From split pea curry to mushroom risotto and roast chicken to prawn stir-fry, here are the best low calorie meals under 500 calories to easily make at home.
Eating well as a family is not all about counting calories though – children and teenagers particularly need plenty of energy-rich foods to help them grow – so the focus in this recipe roundup is on nutritious, balanced eating. These healthy family meals are not restrictive and work brilliantly when you need to dish up meals the whole clan can enjoy together. They're all high on the veggie count and rich in protein, keeping you fuller for longer as well as helping your metabolic energy.
We're not just talking summer salads either. As we come into Autumn, give yourself a warming food hug with a cottage pie or a lower-fat carbonara. Or how about a health-giving ramen soup or a hearty fish stew during the winter months?
“Low calorie meals are often crammed full of lean protein like beans, lentils, or chicken breast, for example, which are filling as well as low in elements that produce fat in the body. When looking for good low calorie meals try to pick ones with high-water content as well, such as steamed or boiled vegetables, as these will naturally make you feel full and are considered low calorie filling foods,” says Claire Murphy, a registered dietician, and nutritionist at the Last Verdict.
Just like our low calorie lunches, these family meals don’t shy away from flavour. From aubergine parmigiana to Japanese soba noodles, we've got taste sensations from all over the globe, that suit every season.
Low calorie meals under 500 calories
1. Split pea and vegetable curry
Calories: 288 | Fat: 18.6g | Carbs: 15.2g | Protein: 12.9g | 5-a-day: 1
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 6 | Cooking time: 30 mins
This deliciously spiced curry is packed with garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and heaps of low calorie herbs and spices.
Swapping full-fat coconut milk for the light version is a great way to cut down both fat and calorie content. The paneer cheese in this recipe is not only suitable for vegetarians but is a great choice of cheese as it's packed full of protein keeping you fuller for longer if you choose the lower fat kind, made with low-fat milk, it’s also low calorie too.
It takes just 30 minutes to cook this mouthwatering curry. This recipe serves 6 - ideal for bigger families or if you’re a fan of bulk cooking. One of our best low calorie meals.
Get the recipe: Split pea and vegetable curry
2. Squash and pepper risotto
Calories: 367 | Fat: 4.4g | Carbs: 71.4g | Protein: 11.6g | 5-a-day: 3
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 4 | Cooking time: 35 mins
Well under the 500-calorie limit, this filling squash and pepper risotto contains three of your 5-a-day.
The onion, butternut squash, and pepper add nutrition to this recipe, particularly the squash which is packed full of vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium too. In this recipe we’ve used a minimum amount of Parmesan cheese as it's quite high in fat but the stronger the cheese, the less you’ll need to use to add flavour. Therefore cutting the calorie and fat count too.
It takes just five ingredients and 10 minutes to prep to make this speedy midweek meal.
Get the recipe: Squash and pepper risotto
3. Roast chicken with potato wedges
Calories: 378 | Fat: 14.6g | Carbs: 39.5g | Protein: 23g | 5-a-day: 1
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 2 | Cooking time: 1 hour
This roasted one-pot is well worth the wait at just 378 calories per portion. Infused with lemon and parsley.
A chicken leg contains less fat when it comes to choosing which cut of chicken is the healthiest. It has around three times less saturated fat than chicken breast. The savoy cabbage is a great source of vitamin C which protects skin integrity.
This recipe serves two but can easily be doubled to feed a larger family. It’s the perfect Sunday roast dinner alternative if you’re looking for a lighter option. A favourite on our low calorie meals list.
Get the recipe: Roast chicken with potato wedges
4. Sweet chilli prawn stir-fry
Calories: 220 | Fat: 4.8g | Carbs: 23.6g | Protein: 20.4g | 5-a-day: 0
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 4 | Cooking time: 12 mins
Ready in under 20 minutes, this speedy stir-fry brings prawns, noodles, and Thai sweet chilli sauce together to make one flavoursome dish.
Typically you’d associate stir fry with chicken or other meats, however swapping for prawn instead is a much less calorific option and lower in fat too. Not only are prawns lower in calories than other meat, but they’re also full of vitamins cut as vitamins A, E, B12, B6, and more. They are also high in calcium which helps build and maintain strong bones.
It takes just three steps to make this stir-fry serving four. A great amongst our low calorie meals.
Get the recipe: Sweet chilli prawn stir-fry
5. Baked stuffed peppers
Calories: 209 | Fat: 13.1g | Carbs: 12.8g | Protein: 10.5g | 5-a-day: 2
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 6 | Cooking time: 55 mins
These soft, sweet, and tender red peppers are stuffed with a moreish bacon, egg, and cheese filling.
A serving of this recipe works out at two of your 5-a-day which is great news. The egg and bacon up the protein count to keep you fuller for longer, meaning no late-night snacking. We’ve used a small portion of Cheddar cheese in this recipe keeping the calorie and fat count low, however, if you’d like to lower it further, choose low-fat cheese made with lower fat milk.
Serving six, this recipe will take approximately 20 minutes to prepare. It’s a great way of using up any leftovers in the fridge. Plus it's a great low calorie breakfast option too.
Get the recipe: Baked stuffed peppers
6. Butternut squash risotto
Calories: 320 | Fat: 1.8g | Carbs: 69.8g | Protein: 7.9g | 5-a-day: 3
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 2 | Cooking time: 25 mins
Often when you think of risotto, you expect it to take hours to make but this butternut squash risotto is cooked in just 25 minutes.
At just 320 calories and with only 1.8g of fat, this butternut squash risotto is one of our favourite low calorie meals. Ideal for vegetarians, it's packed with squash, onion, garlic, and sage and infused with lemon juice. Traditionally risotto is made using a generous amount of cheese but we’ve left the cheese out to make it a much lighter option.
Serving two, this recipe can easily be doubled to feed a family of four.
Get the recipe: Butternut squash risotto
Calories: 293 | Fat: 16.1g | Carbs: 27.4g | Protein: 7g | 5-a-day: 0
Skill level: Medium | Serves: 6 | Cooking time: 20 mins
Not just a lunch option, this French-style onion tart is similar to a pizza and is perfect as a low calorie dinner.
At just 293 calories per serving, this pissaladière can be served with a side of salad leaves and fresh veg. The onion and garlic not only add flavour to the dish, but they are also classed as antioxidants which help reduce the risk of many diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and more. The anchovies in this recipe are bursting with omega-3 fatty acids and the black olives help to reduce cholesterol.
This “pizza” serves six and takes just 20 minutes to cook in total - a great midweek meal for the whole family, particularly in the summer months.
Get the recipe: Pissaladière
8. Thai prawn curry and noodles
Calories: 326 | Fat: 17.0g | Carbs: 32.5g | Protein: 11.3g | 5-a-day: 1
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 4 | Cooking time: 15 mins
Warming, filling, and full of flavour, this Thai prawn curry and noodles dish is one of our favourite low calorie meals on the list.
We’ve used two cans of reduced-fat coconut milk in this recipe to ensure both the calorie and fat content are low. We’ve also chosen prawns over other meat too like chicken or beef as they are much leaner, and healthier. And at just 326 calories per portion, this dish could be served with a crust of bread as a real treat.
This vibrant dish takes just 20 minutes to prepare and cook and serves four.
Get the recipe: Thai prawn curry and noodles
9. Baked chicken jambalaya
Calories: 350 | Fat: 15.2g | Carbs: 17.4g | Protein: 33.9g | 5-a-day: 1
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 6 | Cooking time: 55 mins
This hearty jambalaya is a real crowd-pleaser. It’s super easy to make and leftovers can easily be reheated and enjoyed the next day for lunch.
Chicken thighs and drumsticks are used in this recipe as they are much lower in fat than breasts. They’re also cheaper too which is ideal. This dish is infused with heaps of low calorie, or calorie-free herbs and spices including thyme, pepper, garlic, and paprika. Paprika has an array of health benefits as it contains vitamin A, capsaicin, and carotenoid antioxidants which can help prevent inflammation, and improve blood sugar levels and cholesterol to name a few.
Prepare this one-pot low calorie meal in just 30 minutes.
Get the recipe: Baked chicken jambalaya
10. Chicken and spring onion pancakes
Calories: 298 | Fat: 12.9g | Carbs: 24.6g | Protein: 20.2g | 5-a-day: 0
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 1 | Cooking time: 5 mins
Not just for Pancake Day, these savoury chicken and spring onion pancakes are the perfect low calorie option that will keep you fuller for longer.
The protein in the chicken ensures you’ll be full after enjoying a portion of this recipe. At just 298 calories, serve these pancakes with a side salad or a portion of sweet potatoes. Choose semi-skimmed milk over full fat to keep the fat count low, you could also choose skimmed milk as an alternative too. The spring onions add a zing of flavour to each bite, as well as being rich in fiber helping to aid digestion.
These pancakes are best made and eaten on the same day for the freshest flavour and taste.
Get the recipe: Chicken and spring onion pancakes
Calories: 323 | Fat: 10.5g | Carbs: 31.3g | Protein: 24.6g | 5-a-day: 1
Skill level: Medium | Serves: 8 | Cooking time: 2 hours
It’s hard to believe that this classic family-favourite is part of our low calorie meals collection but it is at just 323 calories per portion.
Making the sauces from scratch is a great way to ensure that the fat, calorie, and salt content is kept low as some readymade sauces tend to contain a high amount of salt. We’ve used lean beef mince in this recipe as opposed to full-fat beef mince which is a much fattier option. You could swap the mince in this recipe for lean turkey mince, chicken, or Quorn for an even lower calorie and fat option.
A family favourite bursting with veg such as onion, garlic, carrots, and tomatoes. Ready in just four easy steps.
Get the recipe: Lasagne
12. Spicy lamb meatballs in sherry sauce
Calories: 344 | Fat: 19.9g | Carbs: 8.6g | Protein: 27.5g | 5-a-day: 1
Skill level: Medium | Serves: 6 | Cooking time: 25 mins
These tender lamb meatballs are cooked in a rich tomato sauce infused with garlic, onion, sherry, and dried chilli flakes.
These meatballs are a little higher in fat than some of the other recipes in this collection as they are made with standard lamb mince, however, you could easily swap for lean lamb mince, lean beef, or lean turkey for even less fat and calories. The rich tomato sauce is made from scratch. Tomatoes are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene which has a variety of health benefits including reducing the risk of heart diseases, and cancer. Tomatoes are also packed with vitamin C, K, and potassium.
Our spicy lamb meatballs in sherry sauce are 344 calories per serving - well under 500 calories.
Get the recipe: Spicy lamb meatballs in sherry sauce
13. Spanish-style ratatouille
Calories: 334 | Fat: 7.9g | Carbs: 58.8g | Protein: 8.8g | 5-a-day: 4
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 4 | Cooking time: 1hr 15 mins
Tomato-infused vegetables are roasted and baked in the oven for over an hour for a soft texture and sweet flavour.
Ratatouille is a great way to ensure you get your 5-a-day. A portion of this delicious dish works out at four of your 5-a-day. All of the vegetables in this dish have a variety of health benefits as well as being low in calories and fat. Aubergine is an antioxidant, courgette is bursting with immune-boosting vitamin C and peppers are a great source of fiber.
This recipe serves four at 334 calories per serving but you could easily half your portion size and serve it as a side dish alongside a medium fillet of baked cod at just 120 calories. One of our best low calorie meals.
Get the recipe: Spanish-style ratatouille
14. Greek-style lamb burger
Calories: 442 | Fat: 22.2g | Carbs: 34.4g | Protein: 24.1g | 5-a-day: 0
Skill level: Medium | Serves: 4 | Cooking time: 30 mins
If you love burgers, you’ll be glad to know that you can still enjoy one under 500 calories.
Next on our low calorie meals list is this mouthwatering Greek-style lamb burger sandwiched between two small burger buns and topped with cucumber. Swap the usual sauces or burger relish for a much healthier, homemade yogurt-based sauce. Greek yogurt is a great source of calcium and is also known to contain healthy bacteria which help to balance bacteria in the gut. Using yogurt as a burger relish is a much lower fat option as well as lower in calories and salt.
This recipe serves four and takes just 30 minutes to cook.
Get the recipe: Greek-style lamb burger
15. Vegetarian pie
Calories: 303 | Fat: 9g | Carbs: 44.7g | Protein: 9.8g | 5-a-day: 2
Skill level: Easy | Serves: 6 | Cooking time: 1hr 15 mins
Made with ready-made filo pastry, protein-rich lentils, and plenty of sweet roasted vegetables this dish is delicious simply served with a salad or steamed veggies.
Choosing filo pastry over shortcrust keeps both the calorie and fat count down in this recipe. Lentils are not only an excellent source of protein but are low calorie too at just 14 calories per tablespoon.
This pie is incredibly easy to make taking just 15 minutes to prepare. It serves six making it a perfect family dinner.
Get the recipe: Vegetarian pie