12 Zero Calorie Foods for Weight Loss
Eat as much as you want and still lose weight!
When I started my weight loss journey I was feeling the urge to have a handy list of foods that I could eat as much as I want without ruining my weight loss progress.
The idea that there was nothing that I could eat unlimitedly… well just made me feel hungry!
So, I sat down one day determined to find a list of foods that practically have zero calories.
Whatever that was I would take it. Turned out that there are some delicious foods which not only I could eat unlimitedly, but I could also actually enjoy them!
So, I made this list, put it on my fridge and from then onward I always had some ideas in hand every time I was rumbly in my tumbly 😀
Of course, no food contains literally zero calories but the concept behind the so-called “zero-calorie” foods is that the body burns more calories eating and digesting the food than the calories the food itself contains. So in the end, these foods contain practically zero calories!
Today I am sharing 12 Zero Calorie Foods ideal for Weight Loss + My favorite Serving Suggestions!
Calories: 22 calories per cup (100 gr)
Mushrooms have very few calories while they are loaded with vitamins like vitamins B, C, and D and they are high in antioxidants. So they make the perfect food for weight loss. They have very little carbohydrate or fat, whereas the amount of protein is higher than that found in most common vegetables. For that reason they make a great meat substitute to lower calories of any of your meals. Have you ever tried a portobello mushroom burger?
Researchers believe the unique protein, carbohydrate, and fiber found in mushrooms can positively influence health such as boost immune function and even fight cancer.
There are no real nutrition cons in mushrooms. Well.. except if you eat some poisonous ones! But as long as you buy them from a store and you don’t collect them by yourself then you are fine!
How to enjoy them:
The easiest way to cook mushrooms is in a saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are lightly browned.
Some other ways to enjoy them are stuffed by filling them with your favorite ingredients and baking them, or grilled that can be added in sandwiches or wraps or simply your morning omelet.
Calories: 16 Calories per 1 cup (155 gr)
Pickles are technically cucumbers pickled in vinegar, so they are very low in calories. Nutrition wise just 4 pickles can provide you with 15% of your daily Vitamin K needs which is crucial for a number of body processes like blood clotting and bones and heart health. They also have probiotic powers that can help you maintain your gut health.
Make sure though you stick with unsweetened pickles, though. Sweetened pickles are much higher in calories — up to 150 calories per cup. Most of those calories come from the sugar used to sweeten the pickles. Be careful, even sour pickles can contain sugar and so be higher in calories, too. Double check the ingredients as well as the nutrition label when buying a jar of pickles in the store.
Also, pickles can sometimes contain too much salt. Eating too many of them may cause your stomach to bloat or increase your blood pressure if you are sensitive to this. Again double check nutrition labels and make sure you buy the natural option.
How to enjoy them:
Pickles are often served as a side dish accompanying meals, but can also be served alone for example on a stick (That’s how they are served in some festivals in Japan!).
You can also use them on sandwiches to give a flavor boost without having to use high-calorie flavorings like mayonnaise. As a side dish can help you eat a larger portion for the same number of calories as they practically add almost zero calories.
3. Cheery Tomatoes
Calories: 2 calories per cherry tomato
One handful of cherry tomatoes is already half the daily recommended amount of vegetables, so they are an ideal snack for a healthy diet! They’re low in fat, high in fiber, the source of many vitamins and minerals and all this with almost zero calories! Also, cherry tomatoes are packed with Lycopene which is an antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color and helps to lower the risk of cancer.
No nutrition cons in cherry tomatoes. Because of their sweet taste, there is a misconception that they are high in sugar. It is true that they contain some sugar but this is natural sugar which means that is digested slowly, providing a nice steady source of energy. While added sugar, let’s say in a candy bar, gets digested rapidly causing a dramatic spike in blood sugar.
How to enjoy them:
Snack tomatoes are easy to take with you, so you can eat them anywhere, any time.
Just pack a handful of raw cherry tomatoes with you and have a healthy sweet snack with zero calories always at hand. Tip: they come to different types and colors so you can add some variety!
You can also accompany the snack with some cottage cheese (also very low in calories!) or alternatively saute the cherry tomatoes with some garlic and basil.
Adding the cherry tomatoes to your salads and sandwiches can also be a great ketchup substitute with no calories.
4. Cauliflower and Broccoli
Cauliflower: 27 calories per cup
Broccoli: 31 calories per cup
When you are trying to lose weight, non-starchy vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli can be your best friend as they can practically be eaten in unlimited quantities. Cauliflower and broccoli have similar amounts of carbohydrate content, are high in fiber, and low in calories making them optimal for weight loss. Both also contain a high amount of vitamin K and vitamin C that enhance bone health and promote eye health.
The most common side effect is gas or bowel irritation, caused by their high amounts of fiber, but the health benefits outweigh the possible slight discomfort.
How to enjoy them:
Steaming is the gentler way to cook cauliflower and broccoli as they keep the highest level of nutrients compared to boiling, microwaving, and stir-frying. Of course, all options are still great.
Cauliflower and broccoli are both ideal choices for make-ahead meals and salads, as they can handle being dressed and held at fridge temperature compared to watery vegetables like cucumbers and leafy greens like lettuce.
Cauliflower is also known to be used as an alternative for usual pizza crust known as cauliflower crust pizza or even rice known as cauliflower rice.
This is my first attempt to make a cauliflower pizza! Hey, don’t judge me… at least I tried!
ps. To be honest I don’t think making a cauliflower pizza worth the effort and the taste compromise. I prefer eating a normal crust pizza once in a while and enjoy it! Remember pizza will not make you fat as long as it is within your daily calorie requirements 😉
5. Baby Carrots
Calories: 4 calories per 1 baby carrot
Baby carrots and generally carrots are crunchy, tasty and highly nutritious. Carrots are a particularly good source of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin K and antioxidants which help reduce the risk of cancer, improve heart and eye health and improve digestion. They consist mainly of water (85%) and they are high in fiber and low in fat. This, combined with the fact that they are very low in calories, makes them a very good choice for weight loss.
Carrots grown in contaminated soils may contain higher amounts of heavy metals, affecting their safety and quality. So I recommend choosing organic carrots.
How to enjoy them:
You can enjoy carrots raw together with cucumbers cut in thin strips or cubes and sprinkled with some apple cider vinegar – perfect for a hot summer day!
Another idea is to cook them in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.
My personal favorite is to combine them with green beans or peas and boil them all together – always a hit even with non-vegetable lovers!
6. Green beans and peas
Green beans: 33 calories per cup (100 gr)
Green peas: 42 calories per cup (100 gr)
Green beans and peas are a great choice for healthy weight loss. They contain practically no fat and are very low in calories while they are a very good source of fiber that can help you reduce cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. Also, one cup of raw green beans has almost 2 g of protein. Maintaining a high protein intake plays a major role in weight-loss as it helps you burn more calories while digesting the food. Also, green beans and peas are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A and minerals like calcium and magnesium.
They can cause problems in the digestive system as they contain lectin, a kind of protein that binds up carbohydrates. Cooking them can reduce the levels of lectin.
How to enjoy them:
You can blanch them, sauté them, or even eat them straight from a can. Either way, green beans and peas are a nutritious addition to your diet. They are commonly eaten as a side dish but you can also make some extremely low-calorie yet extremely delicious main dishes with them.
For example, you can roast them with some onions or saute them with some mushrooms (see zero calorie food number #1!) and garlic. There is also this traditional Greek dish of green beans braised in tomato sauce that I absolutely love!
7. All kinds of berries
Calories per fruit:
Strawberries: 4 calories
Blueberries: less than 1 calorie
Raspberries: 1 calorie
Blackberries: 2 calories
Cranberries: 2 calories
Goji Berries: 1 calorie
and a lot more types that you can find here.
Berries are low in calories yet extremely nutritious. For example, one cup of strawberries provides a whopping 150% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C. They also have been studied to be a metabolism booster that can help you reduce belly fat. They are high in fiber that helps decrease appetite and increase feelings of fullness. Moreover, berries are known to regulate blood sugar and improve insulin response.
The only people who need to avoid berries are those who require a low-fiber diet for certain digestive disorders and people who are allergic to berries. Allergic reactions to strawberries are most common.
How to enjoy them:
Berries can be enjoyed raw as a delicious snack or dessert.
You can mixture more than 1 type of berries for a more eye-catching snack. Topping berries with some plain Greek yogurt (also very low in calories!) or some cottage cheese along with some crushed nuts can make a great breakfast idea.
Cranberries and Goji Berries are also very famous as dried fruit snacks. Make sure to buy the ones labeled as “no-added sugar” to avoid the excess calories in the ones loaded in sugar.
Calories: 17 calories per cup (100 gr)
Zucchini can be your best ally when trying to lose weight. It is very low in calories and in the meantime helps you feel full for longer and hence eat less. That is because it is very high in water and fiber. It also contains significant amounts of B-vitamins that boost energy production in the body, reduces fatigue and improve moods. Moreover, zucchini is rich in antioxidants which help slow down aging and get rid the body of free radicals and excess inflammation.
When eaten in large quantities, it may aggravate medical conditions of people with an impaired kidney.
How to enjoy it:
Zucchini is a very versatile food that can make a great lighter, flavor-packed alternative for heavy carbs.
Baked zucchini rounds are my favorite snack. You can make them by cutting thick zucchini rounds and bake them at a high temperature for about 8 minutes. Tip: The thicker you cut your zucchini, the crispier it will stay while you bake it!
Grilled zucchini can also be a delicious low in calories and naturally low in carbs side dish that goes perfectly with meat or mushrooms. Finally, due to its mild flavor, zucchini makes a great base for piling on herbs and spices, so you can go crazy on these!
Calories: 20 calories per cup
Very similar to zucchini, eggplant is a high-fiber, low-calorie food that is rich in nutrients. From reducing the risk of heart disease to helping with blood sugar control and weight loss, eggplants is a simple and delicious addition to any healthy diet.
As long as you don’t have an eggplant allergy (which is very rare), there are no other nutrition cons.
How to enjoy it:
Eggplant is a versatile ingredient that can be prepared and enjoyed in a variety of different ways.
It can be baked, roasted, grilled or sautéed and enjoyed with a drizzle of olive oil and a quick dash of seasoning.
My best way of enjoying is cut it in small cubes and bake it in the oven for 10 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of parmesan cheese (just 22 calories) to kick all the flavors. Yummy but still low-calorie and healthy!
Lettuce: 5 calories per cup (30 gr)
Cabbage: 8 calories per cup (30 gr)
Lettuce is ideal for weight loss. It is extremely low in calories that you can practically eat as much as you want! You could eat 20 cups of shredded lettuce and consume just 100! Also, it is 95% water, so can keep you hydrated just like water, which is really important for weight loss.
Moreover, it doesn’t contain cholesterol or any kind of fat and its high source of fiber and packed in vitamins like vitamin K (78% of recommended daily intake – RDI), vitamin A (53% of RDI) and vitamin C (11% of RDI).
And it comes with tons of additional health benefits including these: improves skin and hair health, improves muscle strength and metabolism, promotes digestive health, boosts immunity and heart health.
A high-lettuce diet is likely to lack protein, with 1 gram or less of protein in a 1 cup serving, so make sure you also include some protein in your meals during the day.
How to enjoy it:
You can enjoy a big lettuce salad with some cherry tomatoes and cucumbers as a small meal in between your main meals. Or you can add it as a side dish and eat a lot larger portion with almost no extra calories.
Another idea is to use lettuce wraps as a replacement for traditional wraps. For example, you can make some delicious lettuce wraps filled with tuna or chicken or mushrooms – my favorite on the go light snack!
This is actually the snack I made while writing this post!
Well, writing about all these foods made me hungry…
And yes since this only 159 calories it is literally a snack not a meal!
11. Turkey slices
Calories: 11 calories per turkey slice
Turkey breast slices are high in protein but low in carbohydrate, fat and calories! Since turkey is a good source of lean protein, it’s good to keep it in your diet if you are trying to lose weight. A slice of turkey is a good source of phosphorus and vitamins B12 and B6 that among other things help keep blood sugar within a normal range and protect against anemia.
As all processed foods, turkey slices tend to be high in sodium. So I wouldn’t advise you to eat processed meats every day, but it can be a good alternative for when you want a quick low-calorie, high-protein snack. As long as you balance out the rest of your day with fresh produce and other foods that are low in sodium, you’re fine.
How to enjoy them:
You can enjoy a thin turkey slice by rolling it into a compact little tube and pop them into my mouth as-is. (I used to do that all the time when started my weight loss journey! Do you ever do this?). You can also add some salt and pepper on the roll. Doesn’t get any easier than that!
Other low-calorie options are to eat it on top of a melba toast (just 12 calories per toast!) and add some cherry tomatoes on top or some fresh arugula.
12. Spice up everything
Adding spices and herbs to your snacks and meals can make them so much tastier while they are completely calorie free! Some spices can also suppress you from eating more and help in the digestion process.
Some of my favorite and easy to find spices are cayenne pepper, paprika, turmeric, and cinnamon! Try adding a half tsp of turmeric in you rice next time you cook and see your regular everyday rice transforming to a delicious dish 😉
Regarding herbs, my favorite one is definitely oregano. I just use it in all of my salads and it makes such a difference. Other herbs I use regularly are thyme – especially good for soups, basil, parsley, and rosemary!
The list can be really long. I should probably write a post about herbs and spices. Let me know down below in the comments if you are interested!
All these foods are ideal for weight loss since they contain almost zero calories and in the meantime, they are packed with nutrients. You can enjoy them as snacks or as side dishes accompanying your main meals following our serving suggestions or using your own creativity and local ingredients. Either way, they can help you eat more often during the day without adding up on calories as well as eating larger portions with your meals for the same number of calories.
Do you have some low-calorie snacks that are famous in your country? What about some local spices or herbs that you use? Share below in the comments! It would be really interesting to share low-calorie snack ideas from all over the world!
Stella is a software engineer girl with a passion for everything related to science and travel. As a traditional "non-fitness" person who manages to find a balance between being healthy and fit, and a foodie, and gym hater, she is on a mission to show ordinary people like her that they don’t have to be fitness junkies or starve themselves to get their dream body and be healthy.