Low-Cal, High Flavor: 500-Calorie Meals You Can Count On

500-calorie meals: A sandwich gets measured with a ruler
Image: Favorece

Whether you're trying to lose weight or just want to be more mindful of what you're eating (especially after a long day of work when you're exhausted, hungry, and tempted to reach for that bag of chips), keeping track of your calorie intake can set you on a healthier path.

That said, there is growing evidence that it's not only about how many calories you consume, it's about what types of calories you take in. Recent reports show that reducing calorie intake alone may not lead to weight loss—instead, staying healthy requires a wider and longer-term approach to eating well.

With that in mind, we're sharing a medley of 500-calorie meals (many with even fewer calories) as well as some simple lifestyle tips that can help you enjoy healthy eating any day or night of the week.

Simple Tips to Cut Calories

500-calorie meals: Hands hold a tablet that's open to a calorie tracker
Image: Rawpixel

When looking to cut calories, these easy yet effective lifestyle tips will help you eat well and feel good.

  • Swap out meats high in saturated fat with low-fat proteins such as fish, chicken, turkey, and lean pork chops. 
  • Scale back on sauces, which are often loaded with calories (and sugars). Instead, opt for DIY sauces made with olive oil, lemon, balsamic vinegar, mustard, herbs, and seasonings. 
  • Pay attention to portions—studies have found that portions today are significantly larger than they were in the past, which can lead to overeating.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with a small version of dessert. No need to eat an entire chocolate bar or piece of cake—just a taste or two will do the trick and spare you lots of empty calories.
  • Cook your own food to gain more control over the number of calories you eat.

With theses healthy tips, you're already halfway there. And the following recipes will help take you across the finish line. You can get inspired with ideas, modify each dish to your own liking, and know exactly where your calories are coming from.

10 Tasty 500-Calorie Meals

500-calorie meals: Hands hold a bowl of salad
Image: Buenosia Carol

Easy meals you can make from scratch? You got it. No slow cooker, pressure cooker, or Instapot required. 

1. Blackened Chicken With Avocado Cream Sauce 

500-calorie meals: Blackened Chicken With Avocado Cream Sauce
Image: PopCulture

Cooking & Prep Time: 25 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 162

This low-calorie chicken recipe lets you shake up your basic chicken dinner. Literally. Place chicken breasts and seasoning in a bag, shake it all up to get a good coating, then sauté the chicken in a pan for about six minutes. Meanwhile, you can make the creamy avocado sauce with just a few simple ingredients. The key is using non-fat Greek yogurt to avoid unwanted calories, fat, and sugar. 

2. Lamb Chops

500-calorie meals: Lamb Chops

Cooking & Prep Time: 20 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 320

For this tasty, low-calorie recipe, your first step will be downloading the free Tovala app for iOs or Android. Once that's done, you simply gather your lamb chops, coat them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place them in the Tovala Oven. Minutes later, you'll have cooked-to-perfection chops that you can serve alongside steamed veggies or sliced apples for a touch of low-carb sweetness. 

3. Confetti Kielbasa Skillet

500-calorie meals: Confetti Kielbasa Skillet
Image: Taste of Home

Cooking & Prep Time: 30 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 347

Low-calorie kielbasa, are you crazy? No, not at all. This colorful one-skillet dish might look like a calorie bomb, but replacing high-fat meat sausage with turkey kielbasa is the secret weapon. Throw in some black beans, onions, mushrooms, corn, red peppers, kale, or any other veggies you like for added nutrients (and virtually no extra calories). Add a dash of cayenne, and you’ll have a meal with a real kick.

4. Baked Gnocchi With Beyond Beef® Feisty Crumbles

500-calorie meals: Baked Gnocchi With Beyond Beef® Feisty Crumbles

Cooking & Prep Time: 18 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 460

It doesn't get much simpler than this meat-free take on a tasty Italian classic that you'll find on the Tovala app. Perfect for those nights when you feel like pasta, but don't actually want pasta, this baked gnocchi dish requires just a few ingredients—a quarter cup of Beyond Beef®, half a cup of tomato sauce, one cup of gnocchi—mixed into a mini loaf pan—and that's about it. Finish with two tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, or if you want to keep it totally plant-based, simply sprinkle vegan Parm instead. 

5. Vegetarian Pie

500-calorie meals: Vegetarian Pie
Image: Good to Know

Cooking & Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 327

There's almost no comfort food more comforting than a pot pie, and this vegetarian version will transport your taste buds back to childhood. Using ready-made phyllo dough, lentils, and whatever veggies you like—peas, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, butternut squash, mushrooms—this delicious dish is perfect as a standalone meal or served with a side salad. (By the way, don't let that long cooking time scare you—your oven will do most of the work.)

6. Peach Mustard Pork Chops With Stone Fruit Salad

500-calorie meals: Peach Mustard Pork Chops With Stone Fruit Salad

Cooking & Prep Time: 15 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 430

Using fewer than 10 ingredients and boasting a whopping 54 grams of protein, this low-calorie recipe for peach mustard pork chops is also low-carb when served on a bed of mixed greens. Finish with a little crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar for an ideal lunch or dinner. We know, your stomach is already growling, so be sure to download the Tovala app and get this recipe ASAP.

7. Moroccan Chicken Skillet

500-calorie meals: Moroccan Chicken Skillet
Image: Food, Faith, Fitness

Cooking & Prep Time: 30 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 427

This 30-minute, one-pan Moroccan chicken dinner recipe is loaded with so much spicy-sweet goodness you won't believe it's gluten-free, paleo friendly, and Whole30 compliant. No grains or sugar, just protein-rich chicken and nutrient-dense veggies like cauliflower, carrots, sweet onion, crushed tomatoes, and a handful of spices. Oh, and don't forget the fresh orange juice, which imparts just enough sweetness to complement the savory, crispy chicken. 

8. Baked Cod With Arugula & Cherry Tomatoes

500-calorie meals: Baked Cod With Arugula & Cherry Tomatoes

Cooking & Prep Time: 19 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 240

All you need is the Tovala app, a few ingredients, and less than 20 minutes to create this delicious, low-carb dish any day or night of the week. Baked cod is perfect when you don't like "fishy" seafood but still want a light, yet flavorful healthy recipe centered around fish. Serve with a salad of baby arugula, cherry tomatoes, and a DIY dressing for a low-calorie dinner (or lunch) you'll want on repeat.

9. Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl

500-calorie meals: Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl
Image: EatingWell

Cooking & Prep Time: 30 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 452 (about 2½ cups)

Feel like Mexican but don't want the same old tacos or chicken enchiladas with high-carb tortillas? This chipotle-flavored burrito bowl is just what you need—fast, easy, and better than takeout. Loaded with vegetables, this healthy dinner uses quinoa in place of rice for fewer carbs and more protein. While the recipe calls for pinto beans, you can just as easily use black beans or even chickpeas. Want to make it vegan? Simply omit the chicken or replace it with tofu or tempeh.

10. Butternut Squash & Red Lentil Soup

500-calorie meals: Butternut Squash & Red Lentil Soup
Image: Simple Veganista

Cooking & Prep Time: 45 minutes

Calories Per Serving: 421

With just six ingredients and a little effort, this savory butternut squash and red lentil soup is so good you won’t believe it’s vegan. Packed with protein and brimming with flavor, this healthy dinner can be made with a food processor or an old-fashioned potato masher. Just remember to only use red lentils with this recipe to keep the cooking time to a minimum and maintain that tantalizing color. 

500-Calorie Meals Made Simple

500-calorie meals: a Tovala meal

Paying attention to the quantity of calories you consume is an important part of healthy eating, but it’s also about the quality of calories. That doesn’t mean you have to eat the same kale and chicken salad day after day. On the contrary, you can get variety, nutrition, flavor, and convenience. And it's all possible with Tovala Meals.

Each Tovala Meal is crafted, prepped, and perfectly portioned by a real chef using only real ingredients—with nothing artificial ever added. With hundreds of choices and a new menu every week (including many 500-calorie meals), Tovala caters to your specific dietary needs—low-calorie, low-carb, high-protein, gluten-free, or vegetarian—to help you form healthy, lifelong habits that will benefit you for years to come. Now that's healthy eating you can count on.