This word alone is the source of countless nightmares.
We know how that feels, and that shouldn’t have happened.
For too long, self-proclaimed fitness “gurus” and fitness enthusiasts would feverishly promote the diet that worked for them.
Instead of teaching proper nutrition and exercise, they resort to fear mongering and food restrictions.
The thing is, the only diet that works for you is the one you enjoy.
And the first step to freeing yourself from this fear is to gain an understanding of how calories and nutrition work.
“Nothing in this world is to be feared, only to be understood.
Now is the time to understand more, so we may fear less.”
– Marie Curie
So, what is calorie density?
Calorie is a unit of measurement for the amount of energy in our foods. Our bodies store and “burn” calories as fuel. Just think of it as debit and credit going in and out of your bank account.
Eat less calories than what your body needs, and you will lose weight. Buy more than what you earn and you go into debt.
In this case, the “debt” you owe your body will be deducted from your fat storage, and you lose fat!
But what if you stretch the mileage of your money by buying cheaper stuff online and instead get more items for the same amount of money spent.
Imagine doing the same with food. Foods that are low in calorie density helps you eat fewer calories while still eating large and filling portions! (1)
Picture this, the calorie density of chocolate and the price of a diamond ring.
They’re both small and seemingly insignificant but pack a big punch; chocolate has over 600 calories per 100 gram, and diamond is just stupidly expensive for a piece of rock.
So, wouldn’t you prefer to eat more yet consume less calories? Or buy something cheaper yet more useful? Same logic right?
How Does Calorie Density Help With Weight Loss?
Eating more calories than what your body requires lead to weight gain.(2)
So how do you eat less calories without starving yourself, at the same time lose weight and become the strongest and healthiest version of yourself?
The answer lies in, you guessed it, eating nutritious, low calorie-density foods. (3)
Two reasons: they are lower in calories and they take up more space in your tummy.
Calorie density is basically a common sense approach to good health and losing fat.
Multiple studies have shown successful weight loss just by eating more low-density foods and reducing the calorie-density of meals. (4,5)
Such is the approach that we at KD Trainer employ, scientifically based and documented!
Vegetables, typically 20 calories per 100 gram, have a low calorie density. And at the same time takes up more space in your tummy; making you feel fuller.
While chocolate has 610 calories per 100 grams, has a very high calorie density. And to make matters worse, it takes up very little space in your tummy.
Which is why you can easily eat a ton of junk food/ processed food and still feel hungry. After all, they are made by greedy corporations whose only interest lies in your wallet.
This is the ranking of common foods by their caloric density.
What Does This Mean For You?
- A food in the orange or red zone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it. But be very mindful of the portion and eat them in moderation.
- This is a great approach to losing weight/fat, if you’re the type of person who simply couldn’t be bothered to track calorie intake.
- If you cook with butter or oil, use as little as possible.
- Frying food increases its caloric density by 3.5 times more. 100 grams of boiled potato contains only 85 calories but 100 grams of french fries contains 367 calories.
- Hence, limit fried food to twice per week or choose non-fried options, like chicken cooked in curry instead of fried chicken, baked potato instead of fries.
- Reduce the calorie density of your meals by filling 50% of your plate with vegetables and fruits, 25% lean protein(chicken, fish, etc), and the remaining 25% with starchy foods (whole grains, potato, legumes, rice)
- Prioritize green and yellow foods as you can consume more of these for fewer calories.
- Sugary drinks(milk tea, soft drinks, milkshakes, cappuccino, etc) are high in calories and should be avoided as much as possible.
- Be aware of the sauce and kuah that comes with our Malaysian food, such as curries, masala, and nasi kandar. They are very high in oil, sugar, calories and should be reduced to at most 2 tablespoon/ half a ladle per meal.
- Whenever hungry, eat until you are 80% full. Don’t starve but don’t stuff yourself.
- Sequence Your Meals. Start all meals by finishing a full glass of water, followed by vegetable, soup, and/or fruit.
- EAT MORE PROTEIN! We cannot stress this enough, protein is responsible for reduction in appetite and studies have shown general calorie intake reduces with increased protein consumption! (6)
- It’s hard to get started with fitness because you have not found your motivation, check out this post!
The Bottom Line
Of the many diets around, an eating plan based on low calorie density foods is one of the most straightforward and effective.
Unlike most diets, there are no forbidden food groups. All foods are allowed in moderation while the focus is on low calorie density, unprocessed foods.
Knowledge is power, the more you understand about nutrition, calorie and exercise the more control you have over your diet!
If you are confused and want to learn more, we got you covered!
We have even more comprehensive databases of food calorie density, nutrition and exercise. Which you will have access to in our Fit-From-Home program!
- Prentice AM, Jebb SA. Fast foods, energy density and obesity: a possible mechanistic link. Obes Rev. 2003;4(4):187-194. doi:10.1046/j.1467-789x.2003.00117.x
- Stelmach-Mardas, Marta et al. “Link between Food Energy Density and Body Weight Changes in Obese Adults.” Nutrients vol. 8,4 229. 20 Apr. 2016, doi:10.3390/nu8040229
- Stelmach-Mardas M, Rodacki T, Dobrowolska-Iwanek J, et al. Link between Food Energy Density and Body Weight Changes in Obese Adults. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):229. Published 2016 Apr 20. doi:10.3390/nu8040229
- Duncan, K H et al. “The effects of high and low energy density diets on satiety, energy intake, and eating time of obese and nonobese subjects.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 37,5 (1983): 763-7. doi:10.1093/ajcn/37.5.763
- Ello-Martin, Julia A et al. “Dietary energy density in the treatment of obesity: a year-long trial comparing 2 weight-loss diets.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 85,6 (2007): 1465-77. doi:10.1093/ajcn/85.6.1465
- Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(1):41-48. doi:10.1093/ajcn.82.1.41