Seven Tips to Build Healthy, Low-Calorie Satisfying Meals

As part of National Nutrition Month, our blogs throughout March have focused on how vegetables, protein and low energy dense meals can be your weight loss allies. This week, we thought it would be helpful to pull all the nutrition info together into some practical tips to help you build low-calorie, satisfying meals.

1. Substitute veggies in place of higher energy dense ingredients to cut calories not portions.

  •  In your mashed potato recipe, replace half of the potatoes with steamed and mashed cauliflower or turnips
  •  Making spaghetti? Half your serving of spaghetti noodles and substitute the rest with thin slices of peppers, summer squash, zucchini, carrots or spaghetti squash
  • For baked mac-n-cheese, replace half the pasta with cauliflower or broccoli florets
  • Use large lettuce leaves to wrap sandwich fillings instead of bread or tortillas
  • Rather than use heavy cream to thicken soups, stews and casseroles, stir in some canned pumpkin or pureed cooked cauliflower instead

2. Be adventurous and try a new veggie or fruit like jicama, orange bell peppers, purple cauliflower or mango – all of which require little to no preparation

3. Squelch those food cravings with soup. Turn ½ cup of tortellini, 2 oz. of beef or ½ cup of baked potato into a warm, filling, low energy dense soup with chicken broth and lots of veggies.

4. Craft your own sensational salads with a variety of colors and textures from different veggie combinations. Dress with salsa and flavored vinegars to pack in flavor without the need for high-fat dressings.

5. Start the day with protein-packed foods like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, egg whites or a protein shake. If traditional breakfast choices aren’t your thing, grab low-fat tuna salad, lean deli meats, low-fat cheese or grilled chicken. Pair with fruit or veggies to keep you going for hours without feeling hungry.

6. Keep meats lean and flavorful with these tips:

  • Remove poultry skin, trim visible beef fat, and drain cooked ground beef
  • Look for a minimum of 90% lean when buying ground beef, turkey or chicken
  • Tenderize meats with marinades made from flavored vinegars, fruit juices, fat-free yogurts and fat-free salad dressings
  •  Mix 1-2 cups of finely chopped mushrooms or fat-free plain yogurt and dried onion soup into a pound of ground meat for burgers or meatloaf to keep lean burgers tender and tasty

7. Upside-down your dessert by having a bowl full of fresh strawberries, peaches or pineapple topped with a small scoop of low-fat ice cream, sugar-free pudding or light whipped topping.

These small recipe adjustments and meal swaps can help you cut calories without feeling deprived of the foods you love. Plus, you’re packing in the nutrients you need to stay healthy and help you lose weight for the long run!

Do you have any savvy calorie-saving strategies you’d like to share?


Jeannemarie Beiseigel, PhD, RD, is a registered dietitian with a doctorate in human nutrition, foods, and exercise. She’s worked with academia, government and industry and has several published research studies. She recently started her own practice as independent nutrition consultant for businesses and individuals. You can e-mail Jeannemarie at Read Jeannemarie's full bio.

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