'Energy Density' Is Key For Weight Control
Emphasizing foods that fill you up while limiting calories seems
to help you not only lose weight, but keep it off. But first,
you must know what "energy density" means.
"Energy density" refers to how many
calories an item of food contains for a certain weight. For an
equal number of calories, foods low in energy density will provide
a larger portion and satisfy hunger more than high-density foods.
A recent study at University of Alabama in Birmingham
focused on behavior changes to help a group of middle-aged, overweight
people eat more low-density vegetables, fruits and whole grains
and limit high-density meats, cheeses, sugars and fats.
During the 12-week program, the
74 participants lost an average of almost nine pounds. Two years
later, only 22 percent had regained more than five percent of
their weight, and 78 percent were still below their starting weight
and had either continued losing weight or regained very little.
Difference? What they ate
Food records kept by the participants showed
people who maintained their weight loss or continued to
lose were not eating less food than the other group, but
were consuming 244 less calories each day.
The difference was what they ate: the energy
density of the "regainer" group was about 25 percent
higher than that of the "maintainer" group. Regainers
were eating larger portions of high-calorie foods among different
food groups, including meats and beverages. They slid away from
what they had learned about filling up on vegetables, fruits and
More than energy density
Other studies also link energy density and successful
Researchers at Penn State University found that
people who included two servings of filling, low-calorie soup
in their diet lost 50 percent more weight than people aiming for
the same calories but included two high energy-dense snacks.
However, the researchers compared a group increasing
low-density foods to a group focused on eating less high-density
fat and controlling their portions. During the year, both groups
lost weight and kept it off, but after six and 12 months,
participants who boosted their low-density foods lost more weight.
For overweight people, losing 10
percent of their weight is considered a realistic target with
significant health benefits. However, studies suggest that reducing
energy density alone may not be enough to reach such targets.
Penn State research shows that moderately reducing
both energy density and portion sizes brings a more substantial
drop in calorie consumption than you could realistically achieve
by dropping energy density alone.
A three-part strategy to lose weight - reduce
energy density, control portions and exercise daily - can make
weight loss more successful.
Turning that strategy into a lifestyle will help
to keep a healthy weight and a lower risk of cancer and other
Nutrient Dense Meals
You can prepare nutrient dense meals by choosing nutrient dense
foods and ingredients for your dishes. A nutrient dense meal should
have one serving of a healthy protein source such as legumes,
fish, poultry or low fat meat. One serving is typically about
the size of a pack of playing cards. The rest of the meal should
be made up of healthy side dishes. Vegetables are always good,
even with a little bit of cheese or sauce. Whole grain pastas,
brown rice and wild rice are good choices as well. A green salad
with lots of vegetables can make a nice nutrient dense side dish
or can be a great meal on its own. Clear soups with lots of vegetables
are nutrient dense compared to cream soups which have more calories
and are more energy dense.
Some sample Meal Plans with Low Energy Densities are as follows:
- 100 grams unprocessed bran, low fat milk, low fat
- Total calories: 321 calories
- Compare this with eating corn flakes, low fat milk and yogurt
- 549 calories
-50 grams rockmelon 50 grams watermelon
-Total calories: 22.5
-Compare this with having a meusli bar - 124 calories.
- 2 slices of wholemeal bread Avocado spread Canned
-Unpeeled nashi pear
-Total calories: 167 calories
-Compare this with eating a chicken and lettuce white sandwich
with margarine, you'd be consuming about 178.70 calories.
-2 raw carrots and 5 slices of fat reduced cheese
- Total calories - estimate around 122 calories
Compare this with eating 1 meusli bar - 124 calories.
-Lettuce, cherry tomatoes and avocado
-Grilled Salmon Mixed Vegetables Brown Rice Seafood Sauce
-Water & Fruit salad
- Total calories - about 494.20
Although the total calorie intake above is quite
low for most average adults, it clearly demonstrates how effective
energy dense foods limit calories while generously complementing
daily dietary intake of other wholesome and nutritious food sources.