What Do 300-Calorie Meals Really Look Like?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  731 comments   :  301,872 Views

Wonder what 300 calories looks like? 300 calories look drastically different when you're eating in instead of dining out. Choosing healthier, more nutritious foods--at home and away--means you can eat much more food and still lose weight. Check out these 18 meal comparisons to see for yourself, then forward this post to your friends!

Breakfast: 300-Calorie Meals & Portions
Here are three morning meals that each weigh in at 300 calories. Healthy and quick homemade meals (left column) pack whole grains, fresh fruit, and protein--a filling combination that will keep you fuller longer. You could only eat a fraction of the comparable restaurant meals (right column) for the same number of calories. Get more healthy breakfast ideas here.

Lunch: 350-Calorie Meals & Portions
These midday meals contain 350 calories each--the perfect amount to keep you going without wrecking your diet. Packing one of the homemade lunches on the left doesn't take long, and look at all those low- cal and filling veggies you'll get! Notice how seemingly healthy options like the restaurant foods on the right can be very misleading! Those 350-calorie portions are pretty small. Pack a healthier lunch with these tips.

Dinner: 400-Calorie Meals & Portions
Many people consume a larger meal at night, so we picked 400-calorie dinners here. By combining whole grains with lean protein and vegetables, these homemade dinners (left column) are a snap to prepare--and they'll keep the late-night munchies at bay! In contrast, the high-fat and high-calorie meals on the right don't offer much in the way of nutrition or volume. Get thousands of healthy dinner ideas at SparkRecipes.com!

The bottom line is that you can eat more and lose weight when you know how to pick the right foods and the right portions. Use the images and portions above as a guide to create your own healthy, diet-friendly and nutritious meals every day!

Are you surprised by how much (or little) you can eat for the calories, depending on which foods you choose? Which meal was most shocking to you?

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  • 731
    thanks - 1/7/2018   8:58:38 AM
  • 730
    I understand why they chose the foods they did; however, I would rather eat a little of a great food, then eat more of flavorless or "heavy" food. (Heavy = I find whole grains to be dense and lacking flavor.) - 11/2/2017   3:09:04 PM
  • 729
    Looks great - 10/22/2017   1:17:19 AM
    The visuals are great! - 9/9/2017   2:57:54 PM
  • 727
    Thanks - 5/26/2017   12:28:13 AM
  • 726
    Enjoyed the article. The comparisons were dramatic, and while they may not apply to everyone or be to everyone's personal tastes, they STILL give us something to think about so that we eat with AWARENESS. - 1/24/2017   9:51:55 AM
  • 725
    Loved the article - while I don't eat the items on the right at restaurants I do eat them homemade (and love them). Bet the farm when not made to diet specs they are at least as high in calories as the ones at the restaurant. Visual aids are great ... and in this case were also very appealing. - 1/18/2017   8:32:46 PM
  • ASEARLE223
    I think these portions look reasonable! Some of them I already do - for example,if I eat at Olive Garden I normally only eat half (but then you get salad and breadsticks, so that wrecks it). When I am eating well, though, I find that the meals on the left in those portion sizes are perfect! - 10/27/2016   1:58:40 PM
  • 723
    Much better choices for someone than the "military diet". These foods provide good nutrition and a balance of protein, fat, carbs, and fiber. If you ate 3 of these sampple menus - you'd be at 1100. - 10/18/2016   3:53:02 PM
  • 722
    Love the visual reminders of what the calorie intake looks like. - 9/3/2016   10:34:34 AM
    I've read a lot of people complaining about the carbs on the healthier side. So what? Carbs are needed, as are calories, especially for an active weight loss routine that includes a heavy workout. So unless you'r trying to be some waif like weakling, eat your carbs. - 5/19/2016   2:00:05 PM
  • 720
    I would love to see a redo of this old article with more modern information about nutrition, such as including more whole foods, protein, and healthy fats, and less processed carbs. This comparison was done several years ago, and the nutritional background it is based upon is simply out of date.

    For example, instead of comparing a Starbucks blueberry muffin to a processed bagel, how about comparing their oatmeal with all the toppings to a homemade version, or one of their breakfast sandwiches or wraps to a homemade version. - 5/19/2016   11:58:29 AM
    I used to agree with this, but now I know better. While I still use sparkpeople for calorie and nutrition reasons, I no longer believe eating highly processed low fat, sugar free etc foods are your best bet. No one should never make a habit of eating everything listed on the restaurant side, but eating the diet foods never teaches portion control. Eating 3/4 of a starbucks bagel, if you really want it, and then eating healthy the rest of the day seems better to me. By healthy I mean within your calorie range, but real food. Now that I eat real food, I am eating less food over all and am not hungry. - 5/19/2016   11:36:53 AM
  • 718
    Useful visual reminders! - 5/19/2016   8:08:32 AM
  • 717
    The comparisons are unfair. If I'm ordering an omelette at IHOP, I'm asking for an egg white veggie one. Likewise at Panera Bread, I'm going for the vegetable soup and a half of a turkey sandwich, minus the top bread. It may not be exactly 300 calories, but that's OK because I'll make up for it when I calculate the caloires for the whole day. You need to be able to go out and eat sensibly. P.S. The frozen pizza, frozen burger, etc have lots of chemicals and salt in them that I wouldn't eat. no matter how low calorie they were. - 5/19/2016   7:26:00 AM
  • 716
    Funnily enough I was just deciding whether to have lunch before I go out, or have lunch out somewhere. This article helped me decide. I'm eating before I go shopping! Thank you so much for all the good advice you provide for us. - 5/19/2016   6:51:26 AM
  • 715
    WAY too many starchy carbs in most of these meals. You can have two whole cups of broccoli for only 60 calories, without filling up on grains and flour.

    I think I would be out of energy if I only ate 1050 calories in a day, even if I only ate broccoli (which would be 35 cups of broccoli, but not a lot of calories to provide energy). - 3/2/2016   7:13:13 PM
  • 714
    Nice comparison, you can still eat well and keep your calories down especially if you cook at home. Thanks - 1/30/2016   3:45:49 PM
    How is it possible to eat that? Really you name that food? - 1/29/2016   7:41:25 PM
  • 712
    Very interesting to see visuals of meal portions although as someone says we still don't necessarily what 'baddies' some of those foods contain. The thing that shocked me most was that tiny portion of restaurant omelette. Even with the steak it was a surprise. Something to avoid in future when eating out. Thanks for the info. - 1/9/2016   6:51:20 AM
  • CLAY10237
    Check yourself. Lean Cuisine (and other low cal meals) products are full of added sugar. Also three tiny bits of turkey do not equal 10 grams of protein in the turkey tenderloin meal. Bagels and pastas are loaded with calories especially whole wheat items. Lean protein and fruit/veg make a far better base for any meal. - 4/6/2015   10:23:02 PM
  • 710
    I am from the Netherlands and am always astounded by what is considered food in america! Especially breakfast stuff. Waffles are meant as dessert, not as breakfast! I only eat white bread on the weekends on special occasions, no bagel for everyday food here!

    That pizza looks (in my eyes) not as something that should even be called a pizza, I don't know what it should be named but pizza's are supposed to be thin, with a sprinkling of cheese and as an appetizer, not as a meal in itself... - 1/9/2015   11:48:23 AM
  • 709
    Great article - nice to see the comparison and how you can really fill a plate at home for a fraction of the calories (and cost) of a restaurant plate for a meal that is more filling. - 1/8/2015   11:23:14 AM
  • 708
    Great photos and great comparisons!! - 1/8/2015   10:22:36 AM
  • 707
    wow! It was nice to see what 300 calories really looks like! Dang! I prefer to eat at home.. Not only do you get smaller portions, you are paying more! Thanks Nicole! :) - 9/2/2014   9:14:03 AM
    Since I started getting healthy,people send me "healthy recipes"... that aren't,really. I'm also getting LOTS of inbelievably delectable, full of yum,BAD things that they KNOW I can't eat on facebook... from freinds. WHY? I'm seriously going for good health because my life is a concern to me... I don't get it. - 8/10/2014   6:20:55 PM
    None of this should be surprising. Restaurant portions have always been too much, that's why we always got doggie bags (no dog!) when I was a kid in ancient times.

    But there are many ways to improve the "healthy" versions. No need for special diet stuff. A big slice of dense multigrain bread won't be more of a calorie hit than two "light bread" slices unless the latter is all cellulose (as they sound...). 3 tbsp of "nonfat cream cheese" (isn't that a contradiction in terms?!?) is a lot of spread. Just half an ounce of real cream cheese can cover a huge real bagel (both halves) so it would seem luxurious on a dinky low calorie one (Kraft cream cheese is 35 calories per half ounce). Also veggie burgers and veggie sausage usually have grain in them, so I often don't feel the need for a bun (leaves room for more food) and just eat bread by itself when the mood strikes. Or often it tastes even better with just one slice, as an open-face sandwich- the taste of the filling doesn't get overwhelmed that way. Without the bread or bun, you can have two veggie burgers or patties. Any sandwich filling can be eaten alone with a pile of more veggies unless you're really craving the bread (real bread, though). If I eat frozen prepared food, I just divide the package into reasonable portions for me (often putting half away for another time). For instance, Morningstar Farms now has a couple of tasty 380 cal "pizzas" based on beans and whole wheat (without allergenic egg white) that can be the basis for two meals if I divide in two. Any frozen pizza or pizzaria pizza can also be cut into whatever portions you like and the slices frozen - the sliver of pizza shown on the right here is a very unusual amount of calories for its size, the vast majority of pizzas don't work that way. - 6/21/2014   4:07:46 PM
  • 704
    While I think this could have been a great article I think it ended up really deceptive.
    The foods from restaurants seem to be the fattiest thing you can find on the menu rather than something comparable to what they are showing for the cook at home.
    The pictures are also completely different. The at home food is prepped for a camera. The restaurant food is just plopped on a plate.
    Finally, several of the at home options are Lean Cusine! The sodium alone in those should be disclosed, and they taste like cardboard.
    - 5/10/2014   9:46:18 PM
  • 703
    I think they could have done a better job with this. The at home meals are reasonable food, while they chose the fattiest things on the menu for the restaurant comparisons: sausage stuffed pizza, steak omelette, mulit-cheese pasta. For the sandwich comparison, the choice of baked potato soup, by itself, takes the meal over 300 calories. One can have Chicken Noodle or Garden Vegetable soup at Panera for 130/150 calories, respectively. I don't think it's helpful to make a comparison and choose the fattiest stuff on a menu, and it seems like this article is hocking for Lean Cuisine, as well. - 12/19/2013   1:36:59 PM
  • 702
    I have to agree the pictures make a difference. The waffles looked great. I get tired of just eating yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast. Lunch I do pretty much as shown, but the dinners I usually have something along the lunch ideas for dinner. I am still learning even though I have been at this for most of my adult life. - 11/12/2013   3:30:44 PM
  • ROKO40
    Thanks it remained me I don't have to starve myself to lose weight, the pictures are very helpful - 10/23/2013   3:21:04 PM
  • 700
    Very enlightening! Cooking at home does make ALL the difference! - 10/18/2013   6:56:54 PM
  • CHERRAL433
    This was very informative and its amazing if you cook yourself and eat good foods the portions are bigger and more satisfying. They are not empty calories. - 10/7/2013   2:16:37 PM
    This actually annoys me. The pictures of the restaraunt meals they just kinda plopped it on the plate and the pictures of the lower cal meals they spread everything out and arranged it all pretty. Not to mention lean cusine? That stuff tastes like cardboard. - 9/24/2013   8:32:56 PM
  • 697
    Incredible when you see it like that! Scary! - 9/22/2013   2:56:52 AM
    Wow! Great article. - 9/18/2013   10:45:27 PM
    I am a visual person so to see the lo-cal vs the higher cal meal was very helpful to me. It was an eye opener. - 5/18/2013   8:48:27 PM
  • 694
    Super helpful. More motivation to continue to learn to cook for myself! - 5/2/2013   10:59:53 AM
  • 693
    Wowsa! - 5/1/2013   6:52:11 AM
  • 692
    Thank you for reminding me of one of the many reasons that I very rarely eat in restaurants!

    Very effective to see the difference on a plate! - 4/9/2013   10:08:02 PM
    Thanks for the visuals - very surprising! - 3/19/2013   11:59:48 PM
  • 690
    wow this a great article. It helps to see what you can have with lower calories. It is about a life style change. - 3/8/2013   12:58:17 PM
  • 689
    This was very enlightening, a real eye opener. - 3/7/2013   11:17:00 PM
  • 688
    I really loved the visuals in this article, it really breaks it down to reality. Thanks so very much! - 2/27/2013   8:52:19 PM
    I liked this article. It was very imformative. By light bread, I'm assuming they mean calorie reduced, such as Weight Watchers brand. - 12/28/2012   7:20:40 AM
    This is great, but what is light bread?!? - 8/17/2012   12:25:00 AM
  • 685
    Beautiful pictures! GREAT comparison! - 7/25/2012   10:56:25 PM
  • 684
    Nice! Visuals really make the point! - 7/23/2012   8:38:16 PM
  • 683
    THIS IS AN INFORMATIVE BLOG! I learned so much! Thank you! - 5/27/2012   10:33:04 PM
  • 682
    Wow!!!! Thanks. Really puts some insights on "my" meals versus eating out. Forget you Panera Bread, Ihop, Ruby Tuesday and others that try to sell you the low carbs/low calorie diets on their menus - 5/25/2012   7:48:52 PM

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