Note: This article is authored by figure pro and GF2 member Jenny Baker. All opinions, suggestions, and adorably charming-but-sometimes-inappropriate comments are hers and hers alone.
Psssstt. I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
I love to eat. Like, a lot. Besides napping, masticating for prolonged periods of time is pretty much my favorite hobby. Which is super unfortunate because A: I’m a bodybuilding athlete who likes to look the part and B: I happen to have a metabolism that doesn’t work as fast as my mouth does. Which, well, sucks. How come these two things have to be in such direct opposition to one another?
Actually, they don’t.
Sometimes I think that people assume that because I’m fit I am one of those rare individuals who finds as much pleasure eating kale salads as I do eating Red Robin Whiskey River Burgers with sweet potato fries. Which would be wildly incorrect. While I’d like to say I’ve maintained my physique as a result of smart food choices, the reality is that sometimes I incorporate “unclean” foods in my life simply so I can enjoy big meals without undoing all the gains I’ve made. Usually, it’s as easy as swapping out some ingredients and replacing them with lower calorie options. While some meals may not taste exactly like the originals, they are close enough that I don’t feel at all deprived.
Since I’m guessing some of you out there have similar struggles with wanting to eat more without actually eating more, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the foods that have helped me maintain my physique. Please note that I do not have an affiliation with any of the companies mentioned here, and do not have an agenda behind suggesting them other than hoping they might inspire others to find ways to continue eating what they love while honoring their body weight goals. That being said, if a representative of any of these companies is reading this, I’m totally desperate – I mean, open to financial kickbacks and would love to share in some of your millions. Just give me a call.
Anyway, let’s get started!
Egg Beaters Egg Substitute
While Egg Beaters were originally developed in response to the “Cholesterol in Eggs Will Kill You!” crisis of the 90s, this is not why they’ve made my list. Eggs are a great source of protein and healthy fats, but the calories in whole eggs can add up. Egg Beaters, which are made of egg whites, are a great option for boosting the size of my morning scramble. In fact, one whole egg is around 72 calories while its equivalent in Egg Beaters is only 25 calories. That difference can make one big omelet! And obviously, size matters to me. Plus they are a great substitute for eggs in baking too. Bonus tip: If getting enough protein each day is an issue for you, you can add Egg Beaters to your pancake mix or even pour some into your morning smoothie for an instant protein boost without even knowing it’s in there.
Walden Farms Pancake Syrup
So I’m going to say right off the bat that Walden Farms is pretty much the antithesis of any clean eating lifestyle. If you aren’t familiar with Walden Farms, they boast about their entire line of foods being calorie-free. What they don’t boast about is the absence of any recognizable ingredients in their products. I’m sure if I look close enough I might see “cancer” on the list. That being said, while most of their products taste like dog saliva (not that I know!), they got it totally right with their pancake syrup. Even my finicky husband likes the stuff. Is it really calorie-free? Hard to say, but I can report that I used it liberally during contest prep and still managed to lean out successfully. Bonus tip: You can use Walden Farms Pancake Syrup as a calorie-free sweetener in your baking or cooking (I usually use it in place of honey; not exactly the same flavor but close enough!), and it tastes great in mashed sweet potatoes.
Aunt Millie’s 35 Calorie Bread
Did you know that dear old Aunt Millie has a whole line of “light” breads that are only 35 calories per slice? Whole grain, potato, oatmeal, honey wheat; Aunt Millie isn’t messing around. How on earth does she do it? While it doesn’t say so on the package, I’m pretty sure one of the main ingredients is “air” since each slice is not exactly dense in its bready composition. However, it serves as a fantastic holder of my favorite sandwich toppings, and works great for hot dogs, breakfast foods, and bread crumbs. Bonus Tip: If you love breakfast as much as I do, use this bread for French toast. You can have four whole slices for less than 150 calories (Egg Beaters and Walden Farms Pancake Syrup work great for French toast too).
Heinz No Sugar Added Ketchup
I can’t lie; I love me some sauce. And while traditional ketchup is only 20 calories per tablespoon, you’d be surprised how little a tablespoon actually gets you. In fact, sauce is known as the “silent diet killer” (I just made that up) due to its ability to add calories where you least expect them. For a saucy girl like me, limiting my ketchup allotment is completely unacceptable. Thank goodness Heinz has come out with a no sugar added variety, which tastes no different than the real stuff, yet has only 10 calories per tablespoon. You can say that’s only half as much as the original version, but I say that’s two times more I can now eat! That’s a win in my book, especially for something I use all the time. Bonus tip: When making sloppy joes from scratch, use lean ground turkey and Heinz No Sugar Added Ketchup for a delicious low cal meal that even picky eaters will love.
Air Popped Popcorn with Kernel Season’s Seasoning
If there’s one thing in life I can’t resist, it’s chips. I don’t even care what kind of chip it is; kettle, Doritos, tortilla, basic boring chips that sometimes have brown spots that tastes like butt; as far as I’m concerned potato chips are like manna sent from Heaven. Something about their salty, crunchy goodness is so satisfying! And that’s why I rarely eat them; I simply can’t stop once I start. But there’s hope for us chip-addicts, and it’s called “air-popped popcorn.” But not just plain air-popped popcorn, (that’s about as satisfying as eating styrofoam), it’s got to be air-popped popcorn drowning in Kernel Season’s Seasoning (I prefer ranch and sour cream and onion flavors). My husband makes fun of me for my popcorn obsession, but damn, I can have two giant bowls of it for less than 250 calories. Kernel Season’s Seasonings (that’s really a mouthful to say) do have calories, but honestly I have never counted how much of the stuff I put on. Just be reasonable. Bonus tip: Spray your popcorn with non-stick cooking spray so Kernel Season’s Seasonings actually stick to the kernels versus the bottom of the bowl. Or just lick the bowl when you’re done. Or both. Whatever works for you.
Sugar Free Jello
An entire box of Sugar Free Jello is only 40 calories and comes in a bunch of tasty flavors. One box makes a really nice sized portion that takes up a lot of space in an otherwise hungry tummy. And if that’s not enough, it is carb-free, has 4g of protein, and is made from the beauty superstar known as collagen. For those of you who struggle with being hungry between meals, have a box of Sugar Free Jello prepared in your fridge so you can scarf it down when your kids’ Cookie Crisp starts calling to you from inside the pantry. Bonus tip: Mix about 5g of Sugar Free Jello powder with 1.5 cups of plain Greek yogurt and you have a delicious pudding-like dessert. Husband approved.
Kraft Fat Free Shredded Cheese
Okay, I’m going to say what everyone is already thinking: Fat free cheese sucks. In fact, it really doesn’t taste cheesy at all. So why is it part of my list? Well, I am a child of the Hamburger Helper era, so casserole-type dishes are part of the fabric of my life. However, most casseroles have an ingredient list something like this:
- Three boneless chicken breasts
- 8oz elbow noodles
- ½ cup sour cream
- 16 cups cheese + 2 cups for topping
Because cheese is high in fat, and fat is high in calories, that means I can have like one scoop of casserole before I blast through my macros for the day. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I use Kraft’s Fat Free Shredded Cheese as a substitute for ½ the cheese called for in pretty much any recipe. So instead of six cups of cheese, for example, I’ll use 3 cups of real cheese and the other 3 cups are fat free. Honestly, I rarely notice the difference in the final product, and if I don’t tell anyone, they don’t either. Bonus tip: If you just cannot bring yourself to use fat free cheese, use the “made from 2% milk” version instead. That’s still a worthy calorie savings compared to the original.
Ball Park Smoked Turkey Franks
On those nights when I just don’t have a lot of time or energy to cook (so like, all the time), hot dogs are often one of my go-to meals. I mean, they’re already cooked, kids usually like them, and they’re usually eaten with sauce. So yeah, hot dogs are great. Yet, like every other processed food, they can be high in calories. Thankfully, Ball Park makes smoked turkey franks that are only 45 calories each. I can eat two of these babies and still not have reached the calorie level that one traditional hot dog offers. That’s a win in my book! I mean, who doesn’t want two or three wieners at once now and then? (said no woman ever). Bonus tip: If you use Aunt Millie’s 35 Calorie Bread instead of a traditional hot dog bun, you can easily have hot dogs as a low cal snack to get you through between meals.
G Hughes Sugar Free BBQ Sauce
You already know I love sauce, so I won’t repeat that I love sauce. Oops, too late. Anyway, while BBQ sauce in general is delicious, G Hughes Sugar Free BBQ Sauce is no less enjoyable than its traditional counterparts. In fact, every time I use it guests make a comment about how tasty my meals are. Of course, this is likely due to my exceptional culinary skills, but I’m certain G Hughes should get some credit too. With only five calories per tablespoon, I can lather this stuff on my meatballs, burgers, and chicken legs without any guilt. Bonus tip: Here’s a simple recipe for BBQ pulled chicken: Put about 3 lbs of boneless chicken breast in a crock pot and cook on high for three hours. Once cooked through, shred it up, throw in a bottle of G Hughes, a half cup of Diet A & W, and you have a giant meal that even the kids will love. You’re welcome.
Greenfield Natural Applewood Smoked Uncured Bacon
Finally, what “top ten favorite” list would be complete without bacon? Well, you’d think a list of “low calorie foods” would be one of them, but in fact, Greenfield Natural’s Applewood Smoked Uncured Bacon is an exception. With only 45 calories per two slices, I can enjoy bacon with my breakfast or on my burgers with barely a dent in my daily macros. Better yet, Greenfield Naturals doesn’t use hormones or antibiotics and believes in humanely raised practices, so you can eat their bacon and feel good about it (more than you already do, I mean, it’s bacon). Check out https://greenfieldmeat.com/us/ to find out what stores carry it near you. Bonus tip: Here’s a super easy recipe that is oh so tasty. Take a Ball Park Smoked Turkey Frank and cut a slit into it lengthwise. Take half a slice of cheese (I use Kraft Singles made with 2% milk) and stuff it in the slit. Then, wrap one slice of bacon around the hot dog. Throw it in any oven set for 400 degrees for 40 minutes. The only thing you’ll be sorry about when making this is that you didn’t make more. Enjoy!
Jenny Baker is a part-time freelance writer whose favorite past times include pumping iron, eating, sleeping, and laughing at her own jokes. A mother of two children, two cats, two dogs, and one husband, Jenny spends most of her days repeatedly shouting “no!” and “stop arguing!” while at the same time trying to write emails that make her seem completely sane and professional.
As if her glamorous life isn’t enough, Jenny is also a natural figure pro and contest judge who contributes to the GF2 blog and serves as an administrator to the GF2 Fitness & Contest Prep Forum on Facebook.