Zero Calorie Food List For Weight Loss

Use this zero calorie food list to learn which foods are helpful for sustainable weight loss.

The foods we love and regularly recommend for our clients are zero calorie foods including ones that you can eat “unlimited” quantities of without derailing weight loss goals.

zero calorie foods list

Managing your daily caloric intake is one of the first steps many take when beginning their weight loss journey. And they’re right.

We’ve all heard the adage, “Weight loss is 20% fitness and 80% nutrition,” and from our experience, we don’t disagree.

Tracking calories for weight loss is very effective but takes a lot of discipline. In addition to knowing your target daily calorie goal, you’ll also need to know how many calories you burn during your workout and throughout the day.

This is critical because we see many people simply cut their calories too low. News flash: if you undereat, you wont lose weight, and you could even gain weight.

If you don’t eat enough, your metabolism will slow, and hormonal changes will tell your body to onto fat. It’s also plain unhealthy. Think of your body as a flower. You won’t be growing up strong if you cut your water intake.

Knowing what the right foods are to eat when counting calories can be tricky, so we have compiled a list of zero calorie foods, almost zero calorie foods, and negative calorie foods. We include a few food items that you can eat in unlimited quantities, and they won’t make you gain weight.

To learn more about tracking your calories, take our free 30-Day Weight Loss Challenge. As we always say, ‘Trying to lose weight without knowing your calories is like trying to train for a race without knowing the distance.’

If you have struggled with weight loss for many years and suspect that calorie-deprivation has damaged your hormones and ability to lose weight, it’s time to learn about fasting.

When done properly, fasting is a safe and effective way to reset your hormones and kick your body back into a fat burning state. We write all about our experience and how to prepare for, execute, and break a 3-day water fast in the below article. 

What Are Negative Calorie Foods and Zero Calorie Foods?

That’s a valid question. Outside of water, vitamins, and some engineered drinks, everything contains at least some calories.

The internet is full of these catchy buzzwords and fad diets, sharing that eating zero or negative calorie foods are the key to weight loss. But, is the science there? Not really.

Regarding negative calorie foods, celery (and other high fiber and high water containing veggies) is the most often cited example of a food that burns more calories to eat it than what it actually provides.

A 2016 study captured in the British TV show Food Unwrapped confirmed this with scientists out of the University of Warwick. In the episode, the TV host burned 72 calories after eating 53 calories of raw celery and burned 112 calories after drinking 53 calories of juiced celery.

Still, there are not enough reputable scientific studies showing that foods are truly calorie negative. But, we can get on board with zero calorie foods. The only truly zero calorie food is water, but low calorie foods are also grouped in. 

Still, we view eating only zero or negative calorie foods as fad dieting nonsense similar to drinking ice cold water instead of room temperature water (which burns around 5 extra calories per glass, by the way). 

Sure, every little bit helps, but there are better engineered and optimized ways to go about this. The trap is when you buy into zero-calorie marketing of snacks and soda (yes, there’s a 0-calorie Diet Squirt… icky).

Don’t worry, none of that junk is on this zero calorie foods list.

Our Curated Zero Calorie Foods

The zero calorie “unlimited” foods and low calorie foods on this list are all highly nutritious and highly recommended. While you may find low calorie snacks (like soda or Jello), don’t be fooled. What they lack in calories they make up in sugar and sodium.

Sticking with the idea behind zero calorie foods, we completely support eating a variety of low calorie vegetables like celery, watercress, and alfalfa sprouts and low-calorie fruits like strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe. You can do no wrong there.

Additionally, there are a few foods commonly touted as “unlimited” for weight loss, including lemon, hot sauce, herbs, coffee, ginger, and garlic, among others. We share those as well.

At the core of it, eating healthy, fiber-rich foods, no matter the calorie amounts, will do your body good. We generally adhere to an easy philosophy of ‘leafy greens and beans,’ partnered with an awareness of our daily calorie and macro targets, which we discuss in-depth in ‘How to Meal Prep for the Week.’

Stick to this list of high quality foods and you’ll lose weight in a sustainable, healthy manner.

Need help determining how many calories you should be eating in a day? For starters, adult women should never eat less than 1,200 calories a day. The same goes for adult men who should never eat fewer than 1,600 calories a day.

This is an accepted threshold across the medical and nutrition field, so no matter how petite or short you are, don’t eat less than this. Again, think of the flower story – you need to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients to become strong because cutting water out will only make you sick and withered.

All calorie measurements shared below are from My Food Data.

Zero Calorie "Unlimited" Foods For Weight Loss

This list of zero calorie foods includes foods that you can eat in unlimited quantities, without derailing your weight loss goals.

1. Water

Calories per serving: 0 calories

The only truly zero calorie food on this list, water is essential for your weight loss. Hydration promotes better sleep which helps curb cravings and keeps your body satiated among other benefits we write in our article ‘The Importance of Drinking Water.’

When dehydration kicks in, your brain can confuse hunger for thirst. If you’re hungry, but it’s not mealtime, reach for a big glass of water instead.

So how much water should you be drinking a day? Here’s our rule of thumb:

Take half your body weight in pounds and drink that many fluid ounces. For example, a 200-pound person should drink 100 fl. oz. of water a day. Some people need more, while some need less, but it’s a good starting point.

2. Vitamins and Supplements

Calories per serving: 0 calories

Your general multi-vitamins do not contain calories. Supplements, like natural powders such as maca or cacao (we prefer the Navitas brand), are typically also low in calories.

One major exception are chia seeds, which are higher in calories (137 calories per ounce), although don’t let that deter you from taking them. They are loaded with fiber. Just schedule it into your targeted daily calories.

3. Lemon or Lime

Calories per serving: 1 calorie per wedge

Lemon and lime can be used in unlimited quantities to brighten up your meals and beverages. They fall into the bucket of zero calorie foods because they more or less have no calories, with one wedge of lemon producing just 1 calorie worth of juice.

Add lemon and lime to your meals (it’s great on both fish and chicken) and your beverages. Nothing is as refreshing as crisp lemon water, which is a popular zero-calorie drink during intermittent fasting during fasting hours.

Interested in intermittent fasting? After intermittent fasting for nearly three years, we wrote up a comprehensive ‘Intermittent Fasting How-To Guide.

4. Herbs

Calories per serving: 1 calorie in a small bunch of fresh herbs

Whether it’s a few springs or leaves of fresh thyme or basil, herbs are nearly zero-calorie foods that pack a lot of punch.

Keeping a small herb garden in the kitchen window is one of our favorite reminders to add herbs like basil, mint, oregano, and rosemary to our meals, drinks, shakes, smoothies, and even to our grill embers to smoke our vegetables.

Want to start adding herbs into your shakes? Try the Mint Melon Magic Smoothie and the Blueberry Basil Smoothie in our list of ‘Shakeology Recipes Vanilla: 5 Unexpectedly Amazing Smoothies.’

5. Hot Sauce (Tabasco or Mexican Only)

Calories per serving: 1 calorie per teaspoon

Similar to the chilies below, hot sauce, particularly fresh, Mexican-style hot sauces like Cholula and Valentina, are very low in calories. Hot sauce is a zero calorie food that you can eat in unlimited amounts without it affecting your weight loss.

6. Coffee and Tea

Calories per serving: 2 calories per cup

Outside of added creamer or milk, coffee and tea count as a zero-calorie food and something that many drink while fasting.

Living in Colombia has taught us a lot about coffee, and for best taste and nutrition, we recommend grinding fresh coffee beans and preparing your coffee in a French press.

The best coffee (“Specialty grade” and roasted days prior) we have found in the US comes from JavaPresse. We have been using one of their manual burr grinders for years.

7. Chiles

Varieties such as jalapeño, ancho, pasilla, guajilla, habanero, etc.

Calories per serving: 2-4 calories per raw chile

After spending a year living in Mexico, chilies became a powerful way to flavor our food in the fewest amount of calories. While the size of chilies of course varies, raw chilies are very low in calories. Add some to your next meal, if you dare!

8. Mustard

Calories per serving: 3 calories in 1 teaspoon or packet

Healthy food doesn’t mean “bland” food. Finding high-quality mustards at a specialty shop is one of our favorite ways to dress up our breakfast eggs and salads.

We always have a jar of this zero calorie food in our refrigerator. This 4-Pack on Amazon is a go-to.

9. Vinegar

Calories per serving: 3-6 calories in 1 tablespoon

Adding vinegar into your cooking, like apple cider, sherry or red wine vinegar, adds depth of flavor into many meat and vegetable dishes. We categorize vinegar as one of our ‘unlimited foods’ for our clients.

One of our favorite ways to use vinegar is our early morning drinks of water (boiled), lemon (1/4 slice), cinnamon (dash), and apple cider vinegar (1 ounce) to aid in digestion.

10. Garlic

Calories per serving: 4 calories per clove

Packed with anti-inflammatories and immunity-boosting benefits, add garlic to your list of nearly zero-calorie foods. At just 4 calories per wedge, load up your meals and dressings.

To capture all the nutritional benefits of this zero calorie food, you have to buy full cloves and mince or chop them just before cooking or eating them.

11. Ginger

Calories per serving: 9 calories per half-inch chunk

Fresh ginger is one of our mainstays. Present in our Asian stir fry, herbal teas, and favorite Gingerbread Man Shake, ginger also aids in digestion, immunity, and nauseousness.

12. Green Onion

Calories per serving: 10 calories per 1/4 cup

Green onions and scallions qualify under our unlimited, nearly zero-calorie food list with how much taste they add with just a few stalks. Fun fact, you eat the white part of the green onion which has the most flavor. Save the green ends for garnish.

13. Flavor Extracts

Such as pure vanilla, peppermint, and almond.

Calories per serving: 12 calories per teaspoon

Used in baking, smoothies, and homemade granola, load up on flavor extracts like vanilla, peppermint, and almond. We use these extracts when making our Instant Pot granola to manage the amount of sugar and preservatives often found in store-bought brands.

14. Cocoa Powder (Unsweetened)

Calories per serving: 12 calories per tablespoon

Believe it or not, cocoa powder (not to be confused with cacao powder which is raw) has very few calories while still imparting significant health benefits like mood-boosting and antioxidants.

When trying to lose weight and craving dessert, add this zero calorie food to your shake for something sweet.

Almost Zero Calorie Vegetables For Weight Loss

Outside of water and vitamins, everything has calories. If you’re looking for the lowest calorie vegetables to add to your shopping list, we list them here in order of the lowest calories per typical serving size of 1 cup.

15. Watercress

Calories per serving: 4 calories per 1 cup, chopped

16. Kale

Calories per serving: 6 calories per 1 cup, chopped

17. Chard

Calories per serving: 7 calories per 1 cup, chopped

18. Spinach

Calories per serving: 7 calories per 1 cup, chopped

19. Alfalfa Sprouts

Calories per serving: 8 calories per 1 cup, whole

We love sprouts and wrote about ‘How To Grow Alfalfa Sprouts At Home.’ They are low in calories but high in nutrients. We love to add alfalfa sprouts to our sandwiches and salads.

20. Lettuce

Calories per serving: 8-10 calories per 1 cup, chopped

21. Bok Choy

Calories per serving: 9 calories per 1 cup, chopped

22. Broccoli Sprouts

Calories per serving: 10 calories per 1 cup, whole

Notice that broccoli sprouts have about one-third the calories of broccoli (number 35), yet they have even more nutrients than the grown version! It’s easy to grow them at home (while saving money). Check out our article, ‘How Do You Grow Sprouts to Eat?

23. Celery

Calories per serving: 14 calories per 1 cup, chopped

24. Cucumbers

Calories per serving: 16 calories per 1 cup, chopped

25. Summer Squash

Calories per serving: 18 calories per 1 cup, chopped

26. Mushrooms

Calories per serving: 19 calories per 1 cup, chopped

27. Radishes

Calories per serving: 19 calories per 1 cup, chopped

28. Zucchini

Calories per serving: 21 calories per 1 cup, chopped

29. Asparagus

Calories per serving: 27 calories per 1 cup, chopped

30. Cauliflower

Calories per serving: 27 calories per 1 cup, chopped

31. Fennel

Calories per serving: 27 calories per 1 cup, chopped

32. Tomatoes

Calories per serving: 27 calories per 1 cup, chopped

33. Cabbage

Calories per serving: 29 calories per 1 cup, chopped

Don’t often eat this zero calorie food? We share one of our favorite and easy cabbage recipes, Carrot, Cabbage, Apple Slaw, in our article, ‘Easy Healthy Recipes for Meal Prep.’ It’s perfect as a tasty, no-cook side dish.

34. Bell Peppers

Calories per serving: 30 calories per 1 cup, chopped

35. Broccoli

Calories per serving: 31 calories per 1 cup, chopped

36. Mung Bean Sprouts

Calories per serving: 31 calories per 1 cup, whole

37. Turnips

Calories per serving: 36 calories per 1 cup, chopped

38. Green Beans

Calories per serving: 38 calories per 1 cup, chopped

39. Jicama

Calories per serving: 46 calories per 1 cup, chopped

Almost Zero Calorie Fruits For Weight Loss

Here is a list of the lowest-calorie fruits per typical serving size of 1 cup of slices. We love adding these fruits to our salads, roasts, and shakes. Of course, they’re great as snacks too!

40. Strawberry

Calories per serving: 46 calories per 1 cup, whole

41. Watermelon

Calories per serving: 46 calories per 1 cup, sliced

42. Cantaloupe

Calories per serving: 53 calories per 1 cup, sliced

43. Apple

Calories per serving: 57 calories per 1 cup, sliced

44. Peach

Calories per serving: 60 calories per 1 cup, sliced

45. Honeydew Melon

Calories per serving: 61 calories per 1 cup, sliced

46. Blackberry

Calories per serving: 62 calories per 1 cup, whole

47. Grape

Calories per serving: 62 calories per 1 cup, whole

48. Papaya

Calories per serving: 62 calories per 1 cup, sliced

Closing

When watching calories for weight loss, focus on eating more vegetables and fresh, natural condiments to your cooking. Fruits, which are slightly higher in calories, are great additions.

Eating a variety of healthy foods is key to your body’s health. For more ideas, download our Ultimate Healthy Food Guide.

If you have questions, post them in the comments below. Have a favorite recipe using something on our zero calorie food list, please share that too. Thanks in advance for the comment!

 

The Ultimate Healthy Food Guide And Shopping List (PDF)

Do you ever wonder which foods have the highest nutritional quality or "bang for their buck?" Check out our guide and prepare for success before your next grocery store visit. We list our pantry staples, and healthy foods in order of the highest nutrition value. 

Or, download for free.

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The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship, as a couple.

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