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Healthy Low-Calorie Foods You Can Eat A Lot Of

Recipe: Instant Pot Vegetable Soup

There are some days where my stomach feels like a bottomless pit. Even after eating a satisfying meal-I’m still feeling snacky. I have days where it feels like my hunger rages All. Day. Long-no matter what I eat. I have a feeling some of you out there can relate…please tell me I’m not alone.

When I know I’m going to be eating more than usual, I try to choose foods that are low in calories and still help satisfy my cravings. I want foods that I can eat a lot of-think big bowls and servings-and that won’t leave me feeling slugglish and bloated afterwards.

I’m not suggesting you throw portion control to the wind every day-but here are some good options to fill you up that deliver satisfaction (and nutrition) on fewer calories for days when you’re feeling hungrier than usual.

Get More: Best & Worst Foods to Satisfy Your Hunger

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1. Popcorn

Popcorn totally satisfies a craving for a salty, crunchy snack. Yum. Foods that are filled with air, like popcorn, trick us into thinking we’re eating more, according to Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., author of The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. I love EatingWell’s Lemon-Parm Popcorn, which is packed with flavor and delivers just 99 calories in 1½ cups.

As a bonus, popcorn counts as a whole grain. Most of us don’t eat enough whole grains, which deliver more fiber than refined grains. Air-popped popcorn is the lowest calorie choice and be sure to avoid popcorns that claim to be “movie-theater” style, as they tend to be high in calories and sodium.

Make it: Healthy Popcorn Recipes

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2. Soup

Broth-based soups are “souper”-filling, since the liquid adds lots of volume for just a few calories. That means you get to eat a lot more of it-so go for the black bean soup instead of the refried beans if you want to dish out a larger serving. Or make yourself a big bowl of vegetable soup for lunch or even a snack. Slurping down a bowl will definitely help tame your hunger.

Plus, according to an Obesity Research study, women who ate low-calorie soup twice daily for a year lost 50 percent more weight than women who ate the same number of calories from energy-dense snacks.

Try this Veggistrone soup (a riff on a popular Weight-Watchers recipe), which has only 169 calories in a 2-cup serving.

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3. Celery

I love celery. I often eat it a lot for a snack slathered with peanut butter. And I especially love it as a low-calorie standby when I’m feeling ravenous. One large stalk of celery has 10 calories but also provides one gram of fiber-so 10 large stalks would provide 10 grams of fiber for only 100 calories (and that’s A LOT of celery).

Eating fiber-rich foods helps you feel full. Go for the classic celery with peanut butter, or us it to scoop up yummy dips like in our Buffalo-Chicken Celery Sticks.

Other crunchy raw vegetables, like bell peppers and cucumbers, are great options for a snack. Carrot sticks are slightly sweet and can quell a desire for something crunchy. And at 25 calories per medium carrot, you can eat a lot carrot sticks!

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Pictured recipe: Shrimp Scampi Zoodles

4. Veggie-Packed Meals

Vegetables are generally lower in calories per volume than proteins and grains-so if you want to eat a bigger meal, jam it full of vegetables. Non-starchy vegetabeles, like greens, lettuce, zucchini, cucumber and peppers, are all super low in caloires but deliver lots of nutrients and fiber to fill you up.

Even starchy vegetables-like winter squash, corn, peas and potatoes-have fewer calories than most foods. One medium baked potato has 160 calories (and four grams of filling fiber) and one cup of cubed butternut squash has 80 calories and 7 grams of fiber.

One study found that when women ate either plain rice or rice with added vegetables, those who noshed on the veggie-filled rice downed 41 percent fewer calories and felt more satisfied afterward. And there are lots of creative and fun ways to add more vegetables to your meals. Try making veggie “noodles”, cauliflower “rice” or just using vegetables to bulk up your meal by adding them to stir-fries, omelets and pasta dishes.

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5. Frozen Fruit Pops

Frozen-fruit pops are great because they help tame your sweet tooth and are generally pretty low in calories. Plus, have you ever tried to eat them too quickly? Brain freeze! This frosty treat forces you to slow down and be more mindful.

These Peach-Yogurt Pops have less than 100 calories and are made with nutritious real fruit and yogurt with a touch of sweetener. Buying them at the store? Look for ones made with real fruit that clock in at 100 calories or less.

Snacking gets a bad rap, but it can actually help you maintain a healthy weight—and even lose weight—as long as you pay attention to the types of foods you snack on and make smart choices. Eating smaller meals and snacks about every three hours or so can help maintain more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. And, it can help you avoid extreme hunger so you don’t overeat at lunch or dinner.

If you find yourself heading for the fridge soon after snacking (or worse, the vending machine), you may be choosing the wrong kinds of food. Calorie-dense snacks that are high in fat or sugar—like candy bars and potato chips—may satisfy an immediate craving but tend to stave off hunger for only a short time. That’s because junk food passes through the digestive system quickly.

Healthy snacking tips

A healthier way to snack is to choose foods that combine protein, fiber, and a small amount of heart-healthy fat, such as monounsaturated fat or omega-3 fatty acids, and not too much sugar or salt. These types of snacks are more likely to fill you up and keep you satisfied until your next meal.

Nutrition experts suggest you should keep snacks to about 100 to 200 calories. It’s also important to get in the habit of reading Nutrition Facts panels to check the healthfulness of a snack. More important, snack mindfully. Savor what you’re eating and chew it slowly. Pay attention to the flavors and textures. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re full. Give yourself some time before reaching for another snack.

10 quick and easy snacks that can help you lose weight

  1. Nuts

    Nuts are packed with protein and healthy fats, so they help you stay full longer. Enjoy a handful of almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, or unsalted or lightly salted dry roasted nuts. To make your snack last longer, choose nuts that you have to un-shell one at a time. Or, toss walnuts into an individual serving of unsweetened applesauce.

  2. Grapes

    A cup of frozen grapes is an easy, nutritious snack. It’s a fun way to satisfy your sweet tooth with just a handful of calories. If grapes aren’t your thing, try a frozen banana drizzled with a tablespoon of chocolate syrup.

  3. Hummus

    Make a batch of creamy, smooth hummus at home and spread it on whole grain crackers or a six-inch whole wheat tortilla. Hummus also makes a savory dip for cut veggies.

  4. Oat Bran

    Oat bran is a complex carbohydrate, so it helps fill you up without spiking your blood sugar. A small bowl of oat bran flavored with low-fat milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon makes a hearty, filling snack. Plus, blueberry oat bran muffins are the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

  5. Yogurt

    A single-serving container of light, low-fat yogurt (or Greek-style yogurt) is an easy snack when you’re on the go. Add fresh fruit, ground flaxseed, or reduced-fat granola to yogurt to pack an additional nutritional punch. Or, try freezing a container of whipped yogurt for something new.

  6. Chickpeas

    Try roasting them in the oven with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of ground cumin. Roasted chickpeas have the crunchiness of chips but with a meaty texture and a nutty flavor.

  7. Avocados

    Nutrient-dense avocados are a powerful source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Sprinkle avocado slices with sea salt or fill a halved avocado with salsa.

  8. Popcorn

    As a whole grain that’s naturally high in fiber and low in fat, air-popped popcorn is a gluten-free snack with staying power. Drizzle melted bittersweet chocolate over popcorn for a decadent treat.

  9. Trail Mix

    For a portable, healthy snack, whip up a batch of trail mix with high-fiber cereal, nuts, and dried fruit. Dried fruit is packed with fiber, but be sure to look for fruit with no added sugar.

  10. Fruit

    Fresh fruit is always a healthy snack. For a creative spin, pair a piece of fruit with a few nuts, low-fat cheese, cottage cheese, or some whole grain cereal and low-fat milk. Or, try a cup of berries with a tablespoon of melted chocolate chips for dipping.

You don’t have to be perfect

If you slip up, don’t worry. Healthy snacking is a habit you’ll develop over the long haul. Plus, it’s okay to give yourself little treats from time to time. Trying to be too good can set you up for failure. So, yes, go ahead and indulge yourself with a small piece of dark chocolate after dinner. Just don’t make it an everyday thing.

What are the benefits of pickles?

In addition to fermented pickles containing probiotics, pickles may offer these other health benefits:

Restoring electrolyte balance

Electrolytes are salts that the body needs for healthy functioning. When a person experiences dehydration, they may also lose electrolytes.

Pickles are high in sodium, and so they are also high in electrolytes. Theoretically, this suggests that pickle juice might be an option for restoring electrolytes to people who have a fever, are vomiting, or who are dehydrated.

Some athletes swear by pickle juice to restore their electrolytes following a workout. There is no evidence that drinking pickle juice is a better option than water or electrolyte drinks. However, for someone who enjoys pickle juice, a small amount may be a tasty alternative.

Treating muscle cramps

Older research from 2010 suggests that pickles may help with muscle cramps.

Researchers electrically induced muscle cramps in well-hydrated men once and then a week later. They found that participants who drank pickle juice rapidly gained relief from their cramps.

Deionized water did not offer the same benefits, which means that electrolytes and hydration status alone did not explain the result. This suggests that something else about pickles may help with muscle cramps rather than the water content or the electrolytes.

Controlling blood sugar

Pickles that use a vinegar-based brine may help control blood glucose. Stable blood glucose levels can help prevent feelings of intense hunger. Preventing blood glucose spikes is also critical to the health of people with diabetes.

A small 2013 study followed 14 healthy adults at risk of type 2 diabetes. Those participants who consumed vinegar at mealtime had lower fasting blood glucose levels than those who did not.

More research is necessary to determine the extent of the benefits and the safest amount of vinegar to consume. However, people who are interested in a relatively easy way to help control blood sugar could consider eating pickles or another vinegar-rich food with meals.

Providing antioxidants

Similarly to all fruits and vegetables, pickles contain antioxidants. Studies in labs have shown that antioxidants can counteract the effects of free radicals.

Free radicals are chemicals in the body that may play a role in the development of a wide variety of health issues. These issues include cancer, inflammation, heart disease, and various chronic diseases. Free radicals may also contribute to aging.

Numerous studies have linked antioxidants to better health. For example, a 2017 Cochrane review found that antioxidant supplements might slow age-related macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of blindness.

It’s pretty undisputed that most vegetables are good for you. You don’t see many nutritionists telling their clients to steer clear of kale or cauliflower, for example. No one is out there arguing over cucumbers either, which is why it’s a real head scratcher that once you pickle them, the confusion sets in.

On the one hand, fermented veggies are good for the gut, but on the other, the sodium content is pretty up there. In case you haven’t been up close and personal with the pickle making process, here’s how it’s done: Cucumbers are put in a mason jar with water, salt, and spices of your choice (though garlic and dill are popular ones). Then, you let them soak for three days, and voila, your cucumbers have metamorphosed into beautiful pickles, ready to be crunched on. And of course, you can pickle other veggies beyond cucumbers.

But…beyond just being a delish sandwich supporter, are they actually healthy? I went to the research to find out once and for all.

The pros

1. They’re probiotic. As previously mentioned, pickles are a fermented food, meaning they’re high in probiotics and good for your gut. During the fermentation process, the sugars in the vegetable are broken down and turned into lactic acid, which holds the probiotic benefits. By now, you likely know that a happy gut means happy everything: The microbiome is ground zero for not only digestion but also your immune system and even plays a major role in maintaining a healthy weight. The moral here: Adding pickles to your hot dog could just be the best thing you do for your body at a cookout.

2. They’re good for your eyes. If you stare at a computer all day, incorporating pickles into your diet could do you some good. They’re high in vitamin A, which is linked to supporting healthy vision. As an added bonus, vitamin A is good for your immune system, too.

3. Pickles help keep bones strong. Besides vitamin A, pickles also contain vitamin K, which has been connected to helping prevent osteoporosis because of its ability to regulate calcium levels.

4. They help with muscle cramps. According to one study, athletes who drank pickle juice had shorter muscle cramps than athletes who drank water, due in large part to the salt. Taking in moderate levels of sodium can help with muscle contractions.

The cons

1. Processed pickles can be full of preservatives and lack probiotic benefits. If you really want to reap the nutritional benefits of pickles, the key is to buy them refrigerated. Pickles made to be left on store shelves are typically made with vinegar, which kills most of their gut-healthy benefits. Processed pickles often include preservatives and more sodium so they last longer. By opting for refrigerated ones, however, you’ll get all the healthy benefits.

2. They can cause bloating. If your stomach starts to balloon after eating pickles, you can blame the salt used in the fermentation process, because salty foods notoriously cause bloating. This mostly happens with processed, jarred pickles which don’t have the probiotic benefits of fresh pickles, which have less salt, and therefore cause less bloating. Alternatively, you could simply be having too many pickles, which might account for the bloat.

3. And yes, they can be high in sodium. To echo the above sentiment, while pickles are good at assisting athletes whose electrolytes have been depleted, because they’re fermented with salt, pickles do have quite a bit of sodium, averaging 313 milligrams per serving. (The American Heart Association recommends capping it at 1,500 milligrams a day.) Cue the “everything in moderation” chorus.

The verdict

While processed, jarred pickles made to sit on store shelves for months aren’t exactly superfoods, fresh pickles are full of nutritional benefits. The sweet spot is having one or two to get the probiotic benefits while keeping sodium intake moderate. If you keep all that in mind, pickles can be beneficial part of a healthy diet.

If you’re on the hunt for more nutrition tips, here’s how to have a healthy late night snack. And these are the five anti-inflammatory staples every kitchen should have.

7 Health Benefits Of Pickles & Fermented Foods You Probably Already Eat On The Reg

A longtime traditional favorite and unwavering companion to your favorite sandwich, pickles are chock-full of crunchy, briny deliciousness. And, as it turns out, this old school deli food might be great for your health to boot. Studies show that fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are loaded with gut health-promoting probiotics. Yes, your salty half sour does admittedly have a lot of sodium, which isn’t great for your health in large amounts, but there are plenty of other benefits that justify putting them on a burger. So while you might not think of your unassuming lunchtime pickle as a health food, it may actually have more health benefits than you thought.

“Cultured, or pickled, vegetables are mainly known for their probiotics,” Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, and nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition tells Bustle by email. “Vitamin C is lost in the heating pickling process, but other nutrients, like B vitamins, may become amplified. Fat-soluble vitamins present in the original vegetable (like Vitamin A in carrots) will remain preserved. Fiber will remain intact.”

Cultured vegetables like pickles are made via a process of food preservation through fermentation, and are made with either brine or vinegar. In addition to keeping foods from spoiling, fermentation also produces probiotic bacteria as a byproduct of the process, which are super beneficial for diversifying gut flora and upping your health in numerous ways. Research suggests that probiotics may promote clearer skin, better immune function, increased gastrointestinal health, and could even reduce depression, though more research is needed for all of these conclusions.

Basically, the fermentation process ups good bacteria while getting rid of the bad, which is why it’s so prevalent in many traditional food preparation techniques stemming from ages without refrigeration. This is great for the love of all things pickles, so let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of your favorite deli food, shall we?

1. Pickles Are Actual Vegetables

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Well, here’s an obvious one you probably didn’t think about: Pickles are made from raw cucumbers, and while the fermentation process changes their nutritional profile a bit, pickles are still definitely a legit veggie. One dill pickle spear counts as 1/4 cup of your recommended vegetable intake for the day, according to LIVESTRONG.

2. Drinking Pickle Juice Can Soothe Muscle Cramps

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According to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, skipping the pickle and sipping on the juice soothed muscle cramps in dehydrated men. Healthline reports that just 1/3 of a cup of the briny juice was all it took to have a positive effect on muscle soreness, which may be partially due to the potential pain-relieving effects of vinegar. Gross, but effective.

3. Get Some Antioxidants

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Healthline reported that pickles contain natural antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables, and while cooking can break down some of these heat-sensitive nutrients, the fermentation process preserves their nutritional profile and antioxidant power. Healthline also notes that pickle juice — the brine — boasts even higher amounts of the free radical-fighting and immune boosting antioxidants C and E.

4. Pickles May Help Fight Spleen Cancer

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According to Healthline, a 2014 study found that the probiotic content of traditional Japanese pickles were effective at combating spleen cancer in mice, which could lead to the development of new human cancer treatments in the future.

5. Pickles May Help Keep Your Blood Sugar Down

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HuffPost reports that eating fermented foods like pickles with your meal may help prevent blood sugar spikes, thanks to the vinegar content, according to a 2005 study. So adding pickled and fermented foods to meals could be beneficial for their blood sugar, including people with diabetes.

6. Help Restless Legs

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According to the Farmer’s Almanac, pickle juiceis a traditional folk remedy that can help with treating restless leg syndrome, though the reasons why are still a bit unclear. The high concentration of electrolytes may have a role in soothing those symptoms.

7. And Don’t Forget The Probiotics

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Probiotics are microorganisms that offer lots of benefits when consumed, Healthline reports. These beneficial bacteria offer all sorts of health perks, from better skin to increased cardiovascular health, and cultured foods like pickles are teeming with the lovely little bugs. There is a caveat though: according to Healthline, pickles fermented in vinegar don’t have probiotic effects, so for maximum health benefits, choose pickles fermented in a brine of salt and water.

“Your gut is home to trillions if not more beneficial microbes that aid in various digestive processes, so theoretically, introducing more numbers and species of these probiotics should be beneficial,” Moreno says.

While it’s always great to learn that our favorite foods are good for us too, remember that pickles are also super high in sodium; while you can feel free to nosh on those kosher dills on the regular, make sure not to overdo it in order to keep your salt intake to a minimum.

Pickles, amirite? They’re cucumbers! In vinegar and salt and herbs! Babies on the internet pucker hilariously when they eat them! Pickles!

That was the extent of my thoughts on pickles when I was asked to make them the centerpiece of my diet for a week. They’re always there on the side of the plate at restaurants, looking sort of delicious but also sort of like they’re made of frogs, so I could take ‘em or leave ‘em. But, life is all about new experiences, so when given the chance to experiment with pickles, I jumped. What an opportunity to expand my horizons!

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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Turning to my friends for support did little to assuage my apprehensions. My friend Dana deadpanned, “Why?”, and my friend Sam, a professional writer for journalistic outlets such as The New York Times, scream-texted: “PICKLES ARE URINE-SOAKED CUCUMBERS NO THANK YOU”.

So I decided to turn to some experts.

The Dietitian

I hit up my friend Holly, a Registered Dietitian, to see if I’d die from this experiment, and she was all, “No, but please eat something other than just pickles.” Because — fun facts — there are a whole host of diseases I could get if I ate ONLY pickles (for, like, weeks but just go with it or this won’t be funny): Rickets, due to lack of Vitamin D; scurvy, due to lack of Vitamin C; and PICA, which is a disease where people deprived of dietary iron develop uncontrollable cravings to eat paper and also literal, actual dirt from the Earth’s literal, actual crust. Cue momentary panic: What if this actually is a terrible idea?

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The Doctor

It turns out, the walk-in clinic at Walgreens is not a person you can call and ask for advice, so instead I emailed my dear friend Cammie, a real doctor who went to actual school and everything. She cautioned that, in addition to Holly’s advice, I shouldn’t do this if I have high blood pressure, since pickles have hella salt, and that I’d probably bloat a lot. Luckily my blood pressure is A-okay, and I’d just had a violent stomach flu two days before I started this endeavor, so I was basically already back down to my birth weight. Plenty of room in the ol’ dungarees for pickle bloat! Cammie signed her email with: “Do note that among the list of ailments associated with malnourishment is scrotal dermatitis. Good luck!” This seems like a good time to mention that if anyone feels like going on a date, I am single and available.

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The Psychic Yogi

I reached out to my friend Nate — a medium, psychic, and yoga instructor — to see if perhaps he might have access to some guiding voices from another astral plane with opinions about pickles. “Well actually,” he said, “in Kundalini yoga, there is a cucumber cleanse.” Spiritual enlightenment through pickles! “So this is like that kind of!” I exclaimed.

“I mean no, not really at all.”

Hmm. I asked if he had any other advice, and he did: “Remember that the power to get through any adversity is already present in the divinity within you, or whatever.”

“I have no idea what that means but yes okay you are very spiritual thank you!” I said.

So, okay! I’d sort of be cleansing my soul with these pickles, and I already had the tools to persevere in my internal divinity or whatever. My concerns addressed and my spirit centered, or something, I went off to my local grocer to purchase jars and jars of pickles. Here we go!

Day 1: I Love The Smell Of Pickles In The Morning

I awaken to twin realizations, both infuriating. One: It is snowing. Again. In April. Three weeks into spring. And two: To add insult to injury, on my grocery excursion I completely forgot about breakfast.

I mean what the hell do you do with pickles for breakfast? My usual breakfast is an apple dipped in some yogurt and granola, and I thought maybe I could just swap the apple for a pickle, except for the fact that that’s disgusting. So I appealed to one more expert, my chef friend Shannon, to ask for helpful pickles-for-breakfast hints.

She suggested adding pickles and mayo to a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, claiming it would change my life.

John Sundholm

You guys. You guys. YOU GUYS-UH. Shannon didn’t lie. It was so good. I mean, like, really good. It was so good it made me angry. The briny, sour acidity of all that vinegar cuts through the fat of the bacon just like a vinegary barbecue sauce does on brisket. The saltiness from the brine pulls all the flavors together and gives them an extra pop. I feel like I could eat this every day for breakfast, and if my heart stopped from all the bacon, it would be totally worth it.

Lunch was some turkey and cheese wrapped around a couple halved dill pickles that I ate over the kitchen sink while Real Housewives of Atlanta played in the background. And dinner … well, dinner was the same thing plus some chips, salsa, and hummus, because I’m really leaning into this experiment.

Day 2: This Little Light Of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Brine

My alarm goes off, and the ONLY thing on my mind is that breakfast sandwich. So I eat it again, because I am an adult and will eat as much bacon as I see fit.

All that said, I am, generally speaking, about 90% of the time, LOL, okay 80% of the time, LOL, okay 70% of the time, a very healthy eater. I eat A LOT of salads. And after Day 1’s lazy incompetence, I decided I had to get my life together and really make Day 2 count.

John Sundholm

Some lady on the internet was effusing on her blog about marinating chicken in pickle juice, so I did that. Chicken being chicken, it kinda soaks up whatever flavor you let it sit in, which in this case was pickle juice. So it tasted pickly! I bet it would make a delicious chicken salad, which I am very disappointed did not occur to me at the moment.

Instead, I threw together a salad of chopped cabbage, the pickle-marinated chicken breast, some chopped pickles, sharp cheddar, and bacon bits (seriously get off my back about the bacon), then doused it in Delish’s super simple pickle vinaigrette. It was light and tangy and delicious! The pickle vinaigrette is really flavorful and bright without being overwhelming.

I enjoyed this so much, I ate it approximately 487 times over the week, because as I mentioned, I am unimaginative creature of habit.

Day 3: Pickle My Fancy

I am very sorry about these puns, but I am an artist, and this is how I choose to express myself, thank you!

Anyway, for breakfast, I switched things up and made scrambled eggs with dill and chopped pickles (another one of Shannon’s suggestions). It was … actually pretty good. I mean I’m gonna be real, it was a little weird … but like good weird. Like pineapple on pizza weird: I wouldn’t necessarily choose it, but I’m not averse to eating it, you know?

John Sundholm

For lunch, I took on another new project: pickle pasta salad. It’s basically pasta with a simple dressing that approximates ranch, but with extra dill and some pickle juice. Plus, there’s cheddar, chopped up pickles, and bacon. It is delicious. You will love this, and so will the guests at your next barbecue or potluck or whatever it is people take pasta salads to. I ate so much of this pasta salad that I went into a carb coma and got nothing accomplished for the rest of the day except hella naps. It ruled.

For dinner I had that pickle-chicken salad again. I told you I ate it a lot.

Day 4: Cucumbers Soaked In Thinegar

I do not know how, but I have lost weight. I’m not kidding.

After my breakfast sandwich (at this point, I’ve just succumbed to the fact that I am a person who eats bacon every morning), I go to put on actual pants, and they are looser. Bloat this, Dr. Cammie.

So I spend the rest of Day 4 writing my debut book: “What’s Your Dill? The Pickle Diet: A Revolutionary New Program: Four Days to A New You: A Revolutionary Path to Health and Wellness.”

John Sundholm

Anyway, I’m now in a rotation between the bacon-pickle breakfast sandwich, pickle-chicken salad with pickle vinaigrette, and pickle pasta salad with turkey-and-cheese-wrapped pickles on the side. It’s kinda getting old at this point, but I’m skinny now, so who cares!

Day 5: Losing My Brined

Okay, look. I may be skinny and beautiful now, but I awaken so sick of pickles, I want to actually be a dead body (a skinny one). All I taste is dill — even when I am not eating things. I drink my coffee, and all I can think of is dill. Joy Behar bellowing on The View makes me think of dill. I am so tired of it, I don’t even eat the bacon-pickle breakfast sandwich. In fact, I don’t eat breakfast at all. I just put extra cream in my coffee and sulk until lunchtime.

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When lunchtime arrives, all I want to do is eat literally anything but pickles. (Even dirt from the Earth’s crust, to be honest, so maybe I’ve contracted PICA?) To steel my resolve, I call a couple friends to reestablish our friendship so that I can brag about being a skinny person now. They all hang up on me because they’re jealous of my success.

For dinner I go to a barbecue joint with my brother, sister-in-law, and baby nephew, and before you accuse me of cheating on the pickle diet the barbecue came with housemade pickles that I forgot to photograph, so literally shut up I AM A MAN ON THE EDGE.

Day 6: The Dark Brine Of The Soul

This pun is awful, because I’m at the end of my rope. I mean, seriously, how is this not over yet?

I ate things with pickles this day at every meal but I crave only oblivion so at this point does it matter?

Day 7: Crossing The Vinish Brine (sorry)

I awaken having made peace with pickles again. In fact, I’m craving that bacon-pickle sandwich. I’ve gone round the bend. The sandwich is as good as it was on Day 1. At lunch, the pasta salad and pickle-chicken salad go down like the finest of champagnes. I have descended into madness.

Dinner rolls around, and I feel like I need one final project to really close this thing out on a high note. I grew up in the Detroit area which has a large Polish population, including a Polish city-within-the-city called Hamtramck — like Vatican City but full of Polish persons instead of Popes. Traditional Polish dill pickle soup is a restaurant staple there. Time to get back in touch with my Detroit roots! I used Delish’s recipe, which is slightly different than the traditional variety: It omits the carrot and celery and adds a bit of cheese and, God help me, bacon. I have to admit that I was dubious about what is essentially baked potato soup with pickles and dill thrown in, but I have never been more wrong about anything in my life — and I am a person who once used “erotic” instead of “erratic” when describing a dream about my mother.

John Sundholm

THIS SOUP THO. It’s thick and rich and hearty and salty and dilly-dilly, which is a thing I have heard kids say, and I’m pretty sure it has nothing to with dill, but I’m assuming it is good, nonetheless! This soup basically is baked potato soup with dill pickles thrown in but that seems reductive, because it is so much better than that. It’s so much more than that.

I survived the week.

So a week of pickles! I did it. I did not reach spiritual enlightenment, but I did eat tons of bacon and somehow lost weight. I reached the end of my rope, and then came back to life and ate more pickles. (So maybe I did reach spiritual enlightenment?) It was a very interesting and deeply weird experience. But I have to say: As I write this, it’s been four days since I last had any pickles — and I am craving them. I’m even kind of half-hoping that it’ll be cold again so I can enjoy a big bowl of pickle soup soon.

But mostly I just want a bacon-pickle breakfast sandwich. The heart wants what it wants.

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Are Pickles Good for You?

Pickles have been linked to a wide variety of health claims. You’ve likely heard someone tout pickle juice as the best hangover cure or as a perfect workout recovery drink. But how true are these claims? And are pickles actually healthy?

While pickles may be low in calories, most are very high in sodium—which can be a problem if you don’t eat them in moderation. However, pickles are thought to be great for our gut health. We took a deep dive into the world of pickles to determine if they’re worth adding to your diet.

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What Are Pickles?

We are talking about pickled cucumbers for this story, but a pickle can be any fruit or vegetable that has been preserved in a brine solution of vinegar, salt, and other seasonings. Pickles are often fermented first—where good bacteria break down the fruit or vegetable’s natural sugars, giving off a pickle’s standard sour taste. However, not all pickles are fermented (we’ll get to that in a moment).

Pickle Nutrition

What do pickles look like nutritionally? Here is the breakdown for a one-cup serving of standard store-bought, kosher dill pickles:

Yes, you read that right—there is a whopping 1,251 grams of sodium per serving, which is more than 50% of the daily recommended limit. So, while a standard 16-ounce jar of pickles will only set you back about 34 calories or so and might feel like a safe food to overindulge, it serves up more than a day’s worth of sodium, which can be concerning for those watching their blood pressure or managing a chronic condition.

Are Pickles Good for Gut Health?

Image zoom Caitlin Bensel

It depends. Pickles are believed to be beneficial for gut health—the fermentation process allows for good bacteria to break down natural sugars, which also results in their characteristic sour taste. While fermentation is one form of pickling, not all manufacturers use that method.

Many store-bought varieties pickle by soaking cucumbers in vinegar—which may have undergone a fermentation process in its own right, but the good bacteria typically only remains if the “mother” is still in tact. That’s pretty much only the case for raw, unpasteurized forms, like in certain types of apple cider vinegar. If you’re looking for gut health benefits, make sure to choose a pickle that has undergone its own fermentation process in a saltwater brine.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Fermenting and Pickling?

Both fermented and non-fermented pickles offer a great source of Vitamin K, a crucial component for proper bone health. Fermented pickles get the green light for being gut-friendly as well as an anti-inflammatory, while non-fermented pickles can help lower blood sugar, thanks to their vinegar content.

Sodium Content of Pickles

In most cases, it’s difficult to get around buying store-bought pickles without taking in massive amounts of sodium. The high sodium content of most pickles may be concerning, as high-salt foods can increase our risk for stomach cancer, increase blood pressure, and induce bloating.

However, if you are a pickle lover (and don’t want to make your own), there’s no need to avoid them entirely. Simply pay attention to your sodium intake throughout the day if you do consume them, and try to stick to the serving size if possible.

Pickles for Hangovers and Workout Recovery

Image zoom Sharon Pruitt / EyeEm

Some health experts tout pickle juice as a hangover remedy—so if you’re feeling a little woozy after a long night, it may be worth trying. Just remember there are a few things at work in a hangover: dehydration, lack of sleep, and loss of liquids from alcohol’s diuretic properties. If you’re going to take a swig from the pickle bottle, it might also be worth taking an aspirin, drinking a big glass of water, and squeezing in a nap if possible.

While both small, two studies in athletes on the potential effects of pickle juice on performance and hydration found it really isn’t that helpful for your workout. In fact, one of the studies found that pickle juice can actually dehydrate you if you aren’t careful. You’re better off fueling your workout with a drink that contains a variety of electrolytes, such as coconut water.

How to Buy the Healthiest Pickles

Finding healthy pickles is all about sodium content. Try checking a natural foods store or opt for a new brand at your local supermarket with the lowest sodium count on the shelf. If anything, you can always add more salt, but you can’t reduce what has already been added.

Your best bet for a healthier pickle is making them yourself (you knew we’d say that, didn’t you). Luckily, we have a low-commitment quick pickle recipe that will taste just as great as your favorite store-bought spears. Plus, we have plenty of pickled fruit and vegetable recipes, like zucchini, carrots, and even kohlrabi. Happy pickling!

Pickles aren’t just a barbecue staple, they’ve also been used homeopathically for centuries as a cramping remedy, a source of electrolytes, and a simple way to keep a cucumber fresh through any journey, even around the world.

Julius Caesar fed them to his troops to give them “physical and spiritual strength,” according to the New York Food Museum. Aristotle also crunched his way through brined cucumbers, praising their healing powers. Columbus brought them to America. Canadians have been eating them since 1535. And Napoleon, like Caesar, relied on their briny strength to feed his army.

Now, athletes—from NFL players to gravel-grinding cyclists—are turning to the crunchy green treats as a performance-enhancing snack. Pickles are the next big thing in sports nutrition, so here are five reasons to embrace the pickle power.

1. They are a salty source of electrolytes and hydration.

The savory snack doesn’t just taste great in the middle of the ride or at the end, it’s also a cheap way to replace your electrolytes without relying on supplements. “If you are a salty sweater, pickle juice is loaded with sodium and will certainly help in replenishing losses in hard training over 90 minutes in duration or can help replenish sodium losses post-training,” explains Anne Guzman, sports nutritionist. Plus, the briny taste may even encourage you to drink more. “I find rehydrating after a long ride difficult, and if I do it wrong, I get a bad headache. If I have pickles or the brine after a ride though, I can completely avoid those problems,” says Jan Gogh, an avid cyclocross racer.

2. Pickle juice is an effective homeopathic cramp remedy.

The science is mixed on this one, but pickle juice has been shown in some studies (and through plenty of rider anecdotes) to stop a muscle cramp in its tracks. In one study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers suggest it’s not the electrolytes that ease cramps, but rather the biting vinegar taste, which may cause a reflex that impacts muscles.

“After epically hard, hot rides, I’ll get an intense quad cramp in the middle of the night,” says cyclist George Berger. “I stagger down to the fridge, open the jar, and drink right out of it. Seconds later, the cramp is gone. I don’t know why, but it works!”

If you’re not a pickle fan, most briny foods will also do the trick by providing that same vinegar jolt to your nervous system. “During my first century, I started feeling awful at the 70-mile mark: nauseous, cramped legs, headache. There was a boutique food store on the route and on impulse, I bought green olives,” says Jen Pinarski, a Toronto-based triathlete. “Within 20 minutes, my cramps and nausea were gone. Now on long rides, I tuck half a dozen olives into a bento box.”

3. Pickles provide essential vitamins and minerals in every crunchy bite.

This unexpected ride snack is also a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, and zinc—an added bonus for cyclists who prefer to get their nutrients naturally over supplements. Magnesium and potassium are cramp-fighting electrolytes that cyclists lose in addition to sodium during exercise, though Guzman notes sodium, which is also bountiful in pickle juice, is the key electrolyte you should keep an eye on when pedaling. And both zinc and vitamin C prop up your immune system to keep you riding through cold and flu season.

4. They help you avoid palate fatigue from overly sweet snacks.

Can’t stomach the idea of one. more. gel? We don’t blame you. The sticky sweetness of most gels and bars can get a little tiring, especially on a long ride or during a brutal race.

“The palate is so personal. Some athletes love sweetness all the time, others can’t stomach it,” Guzman says. Plus, when you crave something salty rather than sweet, it could also be a sign that your body really needs sodium rather than simple sugars to keep performing.

5. Some help pave the way to better gut health with probiotics.

Fermented pickles are packed with probiotics, which may improve gut health and offer other benefits, such as a better timed bathroom schedule and less issues with diarrhea or constipation.

“Foods that have probiotics can improve your gut health—but the science is still young,” Guzman says. “Either way, fermented foods like pickles and kimchi are a great addition to the diet as are pickled foods. For athletes, our microbiome is a large proponent of our immune system, and although research is in its infancy, a diverse and populated microbiome has been connected to improved mental health, body composition, and just about every other aspect of health.”

But note: You won’t get the same benefits from regular grocery store pickles or the classic homemade variety, which are usually preserved with vinegar, not by fermentation. Look for pickles sold in the refrigerated section of the store, or make your own: The fermentation process takes about a week to complete, but the results are worth the wait.

“I find that fermented pickles really help me digest simple carbs, not just after a meal, but for a week or so after,” Gogh adds.

Top Pickle Picks

Though pickles and their juice are great when you can find them, let’s be honest: They’re not exactly a pocket snack. These pickle products keep you covered in any situation and help you show off your pickle pride.

Bob’s Pickle Pops Sport, $3 for 6

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The perfect post-ride refresher on hot days.

Pickle Juice Shots, $22 for 12

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Fits in your pocket for on-the-bike emergencies.

Van Holten’s Pickle-in-a-Pouch Variety Pack, $25 for 12

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A variety of flavors for discerning palates.

I’m Kinda a Big Dill Mug, $17

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A just-for-fun way to enjoy your pre-ride coffee.

Farmhouse Culture Kraut Krisps Dill Pickle, $38 for 12

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A gut-health boosting snack with probiotics.

Low Calorie Midnight Snacks for the Late Night Binge

By Genevieve Cunningham

If you’re at all interested in staying fit and eating a healthy diet, you may have heard that midnight snacks are no-go. They can lead to weight gain, fat around the middle, and a slower metabolism. But it might not be that you can’t eat anything at all, but rather that you should only eat certain things. If you crave a midnight snack but don’t want to rock the healthy diet boat, take a look at these low calorie options to add to your late night menu.

Pretzels

Pretzels can satisfy a craving for chips … which happens to be an often sought after late night treat. Instead of reaching for that bag of chips, grab a handful of pretzels. You’ll get the salty and crunchy satisfaction, but you’ll also get far fewer calories. If you need a little flavor, just dip them in a low calorie dipping sauce or some mustard. This can give just enough flavor without adding on too many calories or fat.

Pickles

Pickles are a great midnight snack. Actually, they’re a great snack at any time of the day. They are incredibly low calorie, only adding an additional five to 10 calories per pickle, depending on the size. They give the consumer a strong flavor, plenty of salt, and still a crunchy satisfaction for the taste buds. Just make sure to brush those teeth again after your snack or you might find the flavor and smell too strong to allow good sleep.

Carrots

Carrots are low in calories, packed with nutrients, and a nice sweet snack before bed. You can eat them raw, opt for a dipping sauce, or throw them together with a few other veggies. They’re light enough to keep the stomach from feeling too full, and yet heavy enough to make you feel as though you’ve really eaten something. If you need a snack that feels substantial, a handful of baby carrots might be just the ticket.

Depriving yourself of everything enjoyable can backfire in a big way, so don’t do it! If you need a midnight snack, treat yorself. Just make sure that you reach for the right foods so that you can protect your health. Use these as a guide, and you may find yourself moving toward a lighter weight and better health before you know it.

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Pasadena, Calif.

Source: Adapted from Walk It Off, Reader’s Digest (Fall 2009)

Snacking isn’t evil; it’s what you snack on that’s the problem. In fact, snacking is an effective way to control and even lose weight because it prevents you from becoming ravenously hungry and overeating at mealtime. And it helps keep blood sugar stable, which staves off craving and keeps the body’s metabolism combusting calories throughout the day. But smart snacking requires advance planning. You’re not going to find what you need in a vending machine or at a fast-food drive-thru. What does that leave you? Plenty.

Raw veggies

1 cup (250 mL) of raw veggies like carrots, peppers and cherry tomatoes is only 40 calories. If you get bored of snacking on plain veggies, make a raw soup with simple ingredients like this Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup or Cucumber Mint Gazpacho (both are perfect for summer because they’re served cold).

Red seedless grapes

20 red grapes is just 100 calories. Try them frozen for a refreshing summer treat

Almonds

Ounce per ounce, almonds are the most nutrient-dense tree nut. They’re an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, and a good source of protein and fibre. Snack on 24 almonds for a 168 calorie snack.

Air-popped popcorn

‘The key to good health is how the popcorn is prepared,‘ says Vancouver-based registered dietitian Ramona Josephson, who suggests using an air popper. When air-popped, 4 cups (1 L) of popcorn is only 100 calories.

An apple

Apples are full of antioxidants and a fibre called pectin, both of which pack incredible health benefits. Plus, an apple is only 80 calories, making it the perfect snack size.

Pumpkin or sunflower seeds

Pumpkin seeds, also known as Pepitas, are a tasty source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and protein. Eat them raw or roast them. One handful is 90 calories.

Celery stick with peanutbutter

Combine this hydrating vegetable with protein-packed peanutbutter for a simple and balanced snack. Use 1 tbsp (15 mL) of peanutbutter to make it 85 calories. For variety, use almond butter or sunflower seed butter instead.

Applesauce

If you’re tired of plain old apples, try applesauce instead. Buy unsweetened to avoid added sugar. For an 80 calorie snack, eat 1/2 cup (125 mL)

Tomato juice

The antioxidant properties of lycopene may protect our immune cells from destructive free radicals, molecules that can harm cells and damage DNA. The best way to get lycopene’which is in the skin, and gives red tomatoes their rich colour’is through cooked or processed tomatoes (juice, sauce and paste). 1 cup (250 mL) of tomato juice is 40 calories.

Frozen fruit bar

A no-sugar-added fruit bar is only 25 calories, yet feels like a treat. Eat one on a hot day for a cool and refreshing snack.

Fat-free pudding

One cup (150 mL) of fat free pudding is 40 calories. For an even healthier snack, make your own Chocolate Pudding Without the Guilt.

Plain non-fat yogurt

Take advantage of strawberry season and add 1/2 cup (125 mL) of fresh strawberries to 1 cup (250 mL) of yogurt for a 150 calorie snack.

Fudgsicle

If you’re craving icecream, reach for a fudgsicle instead. At 80 calories, it’s a healthier summer treat option.

String Cheese

Choose 30 grams of fat-free cheese for an 80 calorie snack. If you don’t like string cheese (or don’t have it on hand) here’s what 100 calories of 10 different types of cheeses looks like.

Hard-boiled egg

Packed full of protein, hard-boiled eggs make a perfect afternoon snack. And they’re easy to make ahead: boil up a batch on Sunday and you’ll be snack-ready for the whole week. One egg is 80 calories.

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