Counting the calories in your meals is a great way of keeping control of how much food you are eating, but where do you begin? We've gone through all of our recipes to pick out the best meals for just 200 calories or less – so you don't have to.
Women are recommended to eat 2,000 calories a day, so allocating just 200 calories for a main meal is quite a task – but it can be done. These dishes are filling and full of flavour, so you won't feel like you're missing out, plus they’re all well balanced and made from fresh ingredients, so you are getting a healthy range of nutrients.
“This collection of recipes can be great for anyone following the 5:2 diet, which research shows can be effective for weight loss, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and managing Type 2 Diabetes,” says nutritionist Natasha Evans. “I'm always interested in the quality of food, rather than just the quantity, which is what calories are a measure of. What I like about these recipes is that they're all made from scratch using real food. If you want to make them more substantial, double portion sizes and or add some extra protein (ie, meat or fish) or healthy fats like avocado to keep you fuller for longer.”
Meals under 200 calories
1. Mushroom ragu with courgetti
Calories: 125 | Fat: 2.9 | Protein: 10.8g | Carbs: 11.6g
Swapping spaghetti for spiralized courgettes has become a popular hack to reducing the old carbohydrate consumption in recent years, while cleverly increasing your nutrient intake – courgettes are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. The sauce, meanwhile, is low fat, vegan and a nutrient powerhouse to boot, with carrots, onions, celery and Quorn mince mixed with herbs and passata, plus a healthy dose of blitzed mushrooms for a meaty, umami flavour.
Get the recipe: Mushroom ragu with courgetti (opens in new tab)
2. Green miso noodle bowl
Calories: 198 | Fat: 2g
“There is lots of vegetable diversity in this dish to support a thriving and diverse gut microbiome, which research shows can benefit your energy, skin, mood and weight,” says Natasha Evans. “Go for an unpasteurised miso paste to add some probiotic benefits, to further support gut health.” Indeed, this divine noodle soup is also ready in a mere ten minutes and will be doing some serious work towards achieving your five a day, as it’s packed with asparagus, peppers, broccoli, courgettes and sugar snap peas.
Get the recipe: Green miso soup bowl (opens in new tab)
3. Vietnamese prawn curry
Calories: 192 | Fat: 4g
Replacing high fat coconut milk with regular semi skimmed is a clever way to get those Thai curry flavours you crave without the hefty calories. Lemongrass, chillies and fish sauce bring the South East Asian flavours, the prawns are delicious and high protein and the pak choi is packed with A, B and C vits. This fiery prawn curry can be on your dinner table in only 15 minutes – just add a small bowl of rice.
Get the recipe: Vietnamese prawn curry (opens in new tab)
4. Chinese vegetable chow mein
Calories: 170 | Fat: 7g | Protein: 6.1g | Carbs: 27.1g
This easy, vegan dish is packed with four different types of veggies and makes a brilliant, easy, quick lunch or dinner. It would be a good idea to also add in some lean protein to keep you fuller for longer, and help build muscle mass. Stir in some tofu, tempeh or edamame beans to keep it plant based or, for carnivores, some prawns, salmon, chicken or lean beef steak would work a treat.
Get the recipe: Chinese vegetable chow mein (opens in new tab)
5. Roasted ratatouille
Calories: 26 | Fat: 15g
This isn’t just any old ratatouille (opens in new tab), this is a posh ratatouille, worthy of serving to guests while you’re watching the cals. These beautifully displayed veggies include courgettes, aubergines and bell peppers – which, along with the chopped tomatoes, count handsomely towards your 5-a-day, and can be served just as they are, or as a side dish to some simple grilled fish or steak.
If you’re not watching the carbs, you could dip some crusty bread into those juices, too. “You get plenty of plant diversity in this ratatouille, as well as some healthy fats in the homemade pesto which will help keep you fuller for longer,” says Natasha Evans.
Get the recipe: Roasted ratatouille (opens in new tab)
6. Mediterranean vegetable chilli
Calories: 190 | Fat: 7g
A vegetable chilli in the purest sense – there’s no mince substitute here, just stacks of chopped veggies, including aubergines, spinach, courgettes and cherry tomatoes. Teaming the veg with spices, this is a slightly different approach to the usual sauce, which would be flavoured with chilli powder – it uses Mexican spice mix instead (like you might use for fajitas or tacos). Top with low-fat yoghurt, and perhaps some guacamole, and you could serve with rice or a small jacket potato.
Get the recipe: Mediterranean veggie chilli (opens in new tab)
7. Fast fish burger
Calories: 141 | Fat: 5g
“This fish burger makes for a nice protein-based meal, which will increase feelings of satiety after eating. I'd recommend having these fish burgers with some mixed veggies or a salad,” says Natasha Evans. All you need to do is blitz together the fish with capers, lemons, seasoning and herbs and mould it into patties. You might want to add a wholemeal burger bun, and perhaps top with a low-fat sauce, like a garlicky tzatziki.
Get the recipe: Fast fish burger (opens in new tab)
8. Baked aubergine
Calories: 90 | Fat: 4.9g | Protein: 2.8g | Carbs: 9.6g
Asian cuisine knows a thing or two about what to do with an aubergine and this Indian inspired dish makes the best use of an awesome veggie that is wonderful at taking on flavour. Packed with fenugreek, turmeric, cumin and chilli, and sharpened up with some lemon juice, it could be a meal on its own, or served alongside some grilled meat marinated in spices.
Get the recipe: Baked aubergine (opens in new tab)
9. Butternut squash and spinach tortilla
Calories: 196 | Fat: 7.6g | Protein: 14.1g | Carbs: 19g
Eggs are the most wonderful protein-packed option for a quick meal there is, and this is a novel way to serve them, swapping out the traditional potato of a Spanish tortilla and replacing with a more nutritious butternut squash. The addition of some Dijon mustard in the mix makes it super tasty, and the spinach adds iron and B vitamins.
Get the recipe: Butternut squash and spinach tortilla (opens in new tab)
10. Spiced butternut squash and veg tagine
Calories: 150 | Fat: 4.5g | Protein: 6.1g | Carbs: 27.1g
Cooking your vegetables into a tagine is a delicious way to pack them with flavour. This Moroccan-style casserole is made with protein-rich chickpeas which will keep you nice and full, and an incredible amount of vegetables – swede, cauli, squash, peppers, carrots and even parsnips. You could serve it solo, or with a side of couscous, one of the best carbs to opt for for weight loss.
Get the recipe: Spiced butternut squash and veg tagine (opens in new tab)
11. Vegetable balti
Calories: 131 | Fat: 4g
A great one if you’re craving a curry but avoiding calorific Friday night takeaways, or even just to make as a speedy midweek dinner (baltis are traditionally cooked speedily over a high heat in much the same way as a stir fry). This one is simple, using shop-bought balti paste and tinned tomatoes, so dinner will be ready in a flash, and it’s packed with a very decent range of veggies, too.
Get the recipe: Easy vegetable balti (opens in new tab)
12. Chinese dumplings
Calories: 63 | Fat: 2g | Protein: 6.1g | Carbs: 27.1g
These light, but very tasty, dumplings are also very fun to make – you could get the kids involved – and make for a brilliant starter to a meal, or an addition to a ramen, a highly nutritious, low-fat noodle soup from Japan. Steaming them is a very healthy oil-free way to cook, and you could swap out the pork meat for chicken, or just keep them veggie, should you wish.
Get the recipe: Chinese dumplings (opens in new tab)
13. Spanish style prawns
Calories: 169 | Fat: 8.9g | Protein: 7.5g | Carbs: 8.7g
“This tomato-based dish will provide plenty of vitamin C to support your immune system. You get some protein in here from the prawns, which will make the dish more satiating,” says Natasha Evans. Large meaty prawns in a tasty paprika-infused tomato sauce takes us off to a world of sunny Spanish tapas restaurants. A clever ingredient here is the fennel, which brings a lovely, mild aniseed flavour, as well as providing vitamin C and fibre.
Get the recipe: Spanish-style prawns (opens in new tab)
14. Quorn lunch bowl
Calories: 177 | Fat: 2.3g | Protein: 11.1g | Carbs: 26.5g
An excellent lean protein vegetarian and vegan option (so long as you use veggie not chicken stock, of course), Quorn is much lower in fat and calories than meat which makes it the perfect healthy option for lunch. Mixed with tender green beans and soft spinach leaves, this recipe is infused with Asian flavours like fish sauce and mirin (substitute with sherry, or white wine vinegar and a sprinkling of sugar if you can’t get hold of any).
Get the recipe: Quorn lunch bowl (opens in new tab)
15. Steak, chicory and orange salad
Calories: 180 | Fat: 9.5g | Protein: 1.0.8g | Carbs: 12.4g
Not all salads are made equal. This recipe combines tender steak slices with a tangy orange and Dijon mustard dressing, and handfuls of fresh rocket and red onion add to the flavour too. Plus, it’s posh enough to serve to dinner guests, while keeping your healthy eating plan on track. “I really like this salad - it contains plenty of bitter leaves (white & red chicory and rocket) which are great for our digestive system. Steak is really nutrient-dense and a great, complete source of protein, and then you get some healthy fats from the olive oil. It's a very well balanced dish,” says Natasha Evans.
Get the recipe: Steak, chicory and orange salad (opens in new tab)
16. Spring vegetable soup
Calories: 130 | Fat: 1.4g | Protein: 10.6g | Carbs: 19.3g
What is more life-giving than a bowl of veggie soup? And the brilliant thing about this one is it's perfect for batch cooking and leaving out on the stove to dive into for a quick lunch (or even freezing for another time). It’s also a complete dish thanks to the baby new potatoes, and is loaded with the greens and fresh peas to give you a spring in your step, whether it’s actually spring in the air or not. A fresh, homemade stock makes all the difference in this recipe, too.
Get the recipe: Spring veg soup (opens in new tab)
17. Fruity prawn cocktail
Calories: 156 | Fat: 1.3g | Protein: 21.3g | Carbs: 16.4g
You could add that a classic prawn cocktail is a joy not to be messed with, but sometimes you can indeed improve on perfection, especially if it means getting a vitamin-packed version by adding fruit like apples and grapes. Perfect for a light lunch or a starter for a bigger dinner, the traditional Marie Rose sauce is replaced with a fat-free fromage frais dressing to lighten the calorie load.
Get the recipe: Fruity prawn cocktail (opens in new tab)
18. Masala omelette
118 calories/7g fat per portion
Calories: 118 | Fat: 7g
“Eggs are a great source of nutrients and protein. The meal also provides plenty of plant diversity to support your gut microbiome, as herbs and spices count as plant points,” says Natasha Evans. This delicious Masala omelette recipe is a spicy twist on a classic, with plenty of punchy flavour from the spring onions and spices, and tons of vitamins in the fresh tomatoes and spinach. It's a great speedy dinner but it also works brilliantly for breakfast or lunch.
Get the recipe: Masala omelette (opens in new tab)
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Lara Kilner is a writer and editor with two decades of experience in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She writes about food, lifestyle, travel, health and wellness, and entertainment, and regularly interviews celebrities and people with interesting life stories and experiences. Her foodie content has included interviews with Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Queer Eye’s food expert Antoni Porowski, the Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and Nadiya Hussain.
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