Low-Cal Meals With High Flavor
If you stock your fridge with plenty of healthy meats and vegetables, and if you keep your pantry filled with whole grains and tasty condiments, four low-calorie meals are within your reach even on busy weeknight evenings. Once you build your low-calorie meal repertoire, you can mix and match ingredients to discover even more go-to meals. A healthy, low-calorie meal can contain all the flavor and satisfaction you need while also cutting down calories you don't need.
1) Chicken or Fish Tacos
Tortillas offer a ready-made way to limit the amount, and the calories, of meat or fish in a meal because the shells offer a limited space to fill. Cut chicken breasts or dense white fish, such as cod or snapper, into slices or chunks, and saute them while tortillas heat up in the oven. Provide bowls of lettuce, chopped onions, salsa and shredded cheese for family members to add once the tacos come together. Serve the tacos with a salad made of red or green coleslaw and orange slices, dressed with vinaigrette, and some homemade, baked sweet potato chips.
Virtually any meal transforms itself into a low-calorie one when you control portion sizes. Find a good portion-control reference guide and refer to it now and then for inspiration to keep on track.
2) Main Course Salads
Salads packed with protein and whole grains fill you up without a lot of calories. Supplement shredded lettuce and cooked whole grains, such as brown rice or bulgur, with 1/2 cup per person of diced chicken or thin strips of steak. Add an equal amount of thinly sliced red cabbage, a diced red pepper, cooked green beans or garbanzo beans. If you've chosen a green salad, add 1/2 cup of whole grains to the salad to make it even more filling, or serve a slice of artisan, whole-grain bread on the side to round out the meal.
3) Vegetarian Chili
Chili without meat automatically qualifies as a low-calorie meal since most of the calories in a meal typically come from the meat. Use any combination of beans you prefer, such as a combination of black beans and pinto beans or all kidney beans. Top the chili with low-calorie sour cream instead of the full-fat version, and add flavorful chopped green onions instead of shredded cheese. Keep the meal a low-calorie one by serving a green salad or carrot sticks on the side instead of bread or chips.
4) Vegetable Soups
Pureed vegetable soups give the illusion of cream without your having to add high-calorie cream at all. Instead of cream, substitute unsweetened soy milk, which has a rich, creamy texture. Simply cook whatever vegetable you choose, such as broccoli, cauliflower or sweet potatoes, in chicken broth until the veggies are fork tender. Then puree the mixture in a blender. After blending, add 1 cup of milk to each 2 cups of blended vegetables and gently reheat the soup. Balance the soup's smooth texture with a green salad filled with chunky vegetables, and serve slices of whole-grain toast on the side.
Eating salads daily gives you a tasty strategy for healthy, low-calorie meals, but only if you choose your salad dressing wisely. Look for vinegar-based dressings instead of creamy ones, or become an expert in making your own low-calorie options.
- Minimalist Baker: Baked Sweet Potato Chips
- Dairy Council of California: Correct Portion Sizes: How to Keep Portion Distortion in Check
- Epicurious: Vegetable Chili
- Silk: Creamy Tomato Soup
- Livestrong: How to Eat Salad Every Day to Lose Weight
- Business Insider: Ranked: These Are the Salad Dressings With the Fewest Calories
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.