Calorie Density: Low density vs high density
If you are looking to drop weight and paying attention to what you are eating then calorie density will be important to reaching your goals. When eating healthier foods that are more beneficial and aid in keeping you full longer we look to eating high volume with lower calories which are low density foods. To give you a better idea density describes the number of calories in a particular food in relation to its volume or amount. Let’s take a food that has 100 calories in 1 ounce and another food that has 200 calories in 1 ounce. This tells us the second food has a higher calorie density.
In other words you want to choose the food that has lower calories in volume.
The following foods are examples of low calorie dense foods with high volume:
- Lean proteins like meat, fish, tofu, and chicken breast provide satiety and aid in muscle building
- Vegetables provide large amounts of food and low calorie packed with fiber, nutrients and provide satiety.
- Berries are great low density foods with fiber and antioxidants.
- Fish are high in protein and low in calories.
- Greens/salad mixes can provide high volume and low calorie.Building salads without the extra fat can be a great snack or meal after adding a lean protein like fish or chicken.
High density low volume foods usually are the ones we love to eat and can contribute to weight gain like fast food, processed foods, and baked goods. These are the ones we need to start removing from our daily eating habits and replacing with healthier choices. Let me remind you there are healthy foods that are high density and low volume to consider like almond butter. One tablespoon is 90 calories and we all know we love to eat well more than a tablespoon. Some are guilty of eating nearly half a cup if we aren’t mindful and that adds up to 720 calories of mindless eating.
The following foods are examples of high density calorie foods:
- Baked goods like cupcakes, bagels, muffins, bread, Cornbread
- Junk food like chips, fried foods, fast food
- Trail mix with dried fruit and nuts are high density and should be portioned to 1 ounce servings
- Sugar induced beverages like soda, fruit punch, artificially flavored juices, alcoholic beverages
Energy In VS Energy Out
It’s one thing to choose the right foods that are low density, we also need to have an understanding of food energy balance when it comes to weight loss. To lose weight energy in (total calories consumed in a day) has to be less then energy out (total calories burned for the day). If your body burns 2000 calories a day then you have to eat less than 2000 calories to lose weight. The same goes for weight gain. For the same 2000 calories you burn a day you have to eat more than your burn a day to gain. For maintenance, to keep your weight the same, you eat 2000 calories a day. Sounds simple, right? Well, this is where quality comes in because the kinds of food you eat are going to reflect how you feel and look. For now let’s focus on low and high density foods.
Calorie density not only plays a large part in the amount of calories it contains but the impact it will have on the other components of a weight loss diet like hunger, satiety, and hormonal effects. These contribute to the success of a plan and if there is an overconsumption of high density foods then it can impede on your goals of losing weight.
Once we learn which foods are the right ones to keep us satisfied and on track with our goals we can better plan our meals and see consistent results.