While many meal plans for losing weight focus on restricting calories and giving you a long list on foods not to eat, research is finding that building the list of foods that we can eat, specifically several servings of fruits and vegetables per day is the best strategy for shredding pounds.
The key is to focus on foods that have a low calorie density. So what exactly does this mean? Calorie density is the number of calories in a given weight of food. Low-calorie-dense foods have fewer calories per bite. They also tend to be higher in satiety, which means they are high in water, fiber and nutrients. Bulk is what fills you up, and by eating foods low in calorie density you can avoid hunger.
One of the most common questions that I am asked, in regards to our 2BeRe-U nutritional recommendations are “Why do I need to be careful when it comes to nuts?” While packed with vitamins and heart healthy fats, they are high in calories. For those of us who struggle with portion control and/or emotional eating, nuts may not be a good choice to have in your daily diet. One ounce of almonds (20 to 24) has approximately 164 calories. Having knowledge about calorie density will help you understand why nuts and other calorie dense foods should only be considered in moderation for weight loss goals.
As the scale below shows, it is recommended to avoid or limit those foods over 920 calories/pound. One can easily do this by eating lots of fresh vegetables, salads filled with greens and veggies, a controlled portion of starchy vegetables, intact whole grains and legumes without the addition of salt, sugar, fat and oil.
Principles of Calorie Density
- Don’t starve and don’t stuff yourself. Eating a generous amount of low calorie dense foods will fill you up.
- Sequence meals by starting with an apple, salad or soup. This will help to fill you up.
- Don’t drink your calories. Liquids have little if any satiety so they do not fill you up as much as solid foods of equal calories.
- Dilute out high calorie dense foods by filling 1/2 your plate (by visual volume) with intact whole grains, starchy vegetables and/or legumes and the other half with vegetables.
- Adding vegetables to any dish will always lower the overall calorie density of a meal while adding fat and oil will always raise the overall calorie density of a meal.
- Limit (or avoid) foods that are higher in calorie density (dried fruit, high fat plant foods, processed whole grains, etc.). If you use them, incorporate into meals that are made up of low calorie dense foods and think of them as a condiment to the meal. For example, add a few slices of avocado to a large salad.
By modifying your daily nutrition plan to follow some of the calorie density principles, you will help to ward off hunger pains. Go ahead! Fill your plate — with low calorie dense foods and ENJOY!
Note: Calorie density (more calories per weight) is not the same as nutrient density (more nutrients per calories by weight). You want to aim for lower calorie density, but higher nutrient density.