13 Low Calorie Foods That Are Surprisingly Filling

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One of the most challenging dietary changes to make can be reducing calorie intake.

Many low calorie foods can leave you feeling hungry and unfulfilled between meals.

However, plenty of nutritious foods exist that are both filling and low in calories.

Here are 13 low calorie foods that are surprisingly filling.

1. Oats

Oats can be an excellent addition to your daily diet.

They’re not only low in calories, but they’re also high in protein and fiber, which can keep you feeling full.

Oat nutrition

A 1/2-cup (40-gram) serving of dry oats has just 154 calories but packs 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber — both of which can have a significant impact on your hunger and appetite (1).

One study involving 48 adults demonstrated that eating oatmeal increased feelings of fullness and reduced hunger and calorie intake at the next meal (2).

Another small study linked instant and old-fashioned oatmeal to significantly improved appetite control over a 4-hour period compared to a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal (3).

Summary

Oats, which are high in fiber and protein, work to reduce hunger, increase feelings of fullness, and improve appetite control.

2. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein that can be incorporated into a nutritious diet.

Greek yogurt nutrition

Though the exact numbers vary between brands and flavors, a

1-cup (245-gram) serving of nonfat Greek yogurt provides about 150 calories and 25 grams of protein (4).

One study involving 20 women examined how a nonfat Greek yogurt snack affected appetite compared to higher fat snacks like chocolate or crackers.

Not only did women who ate yogurt experience less hunger, but they also consumed 100 fewer calories at dinner than those who ate crackers or chocolate (5).

Meanwhile, in another study involving 15 women, high protein Greek yogurt helped reduce hunger and increase feelings of fullness compared to lower protein snacks (6).

Summary

Greek yogurt is high in protein and linked to less hunger, subdued calorie intake, and increased feelings of fullness.

3. Soup

Though soup is often dismissed as little more than a light and simple side dish, it can be very satisfying.

Soup nutrition

The brand and type of soup may vary in nutritional content, but a 1/2-cup serving of condensed chicken noodle soup from a can contains about 60 calories and 3 grams of protein (7).

In fact, some research suggests that soups may be more filling than solid foods — even if they have the same ingredients.

For example, one study involving 12 people indicated that blended soup slowed the emptying of the stomach and was more effective at promoting fullness than a solid meal or chunky soup (8).

In another study involving 60 people, eating soup prior to a meal decreased total calorie intake at lunch by an impressive 20% (9).

Keep in mind that creamy soups and chowders — while filling — may also be high in calories.

Opt for a lighter broth- or stock-based soup to minimize calories and maximize fullness.

Summary

Certain types of soup can be low in calories and slow the emptying of your stomach while reducing total calorie intake.

4. Berries

Berries — including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries — are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can optimize your health.

Berries nutrition

For example, 1 cup (150 grams) of blueberries supplies just 86 calories but packs 3.6 grams of fiber (10).

Berries are also a great source of pectin, a type of dietary fiber that has been shown to slow stomach emptying and increase feelings of fullness in human and animal studies (11, 12, 13).

This could also help cut calorie consumption.

One study noted that a 65-calorie afternoon snack of berries decreased calorie intake later in the day compared to a 65-calorie snack of gummy candies (14).

Summary

Berries are high in fiber and pectin, which slow the emptying of your stomach and promote feelings of fullness.

5. Eggs

Eggs are extremely nutrient-dense, as they’re low in calories but rich in many vital nutrients.

Egg nutrition

A single large egg has approximately 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, and a wide array of important vitamins and minerals (15).

Studies suggest that starting your day with a serving of eggs can boost fullness.

In a study involving 30 people, those who ate eggs for breakfast instead of a bagel experienced greater feelings of fullness and consumed 105 fewer calories later in the day (16).

Other studies observed that a high protein breakfast could decrease snacking, slow the emptying of your stomach, and reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger (17, 18).

Summary

Eggs are packed with protein and make a superb low calorie breakfast choice.

6. Popcorn

Thanks to its high fiber content, popcorn tops the charts as one of the most filling low calorie snacks.

Popcorn nutrition

Though there are only 31 calories in 1 cup (8 grams) of air-popped popcorn, it boasts 1.2 grams of dietary fiber — up to 5% of your daily fiber needs (19).

Not only does fiber slow your digestive process to promote fullness, but it can also stabilize blood sugar (20).

Additionally, popcorn can help reduce appetite and enhance feelings of fullness more than many other popular snack foods.

In fact, in one study involving 35 people researchers observed that those who ate 100 calories of popcorn were fuller and more satisfied than those who ate 150 calories of potato chips (21).

However, keep in mind that these benefits apply to air-popped popcorn. Many ready-made varieties are prepared with a lot of extra fat and sometimes sugar, which greatly increases the calorie content.

Summary

Popcorn is high in fiber, which can slow your digestion and stabilize blood sugar. It also reduces hunger and promotes satisfaction better than other snacks.

7. Chia seeds

Often hailed as a serious superfood, chia seeds pack a high amount of protein and fiber into a low number of calories.

Chia seed nutrition

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of chia seeds provides 138 calories, 4.7 grams of protein, and a whopping 9.8 grams of fiber (22).

Chia seeds are especially high in soluble fiber, a type of fiber that absorbs liquid and swells in your stomach to promote feelings of fullness (23).

In fact, some researchers observed that chia seeds can absorb 15 times their weight in water, moving slowly through your digestive tract to keep you feeling full (24).

Adding two servings of chia seeds to your daily diet can curb high calorie cravings and reduce appetite.

In one study involving 24 adults, those who consumed yogurt with added chia seeds reported decreased hunger, less desire for sugary foods, and enhanced feelings of fullness compared to the control group (25).

Summary

Chia seeds are loaded with soluble fiber, which can keep you feeling full throughout the day.

8. Fish

Fish is rich in protein and heart-healthy fats.

Fish nutrition

For instance, a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cod provides 13 grams of protein and under 60 calories (26).

Some research points out that increasing protein intake can decrease appetite and reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger (17, 27).

What’s more, fish protein may be especially beneficial for reducing hunger levels and appetite.

One study evaluating the effects of beef, chicken, and fish protein showed that fish protein had the greatest impact on feelings of fullness (28).

While lean fish like cod and halibut have the least calories, higher calorie fish like salmon and mackerel provide omega-3 fatty acids that are necessary for overall health.

Summary

Fish is high in protein, which can increase feelings of fullness and reduce appetite and hunger.

9. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is a great source of protein and an excellent snack.

Cottage cheese nutrition

One cup (226 grams) of low fat cottage cheese packs about 28 grams of protein and just 163 calories (29).

Multiple studies demonstrate that increasing your protein intake from foods like cottage cheese can decrease appetite and hunger levels (17, 27).

Some research also suggests that eating protein can prolong feelings of fullness (30).

What’s more, one study involving 30 healthy adults showed that cottage cheese and eggs had similar effects on fullness (31).

Summary

Cottage cheese is high in protein, which can decrease appetite and keep you feeling full.

10. Potatoes

Potatoes are often dismissed as unhealthy and harmful due to their association with high fat french fries and potato chips.

However, the truth is, potatoes can be filling and an important part of a nutrient-rich diet.

Potato nutrition

One medium baked potato with the skin contains 161 calories, but it also provides 4 grams each of protein and fiber (32).

In fact, a study evaluating the effects of certain foods on satiety — or fullness — ranked boiled potatoes as the most filling, with a score of 323 on the satiety index — nearly seven times higher than croissants (33).

Animal and human studies indicate that the filling effects of potatoes may involve potato protease inhibitors, which are compounds that can reduce appetite and decrease food intake to boost fullness (34, 35).

Summary

Potatoes rank as one of the world’s most filling foods. They supply a specific compound that may decrease appetite and food intake.

11. Lean meat

Lean meat can efficiently reduce hunger and appetite between meals.

Lean meats like chicken, turkey, and low fat cuts of red meat are low in calories but loaded with protein.

Lean meat nutrition

For example, 4 ounces (113 grams) of cooked chicken breast contains about 163 calories and 32 grams of protein (36).

Research suggests that insufficient protein intake could increase hunger and appetite, while eating more protein can reduce calorie intake and hunger levels (37, 38).

In one study, people who ate a high protein meal including meat consumed 12% less food by weight at dinner than those who ate a high carb, meatless meal (39).

Summary

Lean meats are high in protein, which can reduce calorie intake and hunger.

12. Legumes

Because of their high protein and fiber content, legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils can be incredibly filling.

Legumes nutrition

One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils provides about 230 calories, as well as 15.6 grams of fiber and nearly 18 grams of protein (40).

Multiple studies have shown that legumes have a powerful effect on hunger and appetite.

One study involving 43 young adults noted that a high protein meal with beans and peas increased feelings of fullness and reduced appetite and hunger more than a high protein meal with veal and pork (41).

Another review of nine studies reported that people felt 31% more full after eating pulses, a type of legume, compared to high carb meals of pasta and bread (42).

Summary

Legumes, which are high in protein and fiber, are associated with reduced appetite and hunger, as well as increased feelings of fullness.

13. Watermelon

Watermelon has a high water content to keep you hydrated and full while supplying a minimal number of calories.

Watermelon nutrition

One cup (152 grams) of diced watermelon contains 46 calories alongside an assortment of essential micronutrients like vitamins A and C (43).

Eating foods with a low calorie density, such as watermelon, has been shown to have similar effects on feelings of fullness and hunger compared to high-calorie-density foods (44, 45).

Plus, foods with a lower calorie density have been linked to decreased calorie intake (44).

In fact, in one study involving 49 people, replacing oat cookies with an equal number of calories from fruit significantly reduced calorie intake and body weight (46).

Summary

Watermelon’s high water content and low calorie density could promote fullness and reduce calorie intake.

The bottom line

Cutting back on calories doesn’t mean you have to constantly feel hungry or unsatisfied between meals.

Eating a wide variety of filling foods with plenty of protein and fiber can help prevent cravings and decrease hunger.

Paired with an active lifestyle and well-rounded diet, these low calorie foods can keep you fulfilled throughout the day.