It comes down to the energy density of your food choices. Choosing foods that are less energy-dense, or pack fewer calories per serving, means you get a bigger portion that has a smaller effect on your waistline. And that’s good news for appetite control because there’s a growing body of research to suggest it’s the amount of food that fills us up, not the calories alone. Here’s a list of the best, and biggest, low-calorie and density foods for weight loss:
What’s the secret ingredient to a low-calorie snack that satisfies? Air. And popcorn takes top honors. Dieters reported feeling more satisfied after eating six cups of popcorn than they did after munching on one measly cup of potato chips, despite consuming 33 percent fewer calories, according to one study. A generous six cups of popcorn has only 180 calories, plus two servings of waist-whittling whole grains.
Fat cells fear fruit — especially watermelon. At less than 40 calories per cup and 90 percent water by weight, the summer staple is almost impossible to eat in quantities large enough to support their belt-busting growth. What’s more, noshing on the juicy fruit has shown to increase blood levels of L-arginine, an amino acid that’s like kryptonite for belly fat. One group of women who supplemented with L-arginine dropped an average 6.5 pounds and two inches from their waists in just 12 weeks, according to a recent study.
OK, so they’re not Pringles. But if you can get over the fact baked kale will never be an exact substitute for deep-fried potatoes, you can pop, not stop, and fear not about popping a pants seam. Four heaping cups of kale chips has just 120 calories — what you’ll find in just 12 potato chips. Go green, and you’ll be fueling your metabolism with thylakoids — compounds found in leafy greens proven to suppress the appetite and speed up weight loss.
Edamame is one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts to dieters. Even the wrapping has weight-loss potential. The act of podding the beans is a slow-down dining ritual that amounts to an average 41 percent calorie savings per snack sesh, according to one study. One cup of pods has just 130 calories and 12 grams of satiating plant protein. In fact, compounds in the soybeans mimic the effect of leptin, a satiety hormone that signals to the brain when to stop eating, according to new research.
You’ve heard of noodles: high-carb, high-calorie, highly likely to pack on the pounds. But what about zoodles? The noodle-like strands, carved from zucchini with a gadget called a “spiralizer,” have just 66 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates per 2-cup serving. Compare those stats to the 440 cals and 86 grams of carbs you’ll find in the same amount of cooked pasta, and you can see why fit foodies are so “inspiralized.” Swapping just half a serving of noodles for the veggie variety can turbocharge weight loss. Dieters who cut daily carb consumption by just 11 percent lost three times as much weight than a group who didn’t make the reduction, according to a recent study.
The more salad you eat, the lower your daily calorie intake. Women who pre-gamed lunch with a one-and-a-half-cup salad of lettuce, veggies, and low-fat dressing ate 50 fewer calories than when they didn’t eat the leafy starter, according to a recent Penn State trial. And when the salad doubled in size to 3 cups, so did the calorie savings. Yes! Pass go and cut 100 calories with a 3-cup snack of lightly dressed leafy greens, any hour of the day.
Most appetizers, even the small “gourmet" ones, add calories to your meal. But miso? Not so! The traditional Japanese soup has the magic ability to slash more calories from a meal than the 34-per-cup it serves up—especially when slurped before dinner. People who eat soup as a “preload,” consume an average 20 percent fewer calories over the course of a meal, research shows. Any broth-based soup qualifies as a low-cal belly filler. But miso has the added benefit of being steeped in alginate, a compound in sea kelp that may slow the absorption of dietary fat, according to a recent study.