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The problem with high-calorie diets is that most high-calorie foods also contain a lot of unhealthy properties such as saturated fat.
Rest assured, there are high-calorie food options that aren’t also high in saturated fats.
In this article, you will find my top 10 foods high in calories but low in saturated fats, and I’ll also provide a meal plan that you can follow.
Before we begin, let’s define what high-calorie and low-saturated-fat foods mean so that you understand the criteria we used when selecting foods.
What Defines A Food High In Calories and Low In Saturated Fats?
Defining High Calories
First, we need to define what is considered a high-calorie food. For that, we need to understand the concept of energy density. An energy-dense food has a lot of calories in a small amount of food.
For example, a cake is considered energy-dense since it has a lot of calories in a small portion. On the other hand, veggies are considered a low-energy-dense food since it doesn’t have a lot of calories for the same amount of food.
Here’s that example in action: In 100 grams of cake, you get 391 kcal. To reach the same number of calories using carrots, you would have to eat almost 1 kilogram. That’s 10X the amount of food weight compared with cake!
Now that we understand the concept of energy density, a food high in calories is defined as having more than 100 calories per 100 grams of product.
Defining Low Saturated Fat
The American Heart Association recommends having no more than 6% of your total calories coming from saturated fats.
This means that someone with an intake of 2,000 calories per day, should not consume more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day. If you break this down on a per food basis, a low saturated fat food should have less than 5 grams of saturated fat per serving (usually in 100 g of product).
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should completely avoid fats. You still need some fat intake in your diet (even saturated fats), but having a high-calorie diet without adding fats is difficult to achieve. Fats tend to be very high in calories, compared to carbs, and proteins.
Fats have 9 calories per gram of food, while carbs and protein only have 4 calories per gram of food.
Thus, in the following list of high-calorie foods, you are going to find some foods that are high in fats, but mostly unsaturated fats (the healthier kind). Unsaturated fats have anti-inflammatory properties and help reduce blood cholesterol, which decreases the risk of heart disease.
When you’re reading the food list below, you’ll see two fat content: the total fat content and the saturated fat content. If you see a high fat content, that’s okay, so long as the saturated fat content is less than 5 grams per serving.
My criteria when selecting high calorie, low saturated fat foods are:
- It must have at least 100 calories per 100 grams of product
- It must have less than 5 grams of saturated fats per 100 g
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Best Foods High In Calories Low In Saturated Fats
Here are the top 10 foods high in calories but low in saturated fats:
- Flax Seeds
- Duck Eggs
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
Fruits, in general, tend to be low in saturated fats. However, raisins are one of the top choices when trying to add calories without adding too much saturated fats. In 100 g of raisins, you can find the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 301
- Carbs: 80.0 g
- Protein: 3.3 g
- Fats: 0.2 g
- Saturated fats: 0.0 g
As you can see, one of the advantages of raisins is that it doesn’t have any saturated fats. Thus, it is a great option when you need to control the saturated fats you get through your diet.
2. Flax Seeds
- Calories: 534
- Carbs: 28.9 g
- Protein: 18.3 g
- Fats: 42.2 g
- Saturated fats: 3.4 g
Even if flax seeds are high in fat, most of their fats are unsaturated (the healthy kind).
Thus, flax seeds are an excellent option if you need to include more fats in your diet to reach a certain caloric intake.
Bread is a top choice when including food high in calories and low in saturated fats.
In 100 g of bread, you can find the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 267
- Carbs: 49.2 g
- Protein: 9.4 g
- Fats: 3.6 g
- Saturated fats: 0.8 g
Carbs are great for adding calories without too much fat, especially saturated fats.
Any choice you pick is an excellent option, just make sure that it has more than 3 g of fiber per serving.
It is better to choose whole-grain bread since it has more fiber, which is beneficial because it helps increase your fullness levels, improves your gut health, decreases blood cholesterol, and has been shown to protect your heart.
4. Duck Eggs
Not all animal products are high in saturated fats. Duck eggs are a good example of that and even if it has some saturated fats, it still falls below our threshold of 5g per serving. In 100 g of duck eggs, you can find the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 185
- Carbs: 1.4 g
- Protein: 12.8 g
- Fats: 13.8 g
- Saturated fats: 3.7 g
Eggs are an excellent choice when trying to increase calories and protein simultaneously. Make sure that when you cook them, you avoid using butter, since one teaspoon of butter (5g) has 2.9 g of saturated fats (if you do the math, that’s 51 g of saturated fats per 100 g ‒ 10X more than our threshold).
Carb-based foods tend to also be low in saturated fats. Chickpeas are one of the top foods to add if you want to increase your calories without adding too many saturated fats. In 100 g of chickpeas, you find the following nutritional content:
- Calories: 210
- Carbs: 25.5 g
- Protein: 8.2 g
- Fats: 8.9 g
- Saturated fats: 1.1 g
Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant-based protein. Instead of having rice, which is a common vegetarian or vegan option, choose chickpeas instead to add more protein, more calories, and less saturated fats.
Chickpeas are on my list of cheap bulking carbs. Check out where it stands among 15 different carb sources
6. Hemp seeds
Suppose you are looking for something quick with a lot of calories but doesn’t require any cooking, hemp seeds are the way to go, especially because they’re also low in saturated fats. In 100 g of hemp seeds, you get the following nutritional content:
- Calories: 553
- Carbs: 8.7 g
- Protein: 31.6 g
- Fats: 48.8 g
- Saturated fats: 4.6 g
Add 1-2 tablespoons of hemp seeds to your salad, toast, or oatmeal. Hemp seeds are a quick and easy additive to any meal and offer a high amount of omega 3s. A diet high in omega-3 helps decrease inflammation in the body, which increases your recovery and boosts your immune system.
- Calories: 140
- Carbs: 8.6 g
- Protein: 11.5 g
- Fats: 7.8 g
- Saturated fats: 1.3 g
Legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils, quinoa, and edamame) are an excellent option for vegetarians or vegans who need to add calories and have a low-saturated diet, but still want to increase their protein intake.
One of the best ways to add edamame to your diet is by toasting them. You can place them in the oven or air fryer to toast them or buy them already toasted (check out The Only Bean for my favorite brand of toasted edamame). Use them as a crunchy snack during the day.
- Calories: 241
- Carbs: 47.5 g
- Protein: 9.9 g
- Fats: 1.2 g
- Saturated fats: 0.0 g
Even if bagels are low in saturated fats, be careful with what you spread on top. Foods like cream cheese tend to be very high in saturated fats. Opt for healthier fats like peanut butter or avocado to avoid increasing your saturated fat intake too much.
Fish tends to be a great protein option high in healthy fats. Sardines, in particular, are an excellent protein option that is low in saturated fats and high in calories. In 100 g of sardines, you can find the following nutritional content:
- Calories: 208
- Carbs: 0.0 g
- Protein: 24.6 g
- Fats: 11.4 g
- Saturated fats: 1.5 g
One of the benefits of sardines is that they are very high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Additionally, they are easy to carry since they come in tins. For those that have a hard time adding a protein source, and don’t want to rely on a protein shake, sardines are a great solution.
However, I’d recommend the unflavored tins of sardines. You need to be careful with the type of oil that some of the flavored varieties come in since they can increase your saturated fat intake.
Tip: Regardless of the type of fish, try to consume fish at least 3-4 times a week as your main protein source. They are low in saturated fats, and high in the healthier kind (unsaturated).
10. Chia seeds
Finally, chia seeds are another healthy fat that you might consider adding to provide calories without adding too many saturated fats. In 100 g of chia seeds, you can find the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 486
- Carbs: 42.1 g
- Protein: 16.5 g
- Fats: 30.7 g
- Saturated fats: 3.3 g
Like flaxseeds, you can add chia seeds to your salads, oatmeal, and yogurt. You can even simply add chia seeds to water. Since chia seeds absorb water, they create a gelatinous texture, which turns the water into a pudding-like drink.
Check out this 3 ingredient pudding recipe from Feel Good Foodie. It is very simple to make. Add some chia seeds to your favorite milk, add some vanilla, fruit, and sweetener to create a sweet pudding-like snack.
If you don’t know how to build a menu with these foods, here is a sample menu for you to get an idea of how to build it:
|Meals||Calories||Saturated Fats (g)|
150 g Bagels
150g Duck eggs
50 g Raisins
50 g Hemps seeds
100 g Edamame
100 g Chickpeas
150 g Sardines
50 g Chia seeds
150 g Bread
Remember that you can modify the ingredients and quantities to increase your caloric intake as needed. The meal plan above is 3000 calories, which is considered a “high calorie diet” given that most recommended diets for healthy/active individuals is between 2000-2500 calories.
You can also add more veggies to increase your fiber intake. That way you get more nutrients that are necessary for having good health.
Additionally, you should consider including more protein (mainly plant-based protein since it is going to be low in saturated fats). Protein is essential for muscle building, so you need to be careful you don’t consume too little of it. Since animal protein tends to be (in most cases) high in saturated fats, you can focus on plant-based proteins like legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa).
Tips on How To Increase Calories Without Increasing Saturated Fats
Avoid Animal Products
Although it is not always the case, most saturated fats come from animal products. Thus, when trying to limit your saturated fat consumption, avoid eating foods that come from animal sources. This means reducing mayonnaise, butter, and sour cream, to name a few.
Choose Vegetable Fats
Vegetable fats (in most cases) are low in saturated fats. Hence, when picking a fat to consume regularly, choose from a vegetable source. Choose oils, nuts, seeds, and olives.
Check The Nutrition Label
When buying food in the supermarket, make sure to read the nutrition label to check how much saturated fat it contains. Remember that it should have less than 5 g per serving for it to be low in saturated fats.
Reasons To Include High-Calorie Foods With Low In Saturated Fats In Your Diet
For those looking to gain weight, choosing foods high in calories is essential.
A caloric surplus, which means eating more calories than your body needs, is crucial to weight gain. Even if you don’t have heart problems, limiting the saturated fat intake is essential to prevent any problem from arising later on. It is vital to consume those foods high in calories but low in saturated fats.
Related Article: Can You Build Muscle With A Bad Diet?
High Blood Pressure
For those with heart problems or a family history of heart disease, it is recommended to have a low saturated fat intake.
Too much saturated fats can lead to cholesterol build-up in your arteries. This means that there is a narrower space for your blood to circulate. That combined with having heart blood pressure can potentially lead to having heart problems.
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Other High Calorie Meal Plans
- Top 10 Foods High In Calories But Low In Protein
- Top 10 Foods High In Calories But Low In Sugar
- Top 10 Foods High In Calories But Low In Sodium
- 10 Best High-Calorie Low-Fiber Foods
- 15 High Calories Low FODMAP Foods
- High-Calorie Alternatives To Milk: 3 Dairy-Free Options
- How To Increase Protein Intake Without Increasing Your Fat
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.