It can be a real battle to find foods that taste good, nourish you, and yet don’t pack on the pounds. It’s so much easier to heat up frozen meals or to order out, compared to preparing meals that take much time and effort.
This article lists some easy-peasy recipes and quick snacks. These will keep you well-fed and fit at the same time.
Let’s take a look at some filling meal ideas that you can whip up quickly before or after a long day at work.
- Oatmeal or Oats
Up to 300 calories
Whether you are having this for breakfast or dinner, oatmeal is a very wholesome commencement or end to the day. They are chock full of fiber, protein, magnesium, and zinc, amongst others. It acts as a base to build on.
So have some berry compote or poached fruits with your oats. You can also have it with milk as overnight oats, garnished with nutritional yeast, chia seeds, cacao powder, or even mix it with Greek yogurt. One cup of oats, together with added supplements will contribute anywhere between 250-350 calories.
Oats help your system to stay full for longer, keeping hunger pangs and cravings at bay. It is a great weapon against weight gain and also a miracle food.
70-90 calories, depending on preparation style
Eggs are a versatile food that can be used in many different ways for a delicious and low-fat meal. Eggs have long been a staple in weight control diets because they suppress hunger. Plain hard-boiled or poached eggs only have about 70-75 calories. You may add condiments and oils in preparations like eggs Benedict, scrambles with cheese, tomatoes or jalapenos, or even a fried egg. This raises the calorie count to about 90 per egg. Yet, two or three eggs only constitute about 180-270 calories- extremely healthy for a nutritious breakfast.
The egg yolks contain three-fourths of the calories and fat
- Meat (or Fish)
90-150 calories on average
Lean meats, including beef, are very high in nutritional value. They are rich in protein, B Vitamins, and iron. If you eat skinless meats, with the fat removed, it constitutes a very nourishing yet healthy meal.
Skinless turkey and chicken breasts have the least calories, at about 93 cals per 86 gram serving. Pork and beef are slightly heavier meats, at about 120-140 calories per serving. You can choose cuts like tenderloin or round eye, to minimize fat content.
You may also substitute meats for fish, such as salmon, tuna, or cod. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and iodine. These micronutrients enhance brain function, cognitive ability, and nervous system health. And at 70-90 calories in an 86-gram serving, they are great for your waistline too! Cod has the least calories; tuna is a little meatier, whereas salmon is a little oilier.
Grilling and baking your meats and fish are quick and fuss-free. Not to mention they are the most wholesome, oil-free ways of cooking. Good for the heart, the tummy, and the soul! Just stick your meat or fish of choice in the oven or grill, finish cleaning up, and voila- a meal is ready!
Lunch can easily be about 500-700 calories, and you can stick to the lower limit if you are trying to lose weight. But to maintain weight and remain healthy, this range works well.
- Roasted or Grilled Vegetables and Salads
250 to 550 calories
Since the meat constitutes only a third of your necessary calories at lunch, freshen your palate up with some veggies. These can be roasted, grilled, or as a salad. Grilled vegetables have a slightly higher caloric count as a little oil is used to baste them. But they are still very innocent; especially if you use olive oil or sunflower oils. A cup of grilled vegetables will only cost you about 30-60 calories and 90 calories at most. They have tons of fiber and roughage which leave you feeling fuller for a longer time and aid digestion. This is a great option for sustaining weight loss.
Fresh vegetables are always better as they retain more nutrients. Celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes have negligible calories. Radishes, for example, only have 18 calories in a 120-gram cup.
Green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale have numerous beneficial vitamins and minerals and also contribute only about 14-30 calories per 60-gram cup. Lettuce is full of water and has only 15 calories per 100 grams; mix them in with some mushrooms or bell peppers which have a reassuringly low-calorie count of only 30-40 calories per 120 grams. A mix of different veggies can add up to 200 calories to a salad. If you add meat, eggs, and other accouterments, the calorie count rises accordingly.
If you are looking to make a stand-alone salad for lunch, without any additional foods, there are more filling yet nutritious options. You can mix in your proteins, veggies, fats, and carbs in a salad for a satisfying lunch that doesn’t weigh you down.
Choose salads according to your calorie plan for the day. If you want a heavier lunch opt for an egg salad which has 570 calories. Or you can try potato, chicken or tuna salads. Remember, these are high in either mayonnaise or starch or both. The calories, as a consequence, are much higher in calories, ranging between 450-550 calories. If you haven’t had breakfast, are planning a light dinner, or doing intermittent fasting, these salads will come in handy.
If you would like to have proteins, but don’t want the extra calories, try alternative sources of protein that leave you satiated but not heavy. These include lentils, chickpeas, cottage cheese, and beans.
If you want a lighter lunch, choose vinaigrette-based salads. Cobb salad, Caesar salad, and Greek salad are great when trying to lose a few pounds. They have about 200-290 calories. These have fresh vegetables, croutons, and a little cheese for good fats. Avoid adding fattening ingredients like bacon or fried ingredients which could ruin your health mode.
Use skinny dressings, rather than ranch, mayonnaise, and French or Italian dressing. These can add a whopping 150-190 calories depending on how much you use. Instead of creamy, cheesy dressings use vinaigrettes made of olive oil, apple cider, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and shallots. These have only about 90 calories for every 30 grams of dressing. Add herbs, spices, and seasoning or a simple lemon or citrus dressing for added zestiness.
- Soups or Broths
100- 400 calories
These are ideal suppers since they are light and warming. They are soothing for the stomach and require very little digestion. They can be pre-made and kept in the freezer, to be heated when needed. So it’s efficient, and filling and you don’t gorge on any processed empty calories.
Broths usually have below 100 or 150 calories. These are just clear consommes made from the stock or vegetables of meats. You can add some carbs like wontons or noodles for some bite. This will add another 100 calories, but this is a very small price to pay and won’t bust your goals.
Thicker soups with cream, meats or beans will up the count. These include ramen, succotash, cream of mushroom, and french onion. These soups can easily go upwards of 300 calories if not more. But normally, soups with a moderate amount of vegetables, noodles, or small pieces of meat have less than 200 calories. Stews and chowders tend to be heavier; so if you’re looking to lose weight, avoid these.
The major meal options have been covered. But there are also some additional do’s and don’t, some healthier substitutes, and some healthy munchies yet to be covered.
Carbs are crucial to every diet. The trick is to eat more complex and slow-acting carbs that don’t digest into sugars too quickly. So instead of a cup of white rice which has around 200 calories, opt for quinoa or brown rice. The calories are similar, but the nutrition is greater in these alternatives.
For lower calorie starches, choose sweet potato which has half the calories in the same serving size.
100- 200 calories on average
Whether you snack throughout the day to keep your energy up, or you need an extra boost before preparing a meal after work, you need to choose the healthiest options.
- Fruits Fruit and Veggie Bowl
Less than 100 calories
A selection of fruits is tasty and not boring at all if done with all the information. The fruits with the lowest calorie density include watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, acai berries, and cranberries. These have, on average, about 20-60 calories per cup. For full fruits or pieces, try cantaloupe, passion fruit, grapefruit, stone fruit, and citrus. These all have less than 60 calories per fruit or wedge.
Fruits such as avocado, mango, plantains, and jackfruit are much more calorie-dense. An entire fruit of each could have anywhere between 200-300 calories. Even a few pieces can be quite a high-calorie munchie. So are a bunch of grapes or bananas.
Put a bit of each fruit together and you can have a scrumptious snack for less than 150 calories. And alongside, an invigorating boost of fruity goodness.
Another option you could exercise is veggie sticks with a dip. Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus, lettuce wraps with mushrooms and alfalfa sprouts, or even baked kale chips are great for yourself and your kids.
- Popcorn and Chips
All these options, including the crunchy, salty kale chips have less than 50 calories in one serving cup. This is just the baseline; the more ingredients you add, the higher the calories.
Similarly, one cup of popcorn, unsalted and without butter has only 30 calories. Or you could grab a handful of mixed nuts which have only 50 calories per 8 grams (one cup).
100 to 300 calories a cup or bottle
If you’re very busy you may not have time to sit down and have lunch in peace. It’s times like these when smoothies come in handy. You can have lunch on the go, that has all the ingredients, and on a balanced plate- just in a cup! You’ll still have less than 100-150 calories in a to-go cup. You can sip on these as refreshments.
If you want a meal replacement, you can add protein powder and fiber powder, nut butter, and many more. A green smoothie with a ton of leafy vegetables, parsley, wheatgrass, and some fruits makes for a fair breakfast or lunch.
Remember, these are only as filling as you tailor them to be. So adjust the calorie requirements accordingly.
- Water and Juices
0 to 250 calories
Obviously, the best zero-calorie beverage of choice is pure water. You can choose sparkling water too, for some variety. You can also infuse your water with some fruity flavors, without any accompanying calories.
But let’s get real- sipping on water all day long can get pretty boring. So here are a few low-calorie cold and hot drinks to get you through the day and keep your taste-buds active.
A cup of green tea without sugar only has 3 calories a cup, whereas black tea without milk only has one calorie! A cup of black coffee has 4-5 calories which rise to about 10-13 calories when milk is added. Caffeinated beverages can be used for weight management; but the addition of sugar, cream, and whole milk can raise the calorie count. The more cups you drink, the more the calories accumulate.
So those uber-sweet whipped cream-filled affogatos or lattes or mochas from Starbucks you get- an absolute no-no.
Then you have juices, which aren’t as innocent as they look. Juices have concentrated sugar content compared to the fruit they came from. It’s always healthier to have the fruit itself rather than the juice. But on a hot, sunny day it makes sense to gulp down some of Mother Nature’s goodness.
Coconut water is the best at only 45 calories a cup. Tomato, lemon, cucumber, and carrot juices only have about 50-60 calories. Most other juices such as apple, grape, cranberry, pineapple, and cherry have more than 100 calories in a single serving.
But juices are better than processed, fizzy drinks and sodas. Bottled juices and shakes with high sugar content, and carbonated sodas of various flavors, are all harmful to your wellbeing. Even though diet sodas have zero calories, they are best avoided due to their artificial preservatives.
Dr.Pepper, Coca-Cola, and Mountain Dew all have about 150 calories in a 12-ounce can. Energy drinks like Red Bull have over 200 calories in a serving. Fruit pouches, ginger ale, lemonade, and iced coffees are also equivalent culprits.
- Alcoholic beverages
100-700 calories per 8 or 12-ounce serving
For the teetotallers, this section won’t apply. But for those who enjoy a drink now and then, here’s the lowdown on how the fallout from that buzz can be minimized.
Vodka soda and tequila are tied as the least fattening liquors. Vodka with soda is only 90-100 calories unless you use higher calorie flavored sodas. Tequila shots are also relatively low at about 100 per shot. But if you use it as a chaser in a margarita or El Diablo cocktail, then the calories skyrocket to more than 300 per half cup.
Other good choices include white wine, gin and tonic, and light beer at anywhere between 100-120 calories. Most other cocktails, except for rum and diet coke or a Bloody Mary will put you upwards of 150 calories.
The big guns include Pina Coladas at more than 500 calories, chocolate martinis at 400, and Mai Tais at 300 upwards.
Okay, after this exhaustive listing of all things good, easy, and healthy, we hope you won’t choose a McMuffin instead! Eat right and stay bright!