10 Under-500 Calorie Meals That Are Actually Filling (And Delicious)

healthy salad meal bowls

Ivan Solis / Stocksy

It’s like clockwork. As you sit at your desk, your suddenly-ravenous stomach starts to make that deeply seductive noise somewhat reminiscent of a whale’s mating call. You glance at the time, and the panic slowly settles in. It’s a measly two hours after lunch, and you already feel as though you’ve gone the entire day without so much as a morsel of food. What’s worse is that you have another four hours before comfortably nestling into your living room’s dreamy velour couch and happily devouring last weekend’s not-so-healthy leftovers.

If this scenario doesn’t sound familiar to you, feel free to pat yourself on the back. However, if you’re like most people trying to survive the 9-to-5 grind, the 4 o’clock famine is as routine as our morning coffee habit. The likely culprit? A less than satisfactory lunch. All too often, we get sucked into e-mails, meetings, or the counterintuitive mentality of “good” (i.e., wimpy) eating in anticipation of the happy hour that oh-so-gloriously awaits us at the end of the day. Thus, we skip out on the good stuff that keeps us satiated and sane until our next meal. So what’s the solution? Fresh and filling meals that contain the right balance of lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. We’ve done the work for you by asking two of our most trusted sources—nutritionist Kimberly Snyder and Dr. Amy Lee—to share some of their favorite under-500 calorie recipes that are both delicious and filling.

Keep in mind: Calorie needs vary from person to person and from lifestyle to lifestyle. You should never restrict yourself. If you’re still hungry after a balanced 500-calorie meal, it isn’t enough for you, and you should never feel ashamed for needing more. If you find fewer than 500 calorie meals do work for you, or you are interested in testing one out, keep scrolling for 10 easy-to-prep, under-500 calorie meals that will consistently leave you feeling light, energized, and blissfully unfazed come 4 p.m.

[Ed note: For vegan and vegetarian options, substitute plant-based meats, non-dairy cheeses, non-dairy eggs, non-dairy yogurt, vegetable broth, and almond butter when necessary.]

Meet the Expert

  • Kimberly Snyder is a nutritionist, founder of Solluna, and a New York Times best selling author.
  • Dr. Amy Lee is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and serves as the head of nutrition for Nucific.

Dharma's Kale Salad

 Dharma’s Kale Salad

Courtesy of Kimberly Snyder

This classic kale salad from Kimberly Snyder is perfect for any time of year. "It was inspired by other students in my yoga studio in NYC," Snyder recounts. "It's extremely high in protein and B vitamins and minerals… It's wonderful for your hair, your energy, and overall nourishment," she raves.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per serving: 340
  • Fat per serving: 17g
  • Protein per serving: 19g

Ingredients (Serves two)

  • 1 head lacinato kale
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 small avocado
  • Lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 2 handfuls of sprouts, any kind
  • 1 Roma tomato, cubed
  • 1–2 tablespoons dulse flakes (optional)
  • A handful of dill, parsley, or cilantro, or a combination (optional)

Instructions

  1. Tear the kale leaves off the stem into bite-sized pieces and place into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add a pinch of sea salt.
  3. Remove the pit from the avocado and scrape the flesh out into the bowl.
  4. Massage the kale with the avocado and lemon juice.
  5. Mix in the nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper.
  6. Mix in the sprouts, tomato, and dulse flakes, herbs of choice, and add a little more sea salt, if desired.

Mushroom & Napa Cabbage Lime Stir-Fry

mushroom veggies prep for stir fry

Trent Lanz / Stocksy

Looking for a low-cal meal that is both delicious for your tastebuds and your digestion? Here it is. With this recipe's “wonderful, warming, digestion-enhancing Ayurvedic spices,” your tummy will thank you for this stir-fry.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per serving: 200
  • Fat per serving: 4.5g
  • Protein per serving: 8g

Ingredients (Serves two)

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cabbage, sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for topping

Instructions

  1. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat, and add the mushrooms and cabbage. Stir well for a few minutes, until the veggies soften.
  2. Add in the ground coriander.
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in the lime juice and sea salt to taste.
  4. Top with fresh cilantro.
  5. Serve fresh with the quinoa.

Broccoli, Tempeh, and Black Sesame Seed Stir-Fry

Broccoli, Tempeh and Black Sesame Seed Stir-fry

Courtesy of Kimberly Snyder

Searching for a bone-strengthening meal? Synder’s strength-building stir-fry is high in calcium and protein. An added benefit is that it’s also easy to digest, as tempeh is fermented soy and tends to be easier on the digestive system.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per serving: 300
  • Fat per serving: 18g
  • Protein per serving: 24g

Ingredients (Serves two)

  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 6–7 ounces of tempeh, sliced into one-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or Liquid Braggs
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium-high heat and cook the broccoli and tempeh for a few minutes, until the broccoli begins to soften.
  2. Stir in the tamari.
  3. Turn off the heat and toss in the lime juice and sesame seeds.

Tempeh Lettuce Wrap

lettuce wrap

Cameron Whitman / Stocksy

In a hurry? Snyder’s delicious tempeh lettuce wrap only takes five minutes to throw together. Aside from the fermented soy, which is great for digestion, this super healthy recipe is also loaded with vitamin- and mineral-rich veggies.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per serving: 140
  • Fat per serving: 8g
  • Protein per serving: 11g

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1.75 ounces tempeh, cut into two-inch strips
  • 1/2 medium carrot, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/2 celery stalk, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed and cubed*
  • 1/2 tablespoon (or more, depending on taste) of Liquid Braggs or low-sodium tamari
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2–3 butter lettuce leaves

*Snyder recommends mixing and matching vegetables for this dish depending on preference and what’s in season.

Instructions

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a pan on medium heat.
  2. Lay the tempeh on the pan in a single layer and cook for about two minutes.
  3. Gently turn it over, and cook on the other side, while adding the veggies to the pan.
  4. Toss in the Liquid Braggs or tamari and stir well.
  5. Turn the heat off, and squeeze on the lemon juice.
  6. Spoon the mixture onto the butter leaves and enjoy like an open-faced sandwich.

Asian Veggie and Tofu Soup

bowl of asian tofu veggie soup


Nataša Mandić
/ Stocksy

Soups can be a great way to leave you feeling full and satisfied. Synder’s Asian-style vegetable and tofu soup is a nourishing low-cal option that does just that. Plus, it's quick and easy to prepare. 

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per serving: 170
  • Fat per serving: 8g
  • Protein per serving: 13g

Ingredients (Serves four)

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil + enough for cooking the tofu
  • 1/2 cup leeks, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 cup bok choy or spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup cabbage, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 inch sliced ginger
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or Liquid Braggs 
  • One 14-ounce package of organic extra firm tofu, cut into strips
  • Sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a pot and cook the leeks, garlic, celery, carrot, bok choy or spinach, and cabbage for approximately two minutes.
  2. Add in the vegetable broth and the ginger.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  4. Add in the green onions.
  5. Meanwhile, add some coconut oil to a pan. Heat over medium-high and add the tofu strips.
  6. Cook tofu on one side for a few minutes, until lightly browned, then turn to the other side and cook for a few additional minutes.
  7. Pour the tamari or Liquid Braggs onto the tofu strips.
  8. Transfer tofu to a cutting board, cut into cubes, and add into the soup.

All-in-One Protein Smoothie

all in one protein smoothie

Ira Peters / Stocksy

Looking for a breakfast smoothie that is packed with protein and both macro and micronutrients? Looking for something that is quick and easy because you're crunched for time? Dr. Lee’s all-in-one protein smoothie is here for you. "This is a protein smoothie that should keep you satiated all morning until the afternoon hours," Dr. Lee tells us.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per serving: 480
  • Fat per serving: 21.45g
  • Protein per serving: 25.7g

Ingredients

  • 1 scoop of Naked Pea Protein Powder    
  • 1/2 medium-sized banana             
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries              
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (no sugar added)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds             
  • 1 scoop NeoCell collagen powder        

Instructions

Place all ingredients into a blender (like a Vitamix or Nutri bullet) and blend for 10–15 seconds until smooth.

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Overnight Oats + Fixin's

Overnight Oats + Fixins'

Courtesy of Dr. Lee

Your typical oatmeal breakfast has been transformed with Dr. Lee’s overnight oat recipe. Keep the pots and pans hidden and let the milk do the magic. Dr. Lee recommends this meal after a workout. Plus, "this easy meal is packed with fiber and vitamins which keeps you full until lunch," she raves.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per serving: 417
  • Fat per serving: 9.9g
  • Protein per serving: 10.2g

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats              
  • 2 cups unsweetened Planet Oat milk    
  • 1/4 cup chia seed coconut milk pudding mix  
  • 1/2 medium-sized banana (sliced)       
  • 1/4 cup raspberries                    
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried goji berries          
  • 1 tablespoon dried cherries             
  • 1/2 tablespoon sliced almonds  

Instructions    

  1. Add oats, oat milk, and pudding mix to a jar or container and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next morning, top with remaining ingredients.

Dr. Lee recommends using an 8- or 16-ounce mason jar—depending on how much you want to pack in—to soak the ingredients overnight.

Runny Egg Toast and Avocado

Runny Egg Toast + Avo

Courtesy of Dr. Lee

"I am a person who loves my eggs…any way and in any form," Dr. Lee tells us. If you are an all-around egg lover too, this recipe might be perfect for you. The fat in avocados is also super healthy.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per serving: 434
  • Fat per serving: 29g
  • Protein per serving: 19g

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs                                                     
  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil
  • 1 piece of Dave’s Thin Sliced Bread        
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice 
  • A dash of salt and coarse pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat a nonstick pan and add avocado oil (or any oil of your choice).
  2. Once the pan is hot, crack eggs into the pan and turn the heat down to medium. You will notice the egg whites will begin to bubble and become solid as it cooks.
  3. While eggs are cooking, mash the ripe avocado in a bowl with a fork. 
  4. Add the lime juice, salt, and pepper to the bowl and mix all the ingredients.
  5. Toast bread to desired color and texture.
  6. Depending on how runny you like your eggs, once you see the whites become solid, you can remove them from the pan and lay them on top of the toast.
  7. Top with mashed avocado.

Dr. Lee recommends choosing a low-carb bread to avoid raising insulin and blood sugar levels.

Grilled Salmon With Lemon Butter and Veggies

grilled salmon with lemon butter and veggies

Davide Illini / Stocksy

This quick and delicious meal takes just 15–20 minutes to prepare. The grilled salmon provides lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids while the dark green vegetables are rich in fiber and vitamins. Dr. Lee reminds us that with this meal, neither grains nor starches are needed to feel comfortably full.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories per serving: 354
  • Fat per serving: 28.4g
  • Protein per serving: 25g

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces wild-caught salmon filet           

The sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon butter     
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice   
  • Fresh dill           
  • Lemon zest and black pepper as garnish

The veggies:

  • 1 cup broccolini, cut into 2-inch pieces    
  • 1/2 cup whole string beans               
  • 1/2 cup shishito peppers, with stem 
  • 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil                
  • Sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Soften the butter in the microwave for 10–15 seconds, then add the fresh dill and lemon juice and mix with a fork. 
  3. Once mixed, brush a layer of the butter sauce onto the salmon filet.
  4. Place the salmon filet on a piece of foil or a baking sheet and bake for 12–15 minutes.
  5. Once done, garnish with fresh lemon zest and black pepper. 
  6. Add olive oil to a pan and heat on medium-high for 1–2 minutes.
  7. Once hot, add broccolini, whole beans, and shishito peppers to pan. Stir so all pieces are lightly covered with oil. 
  8. Continue to cook for 2–3 minutes and add salt, to taste.

Hubby’s Famous Baked Tomatoes

baked tomatoes dish

Jeff Wasserman / Stocksy

Looking for a way to spice up a tomato recipe? These baked tomatoes are the way to go. "The parmesan cheese cooks into the tomatoes and the fresh oregano is really the kicker for what you think is a ‘plain’ tasting food like the tomato," Dr. Lee says.

Not only is this recipe extremely delicious, but it is also remarkably healthy. Did you know tomatoes are packed with a nutrient called lycopene, which is a nutrient "famous for its cardiovascular health benefits," Dr. Lee tells us. Don’t have a protein to go with it? No problem, this healthy and hearty meal is satisfying on its own.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories: 387
  • Fat per serving: 24g
  • Protein per serving: 16g

Ingredients

  • 4 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half        
  • 1/2 cup of fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon coarse-crushed black pepper, as garnish
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil      

Instructions

  1. Drizzle the olive oil on a baking sheet.
  2. Line the tomatoes onto the sheet with the skin side down. (If they don’t stay in place, you can cut the base to create a flat surface so they don’t tip over.)
  3. Sprinkle salt over the tomatoes to bring out flavor.
  4. Top each tomato with fresh Parmesan cheese.
  5. Then, sprinkle the fresh oregano on top of the cheese.
  6. Bake the tomatoes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10–12 minutes.
  7. Check for slight browning of the cheese.
  8. When done, garnish with pepper.       

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