Choosing foods that are less concentrated with calories lets you get a larger portion size with fewer calories–sometimes, that can be very attractive!
The definition of ENERFY DENSITY is “the amount of energy stored in a given system per unit volume or mass, depending on the context.” Obviously, all foods have a certain number of calories within a given amount (volume). Some foods are high in energy density, meaning that a small volume of that food has a large number of calories. Alternatively, some foods have low energy density. Two factors play an important role in what makes food less calorie packed and more filling:
- Water: many fruits and vegetables are high in water, which provides volume but not calories. Grapefruits are 90 % water and only 39 calories for a half-fruit serving for example. Carrots are 88 % water and have 52 calories in one cup.
- Fiber: high-fiber foods not only provide volume, but also take longer to digest, making you feel full longer!
So, as far as food density, if you are looking to reduce calories while eating well, what are your best food choices?
- VEGGIES, VEGGIES, VEGGIES! Most of them are low in calories and high in volume. Most vegetable servings (1 cup raw, ½ cup cooked or 2 cups leafy vegetables) have about 25 calories! Starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash) contain more calories, about 70 in a half-cup serving.
- FRUITS: Practically all fruits work well. Some are better choices than others though; you should limit fruit juices, tropical fruits and dried fruits as they are concentrated sources of natural sugar. Fresh, unpeeled is the very best. The more processed it is—peeled, then sliced, then diced, then juiced—the less work you have to digest it; and you definitely want your body to work with your food! Never forget the importance of blood sugars!
- CARBOHYDRATES: the good kind! Look for whole grains, of course: whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain cereals…
- PROTEIN: animal and plant sources; legumes–beans, peas and lentils, filled with fiber–, and fish, skinned white meat poultry and egg whites.
Such a simple, excellent key!