It can be really helpful to have a list of “zero calorie foods“ or foods with no calories that you can eat when you just feel like eating or when you want to fill up on a low-calorie diet.
But are there 0 calorie foods? Are there any real foods that actually have no calories?
In this article, we will discuss the concept of no calorie foods and a list of zero calorie foods (or nearly 0 calorie foods!) to help you fill up on fewer calories.
We will cover:
- What Are Zero Calorie Foods?
- What Foods Contain No Calories? A List Of Zero Calorie Foods
Let’s get started!
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.
Calories in the foods and beverages that we consume are used by the body 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 heart beat.
Calories also support any type of physical activity or exercise and are 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.
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 to the number of calories contained in the food, resulting in a net zero.
Certain foods are actually sometimes considered to be “negative calorie foods” because it actually takes more energy (calories) to digest the food than the number of calories contained in the food.
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.
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 that they contain are poorly absorbed and mostly used just to digest the food itself.
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 milks, 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 when intermittent fasting or doing a water fast.
Although not a truly calorie-free food, black coffee has just 2 calories per 100 grams (g), or about 5 calories per cup.
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.
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% of the DV for vitamin K, and 16% of the DV for vitamin C.
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.
#4: Iceberg Lettuce
One cup (57 grams) of iceberg lettuce contains only 8 calories, along with some vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate.
#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. Plus, one cup of chard (36 grams) provides only 7 calories.
Cucumbers are primarily water, so they are very low in calories. One half-cup serving of cucumbers (52 grams) has only 8 calories.
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.
Keep in mind 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.
Radishes contain only 19 calories per cup and provide potassium, folate, and vitamin C.
One full cup of celery (120 grams) has only 19 calories, and it takes a while to chew. Plus, with all the 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.
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.
Several years ago, zoodles became all the rage. Zoodles, which are spiralized zucchini, is an excellent pasta alternative because zucchini is incredibly low in calories. Although technically fruit, zucchini are typically considered a vegetable that resembles cucumbers but with more flavor.
There are only 17 calories in 100 g of zucchini, along with 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 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 vegetables, 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.
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 calories beverage.
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 they are also rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C.
One medium-sized lemon (about 58 grams) provides about 50% of your daily value for vitamin C.
What are your favorite zero calorie foods?
If you would like to pick out a healthy diet for yourself, you can check out our handy database of the newest and most successful diets.