5 Cheap Low Calorie Recipes

Karen Frazier
pasta soup

It is possible to eat healthy foods when you're on a budget. The following five recipes are all low in calories (fewer than 450 calories per serving), satisfying, delicious, and affordable.

Pasta e Fagiole

This Italian flavored soup uses canned tomatoes and beans, as well as elbow macaroni. All of these ingredients are inexpensive, and soup is a great way to lower calories and stretch your budget.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained
  • 2 tablespoons Italian herbs
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dried elbow macaroni
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  2. Add pancetta and cook until it is crisp. Remove from fat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and begin to brown, about four to five minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add chicken broth, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan with the side of your spoon.
  6. Stir in tomatoes, kidney beans, Italian herbs, and red pepper flakes.
  7. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  8. Take one cup of the soup and purée carefully in a blender or food processor.
  9. Stir elbow macaroni into soup that remains in the pot and bring to a boil.
  10. Cover and boil until elbow macaroni is el dente, about eight minutes.
  11. Stir in purée and reserved pancetta.
  12. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Information

Note: All nutrition information derived from Self Nutrition Data.

Serves: 6; Calories: 245

Lentils With Coconut Rice

Lentils with Coconut Rice

Lentils and rice are very inexpensive and low-calorie ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried lentils
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 cups lite coconut milk
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Soak lentils in clean water for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain.
  2. In a medium-sized pot, heat the oil until it shimmers.
  3. Add onion and carrot and cook until vegetables are soft and start to brown, about four to five minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add chicken broth, bay leaf, and lentils. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium.
  6. Cover and cook until lentils soften and broth absorbs, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  7. Remove bay leaf. Stir in coconut milk and rice.
  8. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until rice is soft and fluffy, about 20 minutes.
  9. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 4; Calories: 378

Bell Pepper Frittata

Bell Pepper Frittata

Eggs are incredibly inexpensive, and by using more whites than whole eggs, you can lower the calorie count. A frittata is similar to a crustless quiche.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil

  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced

  • 1 red pepper, cut into thin slices

  • 3 whole eggs

  • 6 egg whites

  • 1/2 cup skim milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Set oven to broil.
  2. In an ovenproof sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  3. Add onion and red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about four minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, egg whites, milk, salt, and pepper until well combined.
  5. Reduce heat under vegetables to medium and pour egg mixture carefully over the cooked vegetables.
  6. Cook over medium heat without stirring until eggs begin to set up around the edges. Carefully pull edges away from side of pan with a spatula and let unset eggs on top run around the sides.
  7. Continue cooking until the eggs set on the edges once again.
  8. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top of the eggs and transfer pan to under the broiler.
  9. Broil until eggs are just set on top, just a minute or two longer.
  10. Slice into wedges and serve.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 4; Calories: 175

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken, peppers, onion, and flour tortillas are all affordable. With a side of rice and beans, you can have a low-calorie, affordable weeknight dinner. To save more money, buy the chicken breasts bone-in and skin-on and remove the bones and skin yourself.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 8-inch flour tortillas, warmed

Instructions

  1. Combine lime juice, garlic powder, and chili powder in a small bowl.
  2. Marinade chicken in lime juice mixture for about 10 minutes.
  3. Heat a grill or pan to medium high heat.
  4. Cook marinated chicken on grill until done, about eight minutes per side.
  5. Remove chicken from grill and set aside, tented with foil.
  6. Heat oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  7. Add bell peppers and onions and cook until vegetables soften and begin to brown, about four to five minutes.
  8. Add garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  9. Slice chicken into strips and stir into vegetables.
  10. Serve with warm flour tortillas.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 4; Calories: 440

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

Stretch your budget by combining affordable white beans and chicken in this savory chili.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 cans (15 ounces each) white kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped chilies, drained
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Pinch cayenne

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  2. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper
  3. Add chicken breasts and cook until browned, about four to five minutes per side.
  4. Remove chicken and set aside on a cutting board.
  5. Add onion to oil in pot and cook until it softens and begins to brown slightly, about four to five minutes.
  6. Add garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  7. Stir in chicken broth, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with the side of a spoon.
  8. Stir in beans, chilies, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne.
  9. Cut reserved chicken into one inch chunks and return to pot.
  10. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chicken cooks all the way through, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 4; Calories: 285

Healthy, Affordable Meals

There are many healthy, affordable options for meals. While the recipes above all contain inexpensive ingredients, you can make other healthful and inexpensive meals by shopping for local, seasonal foods at farmers markets and co-ops. Buying fresh local food that's in-season is another excellent way to save money on healthy, low-calorie meals.

5 Cheap Low Calorie Recipes