Calorie Bargains

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Everywhere you go you hear about foods you CAN’T eat — they’ll cause cancer, give you heart disease, lead to diabetes, or make you fat. That said, I thought it would be a great change of pace to come up with a few “calorie bargains” — foods that are relatively low in calories but taste great — to give us something to look forward to in the quest for a healthy life (and a decent body).

1 slice low-calorie bread such as Pepperidge Farm Light Style Oatmeal Bread (45 calories, 0 g fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates per slice), 5 quick sprays of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray, and garlic powder or herbs.

Here’s why: This snack has gotten me through some rough “craving times.” It’s also high in fiber, so you feel full. Cut it up into strips, and you’ll feel like you’re cheating by eating great-tasting garlic bread. Every time I make this for people, they’re amazed at how delicious it tastes — and then they’re blown away when I reveal that it’s low in calories and fat.

2 cups: 220 calories, 4 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbohydrates. A 1/2 cup of skim milk adds 43 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 6 grams of carbohydrates.

Here’s why: I think this is a true calorie bargain — you can eat 2 cups and have only 220 calories. And to tell you the truth, I never eat Cheerios for breakfast — typically I have a bowl as a mid-afternoon snack when I’m starving. They are also great because they have a decent amount of fiber, so you feel full. Plus, they are packed with essential vitamins and minerals and were one of the first cereals to be certified by the American Heart Association for heart-protective benefits, including lowering cholesterol. Not only that, but I’ve worked around plenty of registered dietitians and I always see them snacking on dry Cheerios — don’t laugh until you try it; with a bit of artificial sweetener (or plain), they’re pretty tasty.

The nutrition information below is the total amount for 2 entire packages, all 8 servings — so if you want to, you can really stuff yourself and still not pack on the pounds. Sugar Free JELL-O: (Serving size: 4 cups) 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates; 1/2 banana: 63 calories, 0 grams of fat, 16 grams of carbohydrates; 2/3 of a cup of blueberries: 54 calories, 0 g fat, 14 grams of carbohydrates.
Total for the entire batch: 197 calories, 0 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbohydrates. (Yes, that’s it for all that JELL-O.)

Here’s why: My wife actually purchased this a few weeks ago, and my first response was “JELL-O! You have to be kidding me.” I even tried to take it out of the shopping cart. Then I tasted it and was amazed. Putting in the fruit may add a bit of calories, but it makes it a great package, especially since blueberries are a good source of antioxidants — those age/cancer-fighting substances. Furthermore, it only takes a minute or so to prepare and stick in the fridge. Then, just wait for it to set.

8 egg whites, 1/2 cup frozen spinach, 1/2 a medium green or red pepper, and 1/2 cup mushrooms (coat the pan with a cooking spray): 176 calories, 0 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbohydrates.

Here’s why: You will not be hungry after eating this huge omelet — that’s if you can even eat the entire thing. This is a real meal. It fills you up, it’s packed with protein, it can be made in a matter of minutes, and it’s perfect for anyone who wants to stay in shape. Also, did you know you can microwave eggs? Just combine the egg whites and vegetables in a bowl, pop it in the microwave, and cook through (times vary).

1 bar: 45 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 8.5 grams of carbohydrates.

Here’s why: My father just loves these — he’s a diabetic, and he feels like he’s not missing a thing when he has one of these treats. They are pre-portioned (because they’re on a stick), and they offer great, satisfying flavor.

The entire 24 ounce jar of dill pickle spears: 70 calories (yes, for the entire jar), 0 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbohydrates.

Here’s why: You can eat the entire jar of delicious pickle spears — for just 70 calories. Wow! Realistically, I don’t see anyone eating an entire jar, but even a few pickles taste great, make an easy snack, and add almost no calories. Try keeping a jar in the fridge — serve them with meals, or just have them on hand for those late night refrigerator raids — they’re certainly better than peanut butter out of the jar or a fistful of cookies!

2 1/2 Cups (1 can): 225 calories, 3.75 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbohydrates.

Here’s why: Eating this soup doesn’t make you feel shortchanged; it’s rich, filling, and tasty, with lots of roasted white meat chicken. Also, soup has been proven effective in helping people lose weight when it’s low in calories and fat. Eating a nice bowl of soup fills you up and psychologically makes you feel as if you’ve eaten a real meal.

1 cup of ice cream (let’s be realistic): 260 calories, 9 grams of fat (unfortunately it does contain trans fats — partially hydrogenated coconut oil), 38 grams of carbohydrates.

Here’s why: First of all, just take a look at all the ice creams in your supermarket freezer section — this flavor is typically out of stock and is difficult to find. Even people I know who can eat anything they want without gaining weight still prefer this low-calorie alternative. As far as I can see, the only two negatives are the fact that there are trans fats and that it’s called “French Silk” instead of “Freedom Silk.”

Send in your favorite “calorie bargains” to If your idea is published, you’ll receive a $20 check and a FREE copy of the book Breaking the Pattern.

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