Hopefully, you won’t do my mistake while being in the calorie deficit and keep on eating the same meals over and over again. I’ve learned the hard way that doing calorie restriction is all about the milage and without a variety of meals you get bored and more likely abandon the idea.
The truth is that the longer you stay in the calorie deficit, the more you crave foods that you like. So having a variety of meals that are widely available, extra easy to prepare and calorie deficit-friendly hopefully will kickstart some of your creativity, so you can choose what you like the most.
In this article, I’ve prepared over dozen meal ideas that can inspire, motivate and most importantly educate you so you know what to eat.
This the most common question I get. People say that they are doing calorie deficit, but don’t know what to eat.
In collaboration with a registered dietician, we combined some of the simplest yet filling foods that suppress appetite, lower hunger and keep you fuller for longer. I’ve also done my own study and surveyed over 20 people about what they think of each of those meals and asked them to add their own suggestions and extra tips to perfect this resource for you.
Without further ado, here are the 17 calorie deficit meals ideas that I hope will inspire you and show you what to eat.
1. Muesli with Apple Slices
What is it? A combination of mixed oats, grains, nuts, and seeds which all have a relatively high amount of proteins and beta-glucans content can curb the hunger right of the gate.
Why it’s good? Study shows that just 4 g of beta-glucans from oats lower glycemic index and glucose levels which can significantly suppress appetite (source). Adding apple slices to muesli immediately increase fiber content, therefore, lowers your hunger. An apple is one of the most satiating fruits, which in this combination is a great way to start the day.
Who is it for? It’s best for people who want to add more fiber into their diet.
Who is it not for? I guess for people who don’t like muesli. Picky-eaters can use any cereals in that case.
When its best? This is best for breakfast and before a workout
|Muesli 1 cup||274 kcal|
|Apple 1 cup slices||57 kcal|
|Skim milk 1/2 cup||41 kcal|
- Tips: Adding greek yogurt can increase the number of proteins
2. Cottage Cheese with Almonds
What is it? Underrated protein goldmine.
Why it’s good? Cottage cheese is packed with casein protein and has significant satiating power as a snack. In fact, studies show that cottage cheese and eggs have similar satiety properties (source). However, cottage cheese has a lower kcal content, with a whopping 23 g of protein per cup.
Who is it for? For people who want to get lean and needs more variety of high-protein meals while cutting.
Who is it not for? People with lactose intolerance have to be careful.
When its best? It can be eaten as a snack, or in the evening. Casein is a slow-release protein and can work on muscle protein synthesis at night.
|Cottage cheese 1 cup||98 kcal|
|Almonds 1 handful||162 kcal|
Tips: Almonds have poor bioaccessibility of calories (inefficient energy absorption). This means only 55-75% of the calories from almonds are actually absorbed. So you eat more but you don’t get the calories in.
3. Cauliflower Mash
What is it? The most filling mash I’ve ever tasted.
Why it’s good? Cauliflower has several health-promoting phytochemicals, including phenolic compounds, and vitamin C. It can be eaten raw, boliled, steamed, grilled, or baked.
Who is it for? People who are tired of eating mash potatoes. Changing your regular mash potato into the cauliflower mash can save you a lot of calories per cup, time in preparation and it still tastes delicious.
Who is it not for? People with digestion issues.
When its best? As a snack or as a part of your big post-workout meal.
|Cauliflower 1 head||66 kcal|
|Olive oil 1 tablespoon||119 kcal|
Tips: The most nutritious is raw form, but to make a mash you would need to cook it for 15 or so minutes to make it more mashy-friendly. Steaming and microwaving saves more nutrients than boiling
4. Oatmeal with Orange Slices
What is it? The first time when I’ve tried combination of orange slices and oatmeal, I was hooked.
Why it’s good? This simple yet extremely satisfying meal gives a whooping of 8 grams of fiber per serving. It is ideal for a calorie deficit meal because both whole oranges and oatmeal are way up high in the satiety score.
Who is it for? Everyone on a calorie deficit.
Who is it not for? People who follow paleo or carnivore diet.
When its best? It’s a power house breakfast meal or before workout energy bomb.
|Oatmeal 1 cup||158 kcal|
|Orange 1 medium||62 kcal|
|Skim milk 1 cup||41 kcal|
Tips: Studies show that adding an orange to the meal can lower the glucose levels were drinking the orange juice had a similar effect on glucose as drinking regular coke (source).
5. Multigrain Bread with Smoked Salmon
What is it? Undervalued satiety bomb.
Why it’s good? Having multigrain bread adds all the nutrients, vitamins and healthy fats plus is packed with satiety filling fiber. Salmon is a rich source of proteins, EPA and DHA which both are proven to regulate the appetite (source).
Who is it for? It’s for people who like bread but feel guilty eating it on a calorie deficit. Generally speaking, eating white bread while being in the dieting can make you more hungry. During the harvesting process, all the bran packed with fiber is removed so white bread only has starchy endosperm.
But when you have multigrain bread that has unprocessed grains it will make a day and night difference.
Who is it not for? Its not good for people wit seafood allergies.
When its best? This is best for mid-day snack
|Multigrain bread 1 slice||85 kcal|
|Smoked salmon 100 g||117 kcal|
Tips: The single slice of multigrain bread with salmon can deliver 23 grams of proteins and 500 mg of EPA and DHA.
6. Homemade Hummus
What is it? There are a hundred ways of making hummus.
Why it’s good? All you need is chickpeas, kidney beans, garlic, and tomato sauce. This dish takes 7 minutes to do and is loaded with proteins and fiber.
Who is it for? Lazy people who want a lot of protein fast. In fact, every time when I’m doing a calorie deficit, and I’m looking for a quick meal, this is my go-to. All you need is a can of chickpeas, a can of beans, and a can of whole tomatoes. The amount will be good for at least 4 servings. Here’s how you do it.
- Open both cans of beans and chickpeas
- Drain the water
- Wash chickpeas and beans under the tap in colander
Next step is to heat up the pan with just a drizzle of olive oil. Once the pan is hot
- Chop the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes
- Add both chickpeas and beans
- Add spices (salt, pepper, chili, jalapeno)
- Fry for 4 minutes on high heat
Once the chickpeas and beans are in the pan, open the can of whole tomatoes and blend it. After 4-5 of frying, pour the tomatoes into the pan. Lower the heat and slowly cook until the water reduces. In the end, pour all into the large bowl and blend until you get the mash. Bon appetit.
Who is it not for? People who may be sensitive to chickpeas.
When its best? This is a great low-calorie meal ideal for dinner or lunch
|Chickpeas 100 g||164 kcal|
|Kidney beans 100 g||127 kcal|
|Tomatoes 240 g||46 kcal|
Tips: If I travel and don’t have a blender then I just eat without blending. It’s still delicious.
7. Sweet Potato Brownies
What is it? It’s a sweet that you will fall in love with.
Why it’s good? It’s high on fiber, medium on calories, loaded with other health-promoting nutrients, and extremely satisfying.
Who is it for? For people who like sweets, but are looking for more robust beta-carotene and anthocyanins actions. Also for everyone who loves chocolate.
Who is it not for? Just because you’re on a calorie deficit, it doesn’t mean you cannot have a treat.
When its best? This type of meal is perfect as a post-workout snack.
|Sweet potato 100 g||114 kcal|
|Cocoa powder 1/4 cup||49 kcal|
|Peanut butter 1/4 cup||375 kcal|
|Maple syrup 1/4 cup||205 kcal|
Tips: It takes 15 minutes.
- Boil sweet potato and make it a mash
- Place all the ingredients into the food processor
- Pour in the loaf pan
- Cook in the oven for 15 minutes on 175 °C (350 °F)
8. Lentil Soup
What is it? At home we used to call it ‘army soup’.
Why it’s good? A good lentil soup is extremely filling but it takes much longer to prepare. You can add a variety of beans and legumes along with spices and even pumpkin seeds to serve. It’s filling, it’s satisfying and it has a lot of proteins.
Who is it for? Everyone who wants to lose weight. Lentil soup are on the NHS food list suitable for VLCD (very-low-calorie diet) that is been used as a way to reduce excess weight with overweight patients fast (source).
Lentils have a variety of bioactive compounds like polyphenols that seems to reduce some health issues and lower glucose levels
Who is it not for? People who are short on time. If you live on lentils then it may impairs some mineral absorption (source).
When its best? During the day snack or part of your big dinner
|Chicken stock 1 cup||86 kcal|
|Onion 1 large||40 kcal|
|Carrot 1 cup||53 kcal|
|Lentils 1 cup||230 kcal|
Tips: All you need is onion, garlic, carrots, chicken stock, and lentils.
- Chop onions, garlic, and carrots
- Place them in the heated pan and stir for 10 minutes
- Keep adding a little bit of water
Now you can prepate lentils. You can either soak them (this will need to be done way before) or simply add lentils from the can. Drain and wash under the tap.
- Add lentils and some spices
- Add chicken stock
- Reduce the heat and cook for 35 minutes
Related article: Can I eat lentils at night?
9. Protein Shake with Milk and Coffee
What is it? My personal best.
Why it’s good? If you like milkshakes, then look no further because nothing will curb your appetite like this combo. Protein shakes are proven to be an effective method as a meal replacement in the long-term calorie restriction process. It doesn’t mean you should live on shakes, but it’s a good alternative.
Who is it for? People who love coffee. Coffee is a proven appetite suppressant. Even decaffeinated coffee can acutely decrease hunger and increase satiety (source). So blending together coffee and protein powder not only tastes delicious but can also lower you hunger levels.
Who is it not for? Those who have lactose intolerance can try pea or hemp protein. I like to use regular milk because it is more filling, but you can use water if you want to.
When its best? It is best for quick snack or post-workout meal. It’s creamy, soft and filling. All you need is to all three together.
- Protein powder
- Milk or water
|Protein powder 1 scoop||120 kcal|
|Skim milk 1/2 cup||41 kcal|
Tips: Casein protein seems to influence muscle protein synthesis better than whey protein
10. Noodle Soup with Chicken
What is it? It’s a simple combination of your regular instant noodles with a piece of chicken, pork or beef.
Why it’s good? It’s quick, simple, low on calories, and easy to prepare. If you eat noodles solo, it may spike your glucose. But when you add some more protein from chicken or pork, it’s surprisingly filling and can serve as a regular dinner.
Who is it for? For everyone who is short on time, yet want to have a filling, fully nutritious meal.
Who is it not for? This won’t be a good fit for plant-based eaters and vegetarians (unless you add egg instead of meat).
When its best? I like to eat it after a workout. Noodles go straight to replace glycogen in the muscles. But it can also be used as a regular dinner.
|Instant noodle 70 g||50 kcal|
|Chicken breast 100 g||165 kcal|
Tips: Going one extra mile and chopping some greens and veggies will transform ordinary noodles into robust mega dish.
11. Baked Potato with Ground Beef
What is it? It’s a classic combo that can satisfy even the most picky-eaters.
Why it’s good? First of all, potato is by far the most satisfying of all the foods. It has a satiety score of 323% which is way more than oatmeal or even orange. Ground beef adds a juicy taste, it’s packed with essential amino acids and proteins that help to curb hunger, even on the strict calorie deficit.
Who is it for? Everyone who is on a diet and likes to lift weights. For people who do intermittent fasting or even one meal a day (OMAD), this meal is worth waiting for.
Who it’s not for? This won’t be best idea for vegans and vegetarians. You could substitute ground beef with beans to get more complete amino acid profile.
When its best? Its best as a dinner or post-workout meal.
|Ground beef 100 g||241 kcal|
|Baked potato 1 medium||161 kcal|
Tips: Cook ground beef separately from baked potato to drain the fat content and mix together before serving.
12. Tuna Steak
What is it? Tuna it’s one of the most protein-rich sources (28 grams per 100 gram) and a relatively low content of fat.
Why it’s good? Apart from being low in calories and high on proteins, it only takes 5 minutes to cook the tuna steak. So even people who are crunched with time can fix a filling meal in just minutes. No special skills required.
Who is it for? Everyone who loves fish and is tired of eating the same chicken and broccoli all day long.
Who it’s not for? People who are allergic to seafood and who are concerned about mercury levels and other metals. Also, I find that some people don’t like the taste of tuna.
When its best? As a part of the main dinner meal, lunch or post-workout meal.
|Tuna steak 100 g||132 kcal|
Tips: If you don’t like the fishy taste, adding a drizzle of lemon or lime juice will balance the flavor.
What is it? Lobster is also called homar is some part of the world. Comparing to shrimps and crabs, lobsters has the highest amount of proteins (27 grams) and lowest on fat (1.2 grams).
Why its good? It is packed with DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. One cup (145 grams) of lobster will fill up over 50% of your vitamin B12. And because of high protein, it will keep you fuller for longer.
Who is it for? If you like shrimps you will love lobsters. The problem is that fresh lobster is only available in certain parts of the world like Maine, the Caribbean, the Pacific, South-East Asia and around Australia.
Who it’s not for? This is not for people who have the seafood allergy and generally don’t like to eat fish.
When its best? Fresh lobster has a steep price tag and I like to indulge it on occasion. But if you live in the places where you just throw a rock and hit lobster, then even on a calorie deficit having a delicious weekend meal to celebrate your results can be a good idea.
|Lobster 145 g||129 kcal|
Tips: Using a lobster as a cheat meal can be a good choice where you don’t eat for most of the day and you treat yourself for dinner.
14. Broccoli Jumble
What is it? If you like broccoli soup, this one will hit home with you. A quick setup includes chopping broccoli flowers and put them to a boil. When they get soft enough, remove all flowers from the pan but save the water. Put all the flowers into the blender, pour a little bit of water (the one they were cooking in), blend and its done. 5 minutes.
Why it’s good? Broccoli is a superfood loaded with bioactive components like polyphenols, glucosinolates, sulforaphane, and selenium. It tasty, filling, and has almost no calories.
Who is it for? For people who like to have their veggies on the go because this can be used as a smoothie for lunch or mid-day snack.
Who it’s not for? People with thyroid problems, only if adviced by their physicians.
When its best? As a mid-day snack. Because of low-calorie density and high fiber, this soup can be eaten multiple times of the day.
|Broccoli 100 g||34 kcal|
Tip: Play around with the ratio of water to broccoli (less water more creamy effect) depending on what consistency you like.
Related article: Can I eat raw broccoli?
15. Strip Steak
What is it? It’s a classic New Yorker steak stuffed with vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It will keep you full regardless if you eat it on its own or with the full meal.
Why it’s good? It tastes amazing and it has over 24 grams of protein per 100 grams.
Who is it for? People who prefer eating later on during the day.
Who it’s not for? Its not a best idea if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
When its best? The best time to have your steak is later on during the day or as a post-workout meal.
|1 steak 250 g||679 kcal|
Tip: When you’re doing calorie restriction, your meals taste so much better (source). That happens because calorie deficit stimulates nasal chemosensory and palatability. So why not enjoy it with a good lean cut of steak.
16. Boiled Eggs
What is it? Protein bullets.
Why it’s good? Boiled eggs have the most cost-efficient protein sources. Not only they have tons of vitamins, as long as you eat the whole egg, but also they keep you full like no tomorrow. Studies show that just 2 eggs increase satiety throughout the day (source).
Who is it for? Everyone who wants to get lean.
Who it’s not for? People who has allergy to eggs, plant-based and vegetarian eaters.
When its best? Eggs are great for every meal.
|Egg 1 large||78 kcal|
Tip: Do not eat raw eggs like Rocky Balboa because raw egg white contains a protein called avidin that when eaten with a high amount binds to biotin (vitamin B7) and inhibits biotin absorption. The cooking process destroys avidin and makes it biotin-friendly.
17. Roast Pork Neck
What is it? My favourite dish.
Why its good? It is the most filling cut of pork I’ve ever eaten. Its relatively cheap, high in protein with a little bit of extra fat. But its extremely satisfying.
Who is it for? Everyone who want to fill full with eating less amount of food.
Who it’s not for? This is not plant-based friendly food.
When its best? The best time to eat roast pork neck is after a workout. Sometimes I like to chop a slice and have some for breakfast. This way I don’t crave any food for most of the day.
|Pork neck 4 oz||270 kcal|
Tips: Eat slowly and time yourself for at least 15-20 minutes to extend your satiety response.