Imagine this: It’s 2:30PM. You’re at your desk, half-awake, trying to get work done but honestly bored the hell out of your mind. You’re looking for a pick-me-up. A distraction. You know you’re not really hungry because you had a decent lunch, but you still want to munch on something. What do you do? Grab a Snickers bar, right? Hell no. Throw those empty calories away. And munch on these snacks with zero calories.
1. Leafy Greens
Spinach. Lettuce. Cabbage. Arugula. Basically any vegetable that’s mostly a leaf is gonna be almost zero calories. Go ahead. Check the nutrition facts of that bag of spinach. It’s going to be like, 15 calories per cup. That’s a lot of spinach.
And a lot of those calories come from fiber, which your body considers as zero calories, since it can’t digest it. There’s a reason why vegetables are so common in diets. They take up a lot of space, but don’t take up a lot of calories.
BUT… be careful not to assume all vegetables are like this. Vegetables that don’t meet this criteria (and have much more than zero calories) include: corn, beans, peas, carrots.
2. Regular Coffee / Tea
This one surprised me when I first learned about it. Really? Coffee, which gives you so much energy, has zero calories? It’s true.
Caffeine is the primary reason why coffee and tea give you energy, and it gives you energy by blocking adenosine in your brain, which is basically the receptors in your head that make you sleepy. Caffeine doesn’t actually get harvested for energy down in your digestive system, which means it doesn’t have any calories. That’s why it’s one of the most perfect picker-uppers for that afternoon sleepiness.
If you’re the type to need a lot of sugar in your coffee or tea, try using a sugar substitute, like Stevia or Splenda. If you’re the type to need a lot of cream in your coffee or tea… well, I can’t help you there, bud.
This one is a little bit different from #1, because this isn’t leafy. What’s the difference? Instead of being composed mostly of the leaf, these fibrous veggies are composed mostly of the stem. In fact, celery is a vegetable that costs more calories than it contains, because of all the chewing you have to do. Yeah, that’s right. You can actually get a workout from eating.
Mushrooms are great. They’re really fun guys to add into your salads, sandwiches, stir fries, whatever. Or you can eat them on their own with some low calorie dressing. They’re high in fiber like a lot of vegetables are, but they also have a decent amount of protein (~3g per 30 calories) for how close to zero calories they are.
You probably already knew that fat-free dressing and sauces are low in calories. But what about mustard? This is one of the original O.G. condiments that is naturally zero calories. If you need a saucy addition to your sandwich or wrap, this is a far better option than that ranch dressing or mayo, which usually pack almost 100 calories per tablespoon.
Be careful – honey mustard is not the same (duh, because of the honey).
Also, ketchup is a close runner-up here. At 20 calories per tablespoon, ketchup is still a fairly low-calorie condiment, but just above zero calories.
Pickles pack a lot of punch in the flavor department for a food that isn’t very calorie-dense. They’re pretty much cucumbers (which also have almost zero calories) except with brine. They can be sour, spicy, and sweet, which makes them pretty damn versatile.
One thing you should watch out for is the sweet dill pickles, which do have more calories due to the sugar content.
7. Cashew Milk
Unsweetened cashew milk has 25 calories per serving, and unsweetened almond milk has 30 calories per serving. Both are really good low-calorie substitutes for cow milk, or even soy milk, which often tops 100 calories per serving.
Just like coffee, if you want to sweeten this, you can simply use Stevia or Splenda for almost zero calories more.
These foods might not taste as good as their alternatives, but they don’t need to. Remember, the whole purpose of these is to have something to munch on when you’re bored at 2:30PM, right? And you should know by the almond test whether you’re actually hungry or not. If not, don’t waste your calories on your boredom.