If you’re counting calories, you’re likely looking for some ideas for some low calorie meals. With a little planning ahead, you can prepare some delicious meals that will leave you full and satisfied without filling you with a bunch of unnecessary calories.
When planning low calorie meals, there are a few general guidelines that can help you cut a lot of the unnecessary calories out without sacrificing the meal:
- Reach for the water:
Soft drinks, juices, iced tea, and even milk are loaded with calories. And as the sugar from these drinks quickly pass through your system, you’ll quickly be craving more. Try having a few glasses of water with your meal. Water will help fill you up, hydrate your skin, joints, and entire body…all for 0 calories per glass. Do you have a hard time drinking water? Squeeze a slice of lemon or lime for some flavor.
- Watch out for the starchy sides!:
Often times, we can prepare a very low calorie meal and then load it up with high-calorie side dishes! Starchy foods like dinner rolls, rice, pasta, and potato side orders can be very high in calories. And while these foods can be nutritious, eat them sparingly and be sensitive to the serving sizes. A few rolls before dinner can easily exceed the main course in calories!
- Watch the dressings
A salad can be a filling and low-calorie part of any meal. A typical garden salad will only add 100 calories to your meal…but the dressing, croutons, and bacon bits can easily add 150-200 more calories. Choose low fat dressings and use them sparingly. Toppings like croutons, bacon bits, and chow mien noodles are high in calories and can turn your healthy salad into a dish loaded with calories. The same philosophy holds true for the baked potato. Alone, a baked potato is only 100-120 calories. Add in butter or sour cream and this can easily double or triple in calories.
- The tortoise wins the race
By eating slowly you’ll end up eating less and feeling more satisfied. This has been a particular difficult challenge for me, as I’m used to eating rather quickly. Some ways to get around this are using smaller spoons at dessert time; use smaller plates; use chop sticks when you order Chinese food…and drink water between forkfuls.
- Measure out the portion size
Our family eats a lot of pasta. Pasta can be deceiving when it comes to calories, so when I started keeping a food log I measured out a serving to see what it looked like (1/2 a plate?!). It’s OK to eat foods like pasta, just be aware of the calories that you’re consuming. For example, I know on pasta night that my dinner will be approximately 800 calories. I can counteract this by cutting out a few snacks and eating a lighter lunch…it all works out. Take the time to measure out a serving size – it’ll make meal planning and calorie counting a lot more productive and enjoyable.
The tips above can be applied to any of your normal meals in an effort to cut back on calories. Below are some low calorie meals that are tasty, filling, and have just 500-700 calories each! Try them out or variations to see which meals work best for your taste and diet plan:
- Soup & Sandwich
The next time that you’re in the grocery store, check out the soup aisle. There are many tasty options that are only 150-200 calories for an entire bowl of soup! Add a 7-8 crackers (100 calories) and a ½ sandwich (ham, turkey, lettuce, and mustard) and your whole meal is less than 600 calories! This meal can really fill you up, too. Watch out for the extra crackers and the cheese on the sandwich. These added calories can be a lot more than the soup itself.
- Baked Chicken over Salad
Take some chicken breasts and coat them with garlic powder or lemon pepper for flavor and bake them on a cookie sheet at 350 deg. F for 50-60 minutes. Depending on the portion size, each breast will only be 200-300 calories. Dice the chicken up and spread over a nice garden salad. With a low-calorie dressing your meal can be under 500 calories!
Using the extra lean ground meat, tacos can be a fun and low-calorie meal idea. Make bowls of chives, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and salsa. Fill the tacos up 1/3 with meat and load tem with the other toppings for a delicious and fun family meal. The added spice of this meal will usually encourage a couple extra glasses of water which will also help fill you up ;-)!
By planning and preparing low calorie meals, you can start some great eating habits for you and your family. It can be tedious and time consuming to go through and calculate the calorie values for your favorite meals, but it’s time well spent. Check out these nutritional data tables for calorie data to help you out. Also, be sure to check out the low-calorie desserts and good snacks pages for more calorie-cutting ideas! Bon appetit!