12 Zero Calorie Foods For Weight Loss

Our nutrition coach gives you her top picks for calorie-free foods!

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Whether you are on a weight loss journey on a low-calorie diet or are just looking for a snack with an insignificant amount of calories, it can be really helpful to have a list of “zero calorie foods“ on hand.

But are there really 0-calorie foods? Are there any real foods that actually have no calories that you can fill up on without gaining any weight?

In this article, we will discuss the concept of no calorie foods and provide you with a list of the top 12 zero calorie foods (or nearly 0 calorie foods!) to help you fill up on fewer calories whether it be for weight loss or management of a healthy weight.

Let’s get started!

A person measuring their waist.

What Are Zero Calorie Foods?

Before we delve into whether or not there are actually foods with no calories, it’s helpful to discuss what we mean by “zero calorie foods.”

A calorie is a unit of energy. The calories listed on nutrition labels on food are technically kilocalories or kcals.

There are approximately 4.82 joules of energy in one calorie of food.

The body uses calories in the foods and beverages we consume to carry out all of the processes that support everyday functions such as breathing, digestion, building proteins and cell components, fueling our cells, and maintaining our heartbeat.

Calorie intake also supports any type of physical activity or exercise and is necessary for the growth and regeneration of new cells.

The calories contained in food are present in the chemical bonds between the molecules in the constituent macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) of the foods we eat.

As our food is digested and broken down in the mouth, stomach, and intestines, the bonds between these molecules break, releasing energy (or calories).

Foods with 0 calories technically do not contain any calories that can be used for energy.

In most cases, when people discuss the concept of zero calorie foods, there’s some amount of latitude afforded in the definition such that essentially a zero calorie food isn’t completely devoid of any calories, but there is little metabolic impact from the very few calories contained in the food.

People lifting weights.

Very low calorie foods can essentially function as net zero calorie foods because they contain so few calories that you have to eat a lot of the food to have an appreciable impact on your total daily caloric intake.

Additionally, even just digesting and absorbing whatever calories and nutrients are contained within a food takes energy.

This means that the body burns calories whenever you eat any type of food in order to break it down and process it.

If the food contains hardly any calories, the energy required to digest and absorb the low-calorie food may equal the number of calories contained in the food, resulting in a net zero.

Certain foods are sometimes considered “negative calorie foods” because it takes more energy (calories) to digest the food than the number of calories contained in the food.

Being in a calorie deficit is the only way to lose weight, which is consuming fewer calories than you are burning in a day.

With all this said, there are very few true no calorie foods, so the zero calorie foods list we created below pretty much all contain at least a few calories per serving, but the net impact on your body and your total daily caloric intake is essentially negligible.

A person holding out a glass of water.

What Foods Contain No Calories? A List Of Zero Calorie Foods

As mentioned, there are not really any foods that truly contain zero calories.

The “0 calorie foods“ listed below either contain virtually no calories, or the few calories they contain are poorly absorbed and mostly used to digest the food itself.

#1: Water

The only true zero calorie food (or drink) is water. 

You can also freeze water into ice and then smash it and eat or suck on ice chips.

#2: Black Coffee

Although flavored coffee drinks with all types of syrups, creamers, plant-based milk, and sweeteners can provide a ton of calories, black coffee is essentially a zero calorie food.

For this reason, black coffee is typically permitted even during intermittent fasting or water fasting.

Although not a truly calorie-free food, black coffee has just 2 calories per 100 grams (g) or about 5 calories per cup.1FoodData Central. (n.d.). Fdc.nal.usda.gov. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171893/nutrients

‌Furthermore, the caffeine in coffee and the catecholamines released by your body when you drink coffee may actually increase metabolism and fat burning, ultimately acting as a zero-calorie beverage.

To boot, coffee also has other health benefits, so drinking black coffee can be a great way to support weight loss and improve your health; just don’t go overboard, as too much caffeine can have adverse short- and long-term effects on your health.2Barrea, L., Pugliese, G., Frias-Toral, E., El Ghoch, M., Castellucci, B., Chapela, S. P., Carignano, M. de L. A., Laudisio, D., Savastano, S., Colao, A., & Muscogiuri, G. (2021). Coffee consumption, health benefits and side effects: a narrative review and update for dietitians and nutritionists. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition63(9), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2021.1963207

Watercress.

#3: Watercress

Watercress is a super nutritious green leafy vegetable that contains only 4 calories per cup (34 grams). One cup also provides 120% of the DV for vitamin A, 71% for vitamin K, and 16% for vitamin C.

#4: Herbs

Fresh herbs like basil and parsley are very low in calories and can add flavor to your food or water. A quarter cup of basil (about 10 leaves or 6 grams) contains only 1-2 calories, while a full cup contains about 6 calories

There are only about 4 calories in 10 sprigs of parsley and it is a high calcium food. Many herbs are also loaded with antioxidants.

#4: Iceberg Lettuce

One cup (57 grams) of iceberg lettuce contains only 8 calories and some vitamin A, K, and folate.

Swiss chard.

#5: Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is another nutritious dark, leafy green that is particularly high in vitamins A, C, and K, containing 249% of the DV of vitamin K per cup and potential anti-inflammatory components. One cup of chard (36 grams) provides only 7 calories

#5: Cucumbers

Cucumbers have a very high water content, so they are very low in calories. One half-cup serving of cucumbers (52 grams) has only 8 calories.

#6: Pickles

Like cucumbers, pickles are a very low-calorie food, with only about 12 calories per 100 g of pickles. 

Fermented pickles also provide probiotics, which are the beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut and help improve digestion, immune health, and nutrient absorption. 

Remember that pickles are high in sodium, so if you have high blood pressure, this may not be the best “zero calorie food” to nosh on. 

Diced celery, a celery stalk and celery juice.

#7: Radishes

Radishes contain only 19 calories per cup and provide potassium, folate, and vitamin C. Since they are a cruciferous vegetable they are also considered a superfood.3McManus, K. (2018, August 16). 10 superfoods to boost a healthy diet – Harvard Health Blog. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/10-superfoods-to-boost-a-healthy-diet-2018082914463

‌You could make some crunchy radish chips as one of your low calorie snacks or shred them over a salad made with some of our other nutrient-dense leafy greens on this list.

#8: Celery

One full cup of celery (120 grams) has only 19 calories, and it takes a while to chew. Plus, with all the dietary fiber, it takes a lot of calories to break down celery, and very few calories are absorbed, so it is often considered a negative-calorie food.

#9: Broth

One bouillon cube contains about 11 calories, so you can make a clear broth and have something warm to eat that essentially contains no calories. 

#10: Zucchini

Several years ago, zoodles became all the rage.

Zoodles, which are spiralized zucchini, are an excellent pasta alternative because zucchini is incredibly low in calories. Although technically fruit, zucchini is typically considered a vegetable that resembles cucumbers but has more flavor.

There are only 17 calories in 100 g of zucchini and nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, folate, and vitamin C.

Even if you aren’t a fan of zucchini noodles, you can enjoy zucchini in various ways, including grilled, sautéed, raw, steamed, or added to any number of dishes, including omelets, salads, soups, and even smoothies.

Arugula.

#11: Arugula

Arugula is a leafy green vegetable with a sharp, peppery flavor.

It is actually a cruciferous vegetable belonging to the same family as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Like other cruciferous veggies, arugula is packed with vitamin C and phytonutrients, including indoles and isothiocyanates.

It is also rich in vitamin K and very low in calories, containing only about 25 calories per 100 g serving.

#12: Lemons

Drinking lemon water is a popular weight loss “hack“ because drinking water is filling and can help support weight loss in and of itself, and adding lemon can potentially further enhance fat burning, satiety, and satisfaction.

Plus, if you are accustomed to drinking flavored beverages or sugar-sweetened drinks, using lemon water as a stepping stone to switch from caloric beverages to regular clean water can be a helpful gateway for your transition.

Additionally, lemons contain virtually no calories, so lemon water is essentially a no-calorie beverage.

Lemon water a zero calorie food.

Even if you choose not to drink lemon water but want to use lemon in another way—say to flavor your salmon, salad greens, or tomato slices—or even eat it plain (if you enjoy a good pucker!), lemons are a great low-calorie food to add to your diet.

Not only are lemons a low-calorie food, with about 29 calories in 100 g, but these citrus fruits also rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C. Grapefruit is also quite low in calorie, but raises the number to about 37 per 10 grams.

One medium-sized lemon (about 58 grams) provides about 50% of your daily value for vitamin C.

The next time you are looking for a way to cut some calories and combat weight gain, use our top 12 zero calorie foods in your diet.

Looking for an all-around healthy, balanced diet to follow day to day? Working with a registered dietitian is the best way to find what will work best for you and your needs.

But, to get some ideas and shop around for meal plans check out our handy database of the newest diet guides.

A nutritionist showing a client a food list.

References

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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