Eat More & Lose Weight – For Real
Let’s get one thing straight right off the top, while this might sound like one of those trendy, fad-type diets or eating plans, it is definitely not.
In this post we’re going to talk about “energy density” and how it can help you eat more food – thereby giving you more ways to not fall victim to hunger pangs – while consuming the same or fewer calories.
Energy density refers to the amount of food energy (calories) in a measured amount of food. In the same serving size, high energy-density foods will have more calories and low energy density foods will have fewer calories. The differences in the food energy in low and high energy-density foods are enough that you can eat a noticeably larger quantity of the low energy-density foods, yet consume noticeably fewer calories.
Energy Density in Action
As an example of different energy densities in food, and how you can eat more but still lose weight, let’s look at two versions of the same food: grapes and raisins. Raisins are dried grapes. The process of drying removes almost all the water from the grape. Considering that water is probably the largest ingredient of the grape, raisins are significantly smaller than the grapes they came from.
But most of the other ingredients and nutrients from the original grape remain in the raisin, including its food energy. In other words, a raisin will have food energy similar to a grape, even though the raisin is much smaller.
The result is that one cup of raisins has about 434 calories, while one cup of grapes has about 82 calories. Raisins have a high energy density and grapes have a low energy density.
And the difference is massive. You can eat a serving size of grapes that is twice as large as a serving size of raisins, yet get less than half the calories of the smaller serving of raisins.
It’s important to remember that we’re talking about serving sizes by weight here. Don’t mistake that for number of grapes or raisins. Ten grapes will have similar amounts of calories as ten raisins.
The energy density of food is the basis for the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Weight Pyramid, which is their guide to healthy eating. The foods at the bottom, wider part of the pyramid, of which you are supposed to eat more servings, are all low energy-density foods, including fruits and vegetables. The very peak of the pyramid is “sweets”, which they recommend be kept to no more than 75 calories per day. (That’s about a quarter of a bran muffin. The Clinic recommends you “save up” your calorie counts and have one or two sweet treats per week.)
Here’s the energy density by food category in the Mayo Clinic Food Pyramid:
- Vegetables – One clear example of the concept of low energy density foods is the myth that the act of eating celery burns more calories than you get from the celery itself – it’s been busted many times. But it illustrates the idea behind energy densities. Vegetables are very low energy-density foods because many of them contain a lot of water, including lettuce, asparagus, broccoli and zucchini. You should look for every opportunity to add vegetables to every meal – and have them raw as a snack.
- Fruits – While fruits are similarly low energy-density foods as vegetables, there are a few areas you need to keep in mind. Fresh, frozen and canned fruit without syrup are generally the way to go. But remember the raisin example above. Most dried fruits have high energy densities and so do most fruit juices.
- Carbohydrates – Carbs are a mixed bag of high energy density and lower energy-density foods. Sugar is a carb and is clearly “off-the-scale” as far as being high energy density. But whole grains in bread, pasta and cereal have lower energy density than their more processed counterparts.
- Protein & Dairy – The lower energy density foods in this group are those that are high in protein, but low in fat; like legumes, fish and skinless, white-meat poultry. Red meats are high in protein but can also be high in fat.
- Fats – You need fats to live, but they tend to be high energy density foods. In fact, fat has twice the number of calories as the same amount of protein or carbohydrates. Try to limit your fat intake to unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds and healthy oils, like olive oil.
- Sweets – It’s interesting that the Mayo Clinic calls them sweets. Actual candy is about as high energy density as you can get. But the Clinic recommends you consider “sweet” whole foods, including fresh fruit, grains and low-fat dairy to meet the recommendations for this category.
So now you’re all set. Now you know a way to eat more food, but get fewer calories. If you would like to learn more about high and low energy densities in foods, visit or call you nearest Herbal One Centre and talk to one of our nutritional consultants.