Delicious, healthy foods you can enjoy — and not pack on the calories

After exercising more, the top two New Year’s resolutions every year are eating healthier and losing weight. More than half of all Americans want to do one or both — and of course, the two resolutions are connected.

The reality is weight loss and maintenance involve tradeoffs. It’s a balancing act of figuring out how much of your favorite foods you can eat while working toward your goals.

Unfortunately, there is no free pass to eat anything you want without putting on the pounds. But there are ways to feel less deprived in your quest to maintain or lose weight.

Foods that contain a lot of fiber, water, and protein help you feel full faster and leave less space in the belly for additional calories.

Here are eight foods dietitians recommend to help you get the desired results without feeling deprived. Stock up and enjoy!


Cauliflower is excellent roasted or raw.

Cauliflower is excellent roasted or raw.

If you’re looking for low-calorie food that’s also filling, cauliflower fits the bill. An entire head contains just 146 calories!

Calories aside, cauliflower is incredibly versatile. It’s excellent roasted or raw, and you can also swap riced cauliflower out for any recipe that calls for regular rice (like this Surf n’ Turf Paella Recipe).

Nutrition facts for ½ cup chopped cauliflower: 27 calories, 0.3 g fat, 5 g carbohydrate (2.1 g fiber), 2.1 g protein

Zucchini “zoodles”

Consider zucchini “zoodles” next time you crave a high-calorie pasta noodles dish.

Consider zucchini “zoodles” next time you crave a high-calorie pasta noodles dish.

Unfortunately, if you eat a lot of noodles, you can gain weight. You can, however, eat a lot of zoodles, and not add on pounds.

Zoodles are zucchini noodles made by slicing zucchini using a spiralizer. It’s a great stand-in for pasta when trying to eat fewer calories.

One cup of zucchini noodles contains just 20 calories and is also very filling. By contrast, one cup of cooked spaghetti has 221 calories, and most people eat far more pasta than that.

Nutrition facts for one large zucchini: 55 calories, 1 g fat, 10 g carbohydrate (3.2 g fiber), 4 g protein


Sub strawberries for your high-calorie desserts.

Sub strawberries for your high-calorie desserts.

Craving something sweet? You can eat a lot of strawberries without feeling guilty. One cup of halved strawberries has only 49 calories, with 3 grams of fiber!

For reference, that’s about the same as a single Chips Ahoy cookie — and good luck eating just one of those.

Subbing strawberries for your dessert is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without packing on the pounds.

Nutrition facts for 1 cup strawberries, halved: 49 calories, 0.5 g fat, 11.7 g carbohydrate (3 g fiber), 1 g protein

Air-popped Popcorn

One cup of air-popped, plain popcorn contains just 31 calories.

One cup of air-popped, plain popcorn contains just 31 calories.

Craving a snack that isn’t, say, a cucumber? Try air-popped popcorn. This popcorn comes in at 31 calories per cup, so you won’t do too much damage even if you eat more than you planned.

Unlike many snack foods, popcorn also provides a bit of fiber. This can contribute to your daily fiber quota, something most Americans fall short on, while allowing you to fill up faster.

Nutrition facts for 1 cup air-popped popcorn: 31 calories, 0 g fat, 6 g carbohydrate (1 g fiber), 1 g protein


Salmon is a great source of heart- healthy omega-3 fats.

Salmon is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

High-protein foods are more filling than high-carb or high-fat foods.

You can and should eat lots of high-protein foods because they can help you consume fewer calories from other sources.

Several studies link more frequent fish intake with decreased waist circumference. You can eat heart-healthy fish, as long as it’s not fried or covered in high-calorie sauces.

Salmon is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, and can be immensely healthy when eaten twice a week.

Nutrition facts for 3 ounces of salmon: 177 calories, 11 g fat, 0 g carbohydrate, 17 g protein

Low-fat cottage cheese

Low-fat cottage cheese is good and good for you.

Low-fat cottage cheese is a healthy addition to a diet.

You could eat a LOT of cottage cheese without gaining weight. Nearly half of its calories come from protein, which has many attributes that promote weight maintenance and weight loss.

Protein is very filling. Compared to foods high in fat or carbohydrates, protein-rich foods may be less likely to be stored in body fat, even when overeating them.

When paired with resistance training, high-protein diets also promote muscle growth. This can help you look leaner and also burn more calories at rest.

Nutrition facts for 1 cup low fat cottage cheese: 183 calories, 5 g fat, 11 g carbohydrate (0 g fiber), 24 g protein


A one-ounce serving of almond boasts 161 calories.

Almonds are among the best nuts to eat if you’re looking to eat healthy.

Nuts are higher in calories and fat than many foods on this list, so you might be surprised that you can eat lots of them (in moderation) without seriously contributing to weight gain. Studies suggest that nuts don’t make you fat, even if you eat them daily. There’s even some evidence from this study in 2017 that adults who eat more of them weigh less and have smaller waists than people who don’t eat as many.

According to, here are some common nuts and their calorie counts/fat content per one-ounce serving:

  • walnuts: 183 calories and 18 grams of fat
  • Brazil nuts: 184 calories and 19 grams of fat
  • almonds: 161 calories and 14 grams of fat
  • pistachios: 156 calories and 12 grams of fat
  • cashews: 155 calories and 12 grams fat


Avocado is a delicious, low-calorie addition to your diet.

Consider adding avocado to your diet.

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Need additional proof that high-fat foods don’t necessarily make you fat?

In a 2021 study in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers divided overweight adults into two groups. Both groups followed similar diets and ate the same number of calories each day. The only difference is that one group ate a fresh Hass avocado daily. After 12 weeks, women in the avocado group lost significantly more visceral (deep abdominal) fat than those who didn’t eat avocados.

Subjects in a more recent six-month study reported in JAMA, saw no improvements in belly fat from eating avocado daily, but they didn’t gain more belly fat either. Interestingly, in this study, overall diet quality improved among those who added avocado to their regular diet.

Nutrition facts for one Hass avocado: 227 calories, 21 g fat, 12 g carbohydrate (9.2 g fiber), 2.7 g protein

Any food could make you gain weight if it’s contributing to a calorie surplus. But some foods are more helpful than others at keeping your calorie intake low enough to maintain or lose weight.

The best choices are minimally processed or unprocessed foods that are low in calories and very filling.

Higher-calorie foods can sometimes be eaten more often or in larger amounts if they contain a lot of fiber, protein or water. These foods fill the belly and help you take in fewer calories throughout the day.

This post was produced by ChaChingQueen and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks to The Associated Press. Always check with your healthcare professional before changing your dietary needs, and discuss any possible allergies or medication interactions.