We talk a lot about the importance of portion control when losing weight. That is one of the three techniques I used when losing weight, fat content and exercise being the other two. (Read more about it in my book.)
Although portions are very important, another thing to consider when controlling your food intake is also caloric density.
It is completely natural to feel hungry on occasion. Everyone does. When I was on one of my 500 diets, I often reached for a “healthier” food that was fine to eat but did not fill me up. After eating it, I’d realize that I was still hungry and try another food. That sometimes set off a cycle of uncontrollable eating that was hard to stop.
Caloric density is basically a the measure of how many calories are in a given weight of food. A high calorie density food has a lot of calories in a small weight of food, and a low calorie-density food has a relatively small number of calories per weight.
I am a visual person, so I thought you might like to see some real life examples of how calorie density can affect your hunger levels and weight loss effort.
Here we have carrots and bread. The carrots and one slice of bread both have about 70 calories. You may be different than I am, but if I ate all those carrots I would feel very full. If I ate one slice of bread, I’d probably still be a bit hungry.
Next we have graham crackers and mini-wheat cereal. Calories? Both have 65 calories, but there is a huge difference in the “filling factor.” I enjoy graham crackers but also have to be careful with them because I can eat the entire wax package if I’m not paying attention. The difference here is in each food’s ability to keep me full.
Here is a great visual. A single tablespoon (about 26) of chocolate chips has about 70 calories and so does a small apple. Now, if you are anything like me, an apple is a lot more filling than a tiny amount of chocolate chips. I could easily eat 10 tiny handfuls of chocolate chips but could never, ever eat 10 apples in one sitting.
Finally, here are two yellow squash, which are only 90 calories. What’s on the right? A single tablespoon of peanut butter. Now I love peanut butter, but it is one of those foods that packs a lot of calories into a small weight, making it a high calorie-density food.
One thing about this journey to healthy weight management is that it requires you to make smart decisions all day long. The next time you are faced with a food choice, think about the caloric density of the food. Will it not only nourish your body, but will it also help you stay full?
Do you think about the density of the foods you eat? Does it help you? Diane