11 best high volume low-calorie foods that’ll fill you up

Looking to lose a few pounds but struggling to cut down on food intake? Weight management isn’t necessarily about eating less food but rather about eating more of the healthier kind.

According to MedlinePlus, a website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, eating healthy snacks between your meals can help keep you full.

There are plenty of nutrient-packed foods low in calories that can promote a feeling of fullness and prevent overeating.

Among such foods are fruits and vegetables, which are “the best high-volume, low-calorie foods,” Roxana Ehsani, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Newsweek.

Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense, high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and rich in dietary fiber, which can help keep us more satisfied for longer, the nutritionist said.

Why High Volume, Low-Calorie Foods Keep Us Full

Next time you go food shopping, look out for items that are high in dietary fiber as well as water content.

Ehsani explained: “Dietary fiber slows down the digestion of food, so it moves through our digestive tract a lot slower, which in turn provide our body’s with a steady release of energy over time, which helps keep our blood sugar and energy level more stable and dietary fiber provides bulk to our digestive tract which helps keep our bowel movements moving more regular.”

Fruits and vegetables are “high in volume, meaning high in water content, which helps hydrate us and fills up our gut too,” she added.

With fresh fruits and vegetables, “you get a plethora of valuable nutrients—not just empty calories,” the Mayo Clinic notes. “These foods also take longer to eat and are filling, which helps curb your hunger.”

A spread of vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, meat and fish, which are among the best high volume, low-calorie foods to keep you full.
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Ehsani noted only around 10 percent of Americans manage to consume the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. If you don’t want to eat these alone, adding some fruits and vegetables to meals can help make you feel full as well as meet the daily recommended amounts.

For example, you can add berries to your morning oatmeal, cereal, smoothie or slice of toast, or have dark, leafy greens and tomato slices with your eggs or in sandwiches and wraps and add a variety of vegetables to stir-fry, rice, or pasta dishes.

Jazz things up by roasting your vegetables in the oven until they caramelize or crisp them in an air fryer, the nutritionist said.

Below we look at some of the best high-volume, low-calorie foods to fill you up.

1. Potatoes

Potatoes often get a bad name when it comes to weight control (due to fries or other greasy potato dishes being considered high in fat).

However, baked potatoes can be a filling part of a healthy diet, Rachael Link, a registered dietitian, wrote in an article for Healthline.

A large potato contains around 278 calories, 7.9 grams of protein and 6.6 gram of dietary fiber, according to NutritionData.

2. Watermelon

As implied in its name, watermelon has a high water content, so it will keep you hydrated as well as full. It’s also low in calories (with a cup of the fruit containing only around 46 calories) and rich in essential micronutrients such as Vitamin A and C, according to Link.

Fresh slices of watermelon.
Fresh slices of watermelon, which are full of water and great for keeping you hydrated.
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3. Grapes

Continuing on the fruit vein, grapes are also high in volume but low in calories. A cup of the fruit can be a great snack to tide you over between meals, says MedlinePlus.

For example, a quarter cup of raisins contains about 100 calories, while a whole cup of grapes contains about the same amount of calories, giving you “more bite for your calorie buck,” the Mayo Clinic explains.

4. Fish and Lean Meat

MedlinePlus says snacks that include a source of protein have more “staying power,” helping you to not get hungry again as quickly.

Fish and lean meats (such as chicken, turkey and low-fat cuts of red meat) are low in calories but packed with protein, noted Link.

To reduce calories even further, opt for lean fish such as cod, flounder, halibut or sole instead of the higher calorie fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel, advised the registered dietitian.

Grilled cod fillets served with vegetables.
Grilled cod fillets served with lemon slices and vegetables. Opt for lean fish, such as cod, than others like salmon, to further cut down on calories.
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5. Oatmeal

Oats are low in calories (a half cup contains only around 150 calories) and high in dietary fiber (around four grams per half cup) as well as protein (around 5.5 grams per half cup), according to NutritionData, making oatmeal an excellent option to keep you feeling full.

6. Bran Flakes

Cereal lovers can reach for bran flakes, which are also full of dietary fiber and therefore very filling.

A bowl of bran flakes with skim milk, blueberries and a slice of wholewheat toast with peanut butter (all of which adds protein and fruit to your bran flakes meal) amounts to roughly the same amount of calories as a single large glazed doughnut—a total of around 300 calories, the Mayo Clinic notes.

Scoops of oat flakes, bran and seeds.
Large scoops of oat flakes, bran and seeds spread on a table. Oatmeal and a bowl of bran flake cereal are great low-calorie, high volume breakfast food options.
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7. Popcorn

Next time you crave potato chips, opt for popcorn instead to eat more food for less calories. One ounce of potato chips has around 150 calories but you could have around 3.5 cups of air-popped popcorn and consume only about 100 calories, according to the Mayo Clinic.

MedlinePlus says three cups of air-popped popcorn with two tablespoons of shredded parmesan cheese can also be a good healthy snack between meals.

8. Legumes

Legumes, such as beans, lentils and peas, are full of protein and fiber, making them great options for keeping you full on less calories.

A cup of lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt has around 230 calories as well as nearly 18 grams of protein and 15.6 grams of dietary fiber.

9. Chia Seeds

Like legumes, chia seeds are high in protein. They are especially high in soluble fiber, which is a type of fiber that absorbs liquids and swells in your stomach, helping you to feel fuller, Link explained.

According to a 2009 study published in the peer-reviewed journal LWT-Food Science and Technology, chia seeds can absorb around 10 to 12 times their weight in water and move slowly through your digestive tract to help keep you full.

Chia seed pudding made with almond milk.
Chia seed pudding made with almond milk and topped with mango pieces. Chia seeds are especially high in soluble fiber.

10. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is also a great high volume, low-calorie snack for its protein content. A cup of cottage cheese made with low-fat, one percent milk has around 163 calories and 28 grams of protein, according to NutritionData.

11. Yogurt

Plain yogurt, such as Greek yogurt, is another ideal low-calorie, protein-packed snack to fill you up. Depending on the brand, a two-third cup serving of Greek yogurt typically contains around 130 calories and 11 grams of protein, according to Link.

MedlinePlus says 170 grams (or six ounces) of plain yogurt (or lowfat cottage cheese works too) with a half cup of berries makes a good healthy snack combination.

Cottage cheese served seeded bread.
Cottage cheese served on slices of seeded bread, garnished with oregano. Cottage cheese makes a great high volume, low-calorie snack for its protein content.
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