10 foods that are virtually calorie free

When you’re trying to lose weight, the best and most sustainable way is doing it gradually, cutting your calorie intake by about 25 percent. Dietitian Melissa Meier shows us the best foods that are high in nutrients but cost next to nothing. 

Volume eating is oh-so hot right now. In case you missed the memo: it’s a way of eating in which you try to eat large portions of food for little calorie cost. In practicality, this means you eat a lot of the good stuff (think: vegetables, fruit, wholegrains) and less of the high-cal treat stuff (read: deep fried chicken, chocolate and mountains of white rice). You might’ve guessed that as a dietitian, this is certainly something I’d recommend as part of any weight loss strategy.

How many calories should you actually eat?

You might be surprised to learn that weight loss is not about limiting your calories as much as possible. That will quickly backfire, because you’ll starve yourself, slow down your metabolism and feel absolutely miserable. Obviously, not ideal.

Instead, weight loss is about cutting your calorie intake slightly (around 25 per cent) to create a reasonable – but not absurd – calorie deficit, which will result in gradual weight loss overtime. To give you some context, the average energy intake is 8700kJ (2080cal). As a general guide for weight loss, 6300kJ (1520cal) is your number.

Portion perfection

The key to cutting calories is to nail your portion sizes. For a healthy meal, you want to fill half of your plate with non-starchy veg – and that’s where the list below will come in handy. The good news is that most veggies (aside from potato, sweet potato and corn) are ultra-low in calories, so anything that takes your fancy is fine.

As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life… and when it comes to veggies, that couldn’t be more true. Why? Vegetables get their bright and beautiful colours from the antioxidants they contain. Red produce, for example, contains lycopene which supports a healthy ticker, orange produce offers beta carotene for healthy eyes, while purple fruit and veg contain anthocyanins for brain health. The moral of the story: eat a rainbow when it comes to veg and your health will thank you for it.

How to plate up a well-rounded, healthy meal

With that being said, veggies on their own are not a complete meal. You also want to include a small portion of protein (100 grams of meat or seafood, two hard-boiled eggs or a cup of beans) and a small portion of good quality carbs (like a slice or two of wholegrain bread, a small sweet potato, or half to one cup of cooked whole grains like brown rice or wholemeal pasta). Foods that are rich in protein and carbs not only offer valuable nutrients but fill you up and importantly, keep you feeling satisfied (read: away from the biscuit jar) – so including them in smart portions is key for weight loss.

Ten foods that are virtually calorie free

  1. Iceberg lettuce per 100g: 38kJ (9cal)
  1. Chinese cabbage per 100g: 44kJ (11cal)
  1. Cucumber per 100g: 50kJ (12cal)
  1. Celery per 100g: 62kJ (15)cal
  1. Radish per 100g: 62kJ (16)cal
  1. Cherry tomatoes per 100g: 65kJ (16)cal
  1. Zucchini per 100g: 65kJ (16)cal
  1. Bok choy per 100g: 79kJ (19)cal
  1. Mushrooms per 100g: 86kJ (21)cal
  1. Asparagus per 100g: 88kJ (21)cal

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.