Calorie Density Counts

biteHere’s another conundrum with eating portions that are larger than we need: It’s not only the larger portions but the larger portions of calorie-dense foods that can lead to weight gain. Calorie density is essentially the calories per bite or per any given portion of food. Lower the calorie density in a meal and you lower the overall calories.

On the most basic level, a higher amount of water content in foods adds volume but not calories. It follows logically then that increasing the amount of water in a food lowers the calorie density. Are you with me so far? An example would be to take a casserole and increase the water content by adding extra vegetables since they are mostly water. A key element here is that the low calorie density casserole must be as palatable as the original higher calorie density casserole. In other words, for this to work, both casseroles would have to be equally tasty. In the world of food research, this took a fair amount of food testing and experimentation.

Barbara Rolls, PhDMuch of the early research on calorie density, sometimes referred to as volumetrics, was spearheaded by Barbara Rolls, Ph. D (see photo). One of the most recent books is The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. You’ll find oodles of recipes and menus that support the notion of low calorie density foods. They’ve done extensive recipe development and testing, saving you a lot of kitchen time.

On a very practical level you can choose lower calorie dense foods in your every day meals, at home or dining out. Say, a pizza with more vegetables and less cheese. Or choosing a broth based soup or a salad with light Italian dressing before eating the main course. Even an apple before a meal will help you eat less calories because of its low calorie density.

There’s really no down side that I can see. You get more food volume (which we all appreciate), more nutrient rich foods (as in vegetables and fruit), and you’re less hungry. An added bonus just might be better weight management.

Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

About Luanna Diller

Luanna Diller's professional expertise includes nutrition, health behavior change, and wellness. She has over three decades of experience in counseling, teaching and motivating thousands of clients to achieve healthier lifestyles. She is a wife, mom to a teenager and a young adult, Registered Dietitian and Christian women’s ministries leader. She is a creative cook, loves to dance and recently discovered a knack for hand making glass beads.
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