One of the most challenging aspects of weight loss is cutting back on calories.
Many low-calorie foods can leave you feeling hungry and unfulfilled between meals, making it much more tempting to overeat and indulge.
Fortunately, plenty of healthy foods exist that are both filling and low in calories.
Here are 13 low-calorie foods that are surprisingly filling.
Oats can be an excellent addition to a healthy weight loss diet.
They’re not only low in calories but also high in protein and fiber that keep you feeling full.
A 1/2-cup (40-gram) serving of dry oats has just 148 calories but packs 5.5 grams of protein and 3.8 grams of fiber — both of which can have a significant impact on your hunger and appetite.
One study in 48 adults demonstrated that eating oatmeal increased feelings of fullness and reduced hunger and calorie intake at the next meal.
Another small study linked instant and old-fashioned oatmeal to significantly improved appetite control over four hours compared to ready-to-eat breakfast cereal.
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 help curb cravings and promote weight loss.
Though the exact numbers vary between brands and flavors, a 2/3-cup (150-gram) serving of Greek yogurt typically provides about 130 calories and 11 grams of protein.
One study in 20 women examined how a high-protein yogurt snack affected appetite compared to unhealthy high-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.
Meanwhile, in another study of 15 women, high-protein Greek yogurt helped reduce hunger and increase feelings of fullness compared to lower-protein snacks.
Summary: Greek yogurt is high in protein and linked to less hunger, subdued calorie intake, and increased feelings of fullness.
Though soup is often dismissed as little more than a light and simple side dish, it can be very satisfying.
Some research suggests that soups may be more filling than solid foods — even if they have the same ingredients.
For example, one study in 12 people indicated that smooth soup slowed the emptying of the stomach and was more effective at promoting fullness than a solid meal or chunky soup.
In another study of 60 people, eating soup before a meal decreased total calorie intake at lunch by an impressive 20%.
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.
Berries — including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries — are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can optimize your health.
Their high fiber content also boosts weight loss and reduces hunger.
For example, 1 cup (148 grams) of blueberries supplies just 84 calories but packs 3.6 grams of fiber.
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.
This could also help cut calorie consumption to aid weight loss.
One study noted that a 65-calorie afternoon snack of berries decreased calorie intake later in the day compared to a 65-calorie confectionery snack.
Suggested read: 14 healthy breakfast foods that help you lose weight
Summary: Berries are high in fiber and pectin, which slow the emptying of your stomach and promote feelings of fullness.
Eggs are extremely nutrient-dense, as they’re low in calories but rich in many vital nutrients.
A single large egg has approximately 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, and a wide array of important vitamins and minerals.
Studies suggest that starting your day with a serving of eggs can reduce hunger and boost fullness.
In a study of 30 women, those who ate eggs for breakfast instead of a bagel experienced greater feelings of fullness and consumed 105 fewer calories later in the day.
Other studies observe that a high-protein breakfast could decrease snacking, slow the emptying of your stomach and reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger.
Summary: Eggs are packed with protein and make a superb low-calorie breakfast choice.
Thanks to its high fiber content, popcorn tops the charts as one of the most filling low-calorie snacks.
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.
Not only does fiber slow your digestive process to promote fullness, but it can also stabilize blood sugar to prevent hunger and cravings.
Additionally, popcorn can help reduce appetite and enhance feelings of fullness more than many other popular snack foods.
One study of 35 people observed that those who ate 100 calories of popcorn were fuller and more satisfied than those who ate 150 calories of potato chips.
However, keep in mind that these benefits apply to air-popped popcorn. Many ready-made varieties are prepared with a lot of unhealthy fats, artificial flavorings, and added salt or sugar, which greatly increases the calorie content.
Suggested read: The 12 best foods to eat in the morning
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.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of chia seeds provides 137 calories, 4.4 grams of protein, and a whopping 10.6 grams of fiber.
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.
Some research observes that chia seeds can absorb 10–12 times their weight in water, moving slowly through your digestive tract to keep you feeling full.
Adding a serving or two of chia seeds to your daily diet can curb cravings and reduce appetite.
In one study in 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.
Summary: Chia seeds are loaded with soluble fiber, which can keep you feeling full throughout the day.
Fish is rich in protein and heart-healthy fats.
For instance, a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cod provides over 15 grams of protein and under 70 calories.
Some research points out that increasing protein intake can decrease appetite and reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger.
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.
To cut calorie consumption even further, opt for lean fish like cod, flounder, halibut, or sole over higher-calorie options like salmon, sardines, or mackerel.
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 for those looking to lose weight.
One cup (226 grams) of low-fat cottage cheese packs about 28 grams of protein and just 163 calories.
Multiple studies demonstrate that upping your protein intake from foods like cottage cheese can decrease appetite and hunger levels.
Suggested read: 14 easy ways to increase your protein intake
Some research also suggests that eating protein can slow the emptying of your stomach to prolong feelings of fullness.
What’s more, one study even found that cottage cheese and eggs had similar effects on fullness in 30 healthy adults.
Summary: Cottage cheese is high in protein, which can decrease appetite and keep you feeling full.
Potatoes are often dismissed as unhealthy and harmful due to their association with high-fat french fries and potato chips.
However, the truth is that potatoes can be a filling and nutritious part of a healthy diet.
One medium baked potato with the skin contains 161 calories but provides 4 grams each of protein and fiber as well.
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.
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.
Summary: Potatoes rank as one of the world’s most filling foods and 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.
For example, 4 ounces (112 grams) of cooked chicken breast contains about 185 calories and 35 grams of protein.
Research suggests that insufficient protein intake could increase hunger and appetite while eating more protein can reduce calorie intake and hunger levels.
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.
Summary: Lean meats are high in protein, which can reduce calorie intake and hunger.
Because of their high protein and fiber content, legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils can be incredibly filling.
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.
Multiple studies prove that legumes have a powerful effect on hunger and appetite.
One study of 43 young men 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.
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.
Summary: Legumes, which are high in protein and fiber, are associated with reduced appetite and hunger, as well as increased feelings of fullness.
Watermelon has a high water content to keep you hydrated and full while supplying a minimal number of calories.
One cup (152 grams) of diced watermelon contains 46 calories alongside an assortment of essential micronutrients like vitamins A and C.
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.
Plus, foods with a lower calorie density have been linked to lower body weight and decreased calorie intake.
In fact, in one study in 49 women, replacing oat cookies with an equal number of calories from fruit significantly reduced calorie intake and body weight.
Summary: Watermelon’s high water content and low calorie density could promote fullness and reduce calorie intake.
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 fight cravings and decrease hunger to make weight loss easier than ever.
Paired with an active lifestyle and well-rounded diet, these low-calorie foods can keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day.