High-calorie and low-carb foods are good for people seeking to add muscle who need a caloric surplus or those following a low-carb diet. Eating these types of foods can also help you hit your calorie budget if you are highly active and need a lot of calories.
In this article, I will list the high-calorie, low-carb foods that I often recommend as a Registered Dietitian to my clients.
First, let’s define what high-calorie and low-carb foods are.
What Defines Food High In Calories and Low In Carbs?
Defining High Calories
A high-calorie food has a lot of calories in a small volume of food. In other words, it is a high-energy-dense food.
For example, when you compare a donut and celery, they have very different calorie densities. Donuts are high-energy-dense, while celery is low-energy-dense. In 100 g of donuts, you get around 400 kcal, while in 100 g of celery, you get 14 kcal.
As you can see, both have the same volume of food, but donuts have more calories than celery.
Even though there is no standard to determine a high-calorie food, in this article, any food with more than 100 kcal per 100 g is considered high in calories.
Defining Low Carbs
To define a food low in calories, it needs to have less than 10 grams of net carbs per 100 g of food.
Net carbs = total carbs – total fiber
Fiber is a type of carb your body doesn’t digest. Thus, when talking about the number of carbs a food has, we are going to talk about net carbs, which are those that your body can digest.
The formula above will give you the number of carbs your body absorbs since fiber travels intact through your body.
- A food high in calories and low in carbs needs to have more than 100 kcal and less than 10 g of net carbs per 100g.
15 Best Foods High in Calories and Low in Carbs
1. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are one of the best foods that are high in calories and low in carbs. In 100 g of 100 g of chia seeds, you get 486 kcal, 42.1 g of carbs, and 34.4 g of fiber. This gives a total of 7.7 g of net carbs.
One of the benefits of chia seeds is that they are very high in fiber, which is why they have a low net carb content even though they are high in carbs.
Chia seeds are also very high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation in the body.
2. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are another great food you can include in your diet if you are looking for high-calorie and low-carb food. In 100 g of flax seeds, you get 534 kcal, 28.9 g of carbs, and 27.3 of fiber. This means flax seeds have a total of 1.6 g of net carbs.
Besides being high in omega-3 fatty acids, they also have heart-protecting properties.
In a study, people who consumed more than 30 g of flax seed for over 12 months saw a 15% reduction in LDL (bad cholesterol).
3. Hemp Seeds
Another great option to include that is low in carbs and high in calories is hemp seeds. In 100 g of hemp seeds, you get 553 kcal, 8.7 g of carbs, and 4.0 g of fiber. This gives a total of 4.7 g of net carbs.
One of the benefits of hemp seeds is that they are high in protein. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds have 9 g of protein, the same as having one large egg. It is also high-quality protein since it has all 9 of the amino acids (which are the building blocks of protein) your body needs.
In fact, hemp is one of the few plant-based protein sources that contains all 9 amino acids.
Like chia seeds and flax seeds, hemp seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in your body.
Avocados are known for being high in calories and low in carbs. In 100 g of avocados, you get 160 kcal, 8.5 g of carbs, and 6.7 g of fiber. This means you get a total of 1.8 g of net carbs.
Avocados are a very nutrient-rich food since they are a good source of copper, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B2, and vitamin B3.
Potassium is especially vital in your body since it helps regulate your hydration levels. On top of that, consuming potassium can help reduce muscle cramps.
This makes avocado one of the best foods to aid in post-workout recovery.
Salmon is another great option to help you add calories without worrying about the carb content. In 100 g of salmon, you get 142 kcal and 0.0 g of carbs.
It is a great protein source (19.8 g of protein per 100 g) since it contains all the amino acids your body needs.
It is also a significant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which like mentioned before, can help reduce inflammation in your body.
Salmon is a good source of niacin (vitamin B3) since it provides you with 62% of the daily recommended value. Niacin, along with other vitamins from the B complex, helps convert the food you eat into usable energy in the body.
6. Chicken Thighs
Another great protein source for you to add more calories to your diet without adding carbs is chicken thighs. In 100 g of chicken thighs, you get 221 kcal, 0.2 g of carbs, and 0.0 g of fiber.
One of the benefits of chicken thighs is that they are a more affordable protein source than foods like salmon or chicken breast. So, if you have a high protein requirement, they can help your grocery budget.
However, keep in mind that they are higher in saturated fats (4.52 g when eaten with the skin) than chicken breast (1.01 g per 100 g). A large consumption of saturated fats (more than 7% of your daily calories coming from saturated fats) can potentially increase the risk of heart disease.
7. Swiss Cheese
If you are looking for another protein source, cheese makes an excellent choice for you to pile on your calories without adding carbs. There are many different cheese choices, but in this case, I will talk about Swiss cheese. In 100 g of Swiss cheese, you get 393 kcal, 1.4 g of carbs, and 0.0 g of fiber.
Swiss cheese makes a great protein choice since it has 27 g of protein per 100 g and contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. It is also a versatile food you can add to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks.
That is why I often recommend my clients add cheese to their diets if they have trouble adding protein to their meals or struggle to eat enough calories in general.
Butter is high in calories and low in carbs. In 100 g of butter, you get 717 kcal and 0.0 g of carbs.
Since it is made from the fatty part of milk, you mostly consume fats.
One of the benefits of butter is that it contains vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation in your body.
If you don’t like butter, you can try ghee, a concentrated form of butter with the water and milk solids removed. Ghee has a similar nutritional breakdown as butter.
9. Sesame Oil
Oils are your best friend if you want to include more calories in your diet without carbs. For example, in 100 g of sesame oil, you get 929 kcal and 0.0 g of carbs.
Sesame oil is a good source of antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation in your body.
It can also provide heart benefits.
In a study, people who consumed 4 tablespoons of sesame oil a day saw significant reductions in triglycerides (a type of fat found in the body) and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol).
10. Olive Oil
Another oil to include if you are looking for high-calorie, low-carb food is olive oil. In 100 g of olive oil, you get 884 kcal and 0.0 g of carbs.
Olive oil is a very nutrient-rich food with high levels of antioxidants.
Also, a study showed that people who consume olive oil frequently can reduce the risk of stroke.
Almonds are another great way to increase your calories without increasing your carb intake. In 100 g of almonds, you get 667 kcal, 16.2 g of carbs, and 11.0 g of fiber. The total net carbs for almonds are 4.2 g.
Almonds are also high in antioxidants and can have positive effects on heart health.
One study showed that people who consumed 20% of their calories from almonds had an average reduction of 12 mg/dL of LDL cholesterol.
12. Brazil Nuts
Another nut high in calories and low in carbs is Brazil nuts. In 100 g of Brazil nuts, you get 659 kcal, 11.7 g of carbs, and 7.5 g of fiber. This represents a total of 4.2 g of net carbs.
One of the benefits of Brazil nuts is that they are very high in selenium. One ounce (28 g) of Brazil nuts offers 988% of the daily recommended value for selenium.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation and boost your immune system.
13. Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is another option for you to increase your calories without increasing your carb content. In 100 g of cream cheese, you get 350 kcal, 5.5 g of total carbs, and 0.0 g of fiber.
However, while cream cheese is an excellent option to increase your calories, I wouldn’t recommend consuming it daily in high amounts.
Most of the calories from cream cheese come from fat (34.4 g), mostly from saturated fats (20.2 g).
Your body needs some saturated fats to function properly. However, as mentioned earlier, consuming more than 7% of your total calories come from saturated fat sources can increase the risk of heart disease.
14. Sour Cream
Another dairy option that is high in calories and low in carbs is sour cream. In 100 g of sour cream, you get 198 kcal, 4.6 g of carbs, and 0.0 g of fiber.
However, the same problem that you get from cream cheese applies to sour cream. With 10.1 g of saturated fat per 100 g, it is very high in saturated fat. So, you need to be careful with the portion size or add other healthier fats like avocado or olive oil to balance out your day.
Finally, the last food that is high in calories and low in carbs is olives. In 100 g of green olives, you get 145 kcal, 3.8 g of carbs, and 3.3 g of fiber. This means you get a total of net carbs of 0.5 g.
One of the benefits of olives is that they are very high in antioxidants, including a type of monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Oleic acid can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer and promote wound healing.
Tips on How To Increase Your Calorie Intake Without Increasing Carbs
1. Choose Fats or Proteins
Fats and proteins tend to be low in carbs. So, if you want to add more calories to your diet without adding too many carbs, go with sources of fats or proteins.
As you can see from the list above, most high-calorie, low-carb foods are sources of fat or are high-protein fats. These help increase your calories without blowing your carb budget.
- Related Article: What Happens If You Go Over Your Carb Macros (Is This Bad?)
2. Avoid Sugars
While sugars are high in calories, they are also high in carbs.
Make sure to avoid foods that contain hidden sugars. Read the nutrition label carefully to check for any sugar in the ingredients list.
Some names for sugars are dextrose, fructose, sucrose, cane sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, syrups (and anything related), and galactose.
The American Heart Association recommends not having more than 35 g of sugar per day.
To my clients, I often recommend limiting the sugar intake to 20 to 25 g of added sugars per day.
- Related Article: How To Gain Weight Without Eating Sugar (Sample Meal Plan)
Reasons To Include High-Calorie, Low-Carb Foods in Your Diet
One of the reasons you may want to include foods high in calories and low in carbs is that you are on a weight gain journey.
To gain muscle, you need to consume more calories than your body burns each day (in other words, eat in a caloric surplus). Adding foods high in calories can help you reach your calorie goals.
Another reason you might want to include foods high in calories and low in carbs is that you are following a low-carb or ketogenic diet.
On a keto diet, you restrict your carb intake to 5-10% of your total calories.
For someone following a keto diet with a high caloric intake, it might be hard to meet their calorie goals. Thus, including high-calorie and low-carb foods can help you achieve your caloric intake without affecting your ketosis levels.
High Energy Requirements
Finally, one reason you might want to eat high-calorie, low-carb foods is that you are very active and need a lot of calories to support your lifestyle.
Foods high in carbs can be very filling, making it difficult to reach your daily calorie targets. Foods that are high in calories but low in carbs (especially oils) are an easy way to add more calories without feeling uncomfortable during the day.
Other High-Calorie Food Lists
- Foods High In Calories But Low In Sodium
- Foods High In Calories But Low In Saturated Fats
- Foods High In Calories But Low In Protein
- Foods High In Calories But Low In Sugar
- High-Calorie Low-Fiber Foods
- High Calorie Low FODMAP Foods
- High-Calorie Alternatives To Milk
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.