Here’s a list of foods that can be considered calorie free

Did you know there are foods that do not contribute any calories to your diet? Is there something one can eat or drink without feeling guilty about failing the diet chart while losing weight? This is a common query that someone venturing to lose weight asks the dietician. Well, although water and soda may be the only ones with zero calories, there is a decent list of food items that maybe considered calorie free. Using them to good effect in a diet will add palatability, variety and compliance. Some of them like herbs and greens give you a bushel of antioxidants at no extra caloric cost. Nutritionally, a food has to be less than 20 kcal and less than 5 grams carbohydrate per serving to be labelled a ‘free food’. (That is how the American Dietetic Association defines a free food).The logic is that one never eats or drinks several servings of these anyway and even if one did, they add nil or negligible numbers to the caloric constraints of diet.

Some more foods deserve being mentioned here because they are very low calorie. They are Kimchi and sauerkraut (in less than 100gm quantity), Wheat bran (one tablespoon) and Kerala’s very own summer drink the sambaram when made thinly.

All vegetables (except starchy ones like potato) are very low calorie foods giving just 25 kcal per half cup cooked portions. They add bulk and nutrition to the diet and should be fully exploited during meals in order to keep hunger at bay. Here’s a list of ‘free foods’.

Some ‘Free foods’:

  • Water – bottled, fresh, aerated
  • Vegetable clear soups, consommé, broth (like Maggi bouillon)
  • Coconut water, sugar free sports drinks
  • Diet sodas (unhealthy in excess amounts)
  • Vinegar
  • Black coffee and tea, herbal teas, green teas (no sugar or milk)
  • Flavouring extracts, sugar free jelly, cocoa powder
  • Spices, condiments, herbs fresh or dried, garlic, ginger, green chillies, curry leaves
  • Sauces - Soy, Worcestershire, Tabasco
  • Juices – lemon, cucumber, lauki(variety of ash gourd), bitter gourd, fresh cranberry (no sugar added)
  • Salad greens – celery, lettuce, watercress, etc
  • Vegetables pickled in vinegar

(The writer is a nutritionist)