitutes can help save a lot of calories. Fake meat products are available in many grocery stores, and are often microwavable for convenience. Soy and wheat meat substitutes are generally much lower in calories than their real-meat counterparts, and may fill cravings for diet-banned foods. Hot dogs, corn dogs, buffalo wings, and breaded chicken can all be found in vegetarian form, usually packing a walloping punch of protein for comparatively few calories.

Wheat is a common base for meat substitutes, which contain fewer calories.
Wheat is a common base for meat substitutes, which contain fewer calories.

The key to most tasty low calorie meals is often less about ingredients and more about portion size and balance. For instance a burger patty itself may be fairly healthy, but adding an enormous fluffy bun, a plate-sized order of fries, and a fat dollop of mayonnaise can quickly toss calorie goals out the window. Learning to prepare favorite foods in a healthy way can allow a dieter to enjoy eating without the worry of extra calories. A healthy version of the burger meal might be a burger patty on whole wheat toast, topped with salsa and low-fat jack cheese, with a handful of oven-baked fries alongside. Eating comfort foods in a healthy way can help stem cravings and prevent binges.

Fat-free salsas can add heat and depth to dishes with very few calories.
Fat-free salsas can add heat and depth to dishes with very few calories.
Protein-filled meals made with eggs and vegetables are generally low in calories.
Protein-filled meals made with eggs and vegetables are generally low in calories.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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