There’s a myth in the diet world that just won’t die. It’s the myth of negative-caloric foods like celery or apples.
This debunked theory states certain foods are so low in calories that your body actually burns more in the process of eating than it takes in. Unfortunately, the so-called “negative caloric effect” isn’t true, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t foods out there that deliver serious nutrition (and taste) in an ultra-low calorie package.
Just like foods that keep you feeling fuller for longer periods of time can help you maintain a healthy weight, foods that are naturally low in calories can help you get to that ideal weight by delivering needed nutrients without extra fat or sugar.
Here’s a list of near zero-calorie foods to add to your shopping list.
The produce section should already be the place you spend most of your grocery dollars, and in this case it will also be the place to find the most bang for your caloric buck.
In many cases, vegetables are high in water content and fiber, yet low in calories. Plus, vegetables are incredibly versatile—you can eat them raw, steam them, grill, saute, bake, broil, etc.
1 Celery: two large celery stalks come in under 15 total calories
2Cucumber: half a cuke only adds 20 calories to your day
3Tomato: a medium tomato is just 25 calories
4Asparagus: not only is this veggie low in calories (27 per cup), but it’s also known for its natural detoxification power
5Snap peas: satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy half a cup of sugar snap peas for just 30 calories
6Carrot: skip the baby carrots and remind yourself what a real carrot is supposed to taste like (only 30 calories per)
Fruits often get a bad reputation for being high in sugar. While certain fruits definitely contain more natural sugar than others (I’m looking at you, bananas), others are deceptively low in calories without sacrificing the sweetness.
Try these fruits to keep your calorie count low while also adding a bit of variety to your snack plate.
7Peaches: you can enjoy an entire fresh peach for only 37 calories
8Grapefruit: this wonderfully tart fruit is big enough to split, offering two 39-calorie servings
9Strawberries: snack on a whole cup for just 50 calories
10Papaya: even though it's not as common as other fruits, this exotic fruit comes in at just 54 calories per cup
11Cantaloupe: sometimes called “melon” depending on where you live, ripe cantaloupe is a delight with just 56 calories per cup
All of the above fresh produce obviously can be (and should be) considered snack food, but the following items are more traditional “snacks” you might find in the cupboard.
12Popcorn: not all popcorn is created equally… stick to air-popped popcorn (only 31 calories per cup) and add flavor with your favorite spices instead of melted butter
13Rice cakes: yes, I know, rice cakes… but when you’re craving crunchy with a hint of salt, these 35-calories snacks make a great afternoon craving killer
14Crunchy chickpeas: a little higher in calories than anything else on this list (120 per serving), crunchy chickpeas make up for it with high protein and fiber to keep you full
15Black Mission Figs: satisfy your sweet tooth and hunger for just 90 calories
16Turkey jerky: at around 80 calories per ounce, turkey jerky makes a great afternoon snack to tide you over until supper time
Let’s be honest: the real secret here isn’t the list of foods… it’s portion control.
Lots of people get sucked into the “96% fat free” sticker on packaging, but then they go ahead and eat an entire sleeve of cookies. That’s not going to help anyone lose weight.
Incorporate these foods into your daily diet, but don’t forget to watch your portion size. Here are a few more tips to help you stop overeating.