There are many ways to consider when you want to lose weight. Have you ever considered eating more food, with fewer calories, feel full and work your way to reducing the belly fat? If you haven’t, then you need to think about the energy (or calorie) density. The energy density is the number of calories in a given amount/serving of food. For weight control, the best technique is to choose foods that are lower in calories but high in volume. By this method, you can eat more and feel fuller in fewer calories.
High energy density means that there are a lot of calories in a little food, or in one serving. Low density means there are fewer calories in a higher amount of serving (or the same amount of serving as a high dense food). When you’re goal is weight loss, you need to focus on low-density foods. You want a bigger serving of food that’s fewer in calories at the same time you should be able to feel fuller. To give you an example, we’ll take raisins and grapes. 1 cup of raisins has 434 calories, making it a high energy dense food. 1 cup of grapes on the other hand has 82 calories, thus it is a low energy dense food. You can see the difference in calories in the same amount of serving (1 cup).
Factors of Energy Density and Weight Loss
There are certain factors that determine whether a food is highly dense or less dense:
Since water virtually has no calories, fruits and vegetables that have a high water content are low-energy dense foods. For example, a grapefruit is about 90% water, and half a grapefruit has a calorie count of 37 calories. Fresh carrots have an 88% content of water, and a medium carrot has only 25 calories. To see a list of fruits and vegetable and their respective water content, check out this list:
High fiber foods take longer to digest so it makes you feel fuller, and they provide a large volume of food with fewer calories. Vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains all contain high amounts of fiber, at the same time have fewer calories for the amount you can consume. To know more about fiber, read Importance of Fiber in Your Diet
Foods that are high in fat content is high in energy density. It is a high caloric food, consisting of 9 calories in each gram of fat. Our bodies need and should only consume fewer amounts of foods with fat. For example, a teaspoon of butter (small amount of serving right?) has roughly the same number of calories as 2 cups of broccoli! Broccoli has a 91% content of water, and you will feel fuller with a higher intake of healthier food with the same amount of calories.
Energy Density of Certain Foods
It can be daunting at first when you undergo a lifestyle change. Creating an eating plan to aid you in your goal of weight loss is no exception. But knowing the energy density of a given food will help you. Here, we’ll discuss between high and low energy dense foods by categories.
Fruits are beneficial to a healthy diet. However, some fruits have lower calories than others. Whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits without syrups are good options. In contrast, concentrated fruit juices and dried fruits have natural sugar and are higher in calories so they have a higher density amount than fresh fruits. These dried fruits and fruit juices don’t fill you up as much either. Some examples of fruit that are low energy dense are peaches, melon, strawberries, rasberries and blueberries.
Most vegetables are low in calories but high in volume, or weight of food. Many vegetable contain water, which provides weight without calories. Vegetables are lower in calories than fruit because vegetables do not contain fructose that’s generally found in fruits. Like fruits, choose fresh or frozen vegetables without breading or sauce. The serving size of raw or cooked vegetables is 1 cup. The serving size for leafy greens such as kale, spinach or lettuce is 2 cups. Examples of low energy density vegetables include asparagus, cucumber, green beans, spinach, onions, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms.
Many carbohydrates are either grains or made from grains. Examples of grain products include cereal, rice, pasta and bread. Carbohydrates are generally higher in energy density, however opt for complex carbohydrates to provide a healthier option when eating carbs. Complex carbs are usually consisted of whole grains, specifically brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole-grain cereal and oatmeal.
You can get protein from both plant and animal sources. According to a nutrition database, a 1 ounce serving of a very lean protein food provides 35 calories, significantly fewer calories than a medium fat protein food which can contain 75 calories for that same 1 ounce. So opt to choose lean protein for a healthier and lower energy density. Some example of lean protein are skinless turkey or chicken breast, legumes (beans, peas and lentils, which are also high in fiber) fat-free fish such as tuna canned in water, shellfish such as lobster or shrimp, and egg whites (egg without the yellow yolk).
As long as they are unsweetened or sweetned with a non-nutritive sweetner, low-fat and non-fat dairy products are low energy density foods. Such examples are low/non fat milk, yoghurt, and cheese.
While fats are high energy dense foods, some fats are healthier than others. You should add in your diet, small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Examples of these include nuts, seeds and oils (olive oil, safflower oil). For more information regarding fats, read Not All Fats are Bad for you! If you want to know which oil you should use in your cooking, read Good Oils vs. Bad Oils: Make the Right Choice.
Sweets are also high in energy density. Opt for desserts that are low in added fat and generally contain healthy ingredients such as fruits, whole grains and low fat dairy.
Determining Energy Densities of Food
You can determine the calorie of different foods if you look at the nutrition label carefully. Make sure you read Do You Read the Nutrition Label?
First, find the label on the back of your packaged food. Then, find the serving side of the food. Beside the serving size, you’ll find the weight of the serving in grams. Then, look for the number of calories per serving. You’ll find this under “Amount per Serving.” The calories per serving is usually expressed in kcal. Finally, divide the number of calories per serving by the number of grams in one serving.
Lets take an example. Suppose your food contains 180 calories per serving and one serving equals to 90 grams. If you divide 180 by 90, you’ll get 2. And that’s you’re energy density.
Generally speaking, foods that have a calorie density of 0.6 or less are the best and you can eat unlimited portions of these. They include fruits and non-starchy vegetables. You should eat reasonable portions of foods that have a calorie density of 0.7-1.5. These include whole grains, legumes, lean protein and low-fat dairy products. You should eat very modest amounts of food that are above a calorie density of 1.5, which can include higher-fat meats, dessert and simple carbs.
If you want to take a look at the nutrition and determine the calorie densities of certain foods and popular brands of foods, check out this site http://www.calorieking.com/foods/. When you find a food and look at its nutrition label, you’ll see stars next to the heading “Nutrition Facts.” The stars determine whether the food is low or high in energy density. The higher the number of stars, the less energy dense food it is, making it a better food choice. The rating goes up to five stars.
Calorie density is a common-sense approach to a healthy nutrition and is the cornerstone of good health. It is the simplest way to lose and/or manage your weight. By following this method of eating, you can increase the amount of food on your plate while you decrease your caloric intake. Plus, the added benefit of being less hungry during the day. So count your calories, and know what the low density foods are that you should be adding to your plate.