Empty Calorie Foods vs. Nutrient Dense Foods
Learn what foods contain empty calories you should avoid for healthy weight loss.
To lose weight, it is important to balance calories in and out. With lower caloric intake, you eat fewer nutrients and this may lead to a problem: you do not get the nutrients your body needs. The solution is to prefer nutrient-dense food to food and beverages packed with empty calories like sodas. For an equal number of calories, you can get more vitamins and microelements essential to your health. Pay attention to the nutrient density of the food you buy.
What Is Nutrient Density?
Nutrient density is the amount of nutrients per unit of energy (calorie) you get from the given food. Eating nutrient-dense food is one of the healthiest ways of dieting: you get a lot of vitamins, minerals, fiber and save calories. Nutrient-dense food includes fruit, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, lean meat, eggs, poultry, low-fat dairy and seafood. Whole, unprocessed foods are usually nutrient dense.
How to Tell Nutrient-Dense Foods From Empty-Calorie Foods?
Two products can have approximately the same number of calories, but the amount of nutrients and vitamins in them may differ greatly. If you compare a portion of baked potato to a portion of plain potato chips with equal calorie content (100 calories), you will find that baked potato contains twice the amount of dietary fiber: baked potato contains 1.61 g of fiber, while chips contain 0.75 g of fiber. In addition, baked potato has four times more vitamin C than chips (13.7 mg of vitamin C in baked potato and 3.4 mg in potato chips). Baked potato is more nutrient dense than plain potato chips.
Empty Calories Definition
What is an empty calorie? Empty-calorie food is the opposite of nutrient-dense food. Sweets and soft drinks are very high in calories because of added sugars, while their nutrient density is very low. Such energy-dense food is not beneficial to your health.
Make the Right Choice
To get all the nutrients your body needs and save calories, substitute nutrient-dense food for empty-calorie food. Fruit and vegetables are perfect nutrient-dense snacks as they are low in calories and packed with dietary fiber and vitamins. Eat apples between meals and a cup of strawberry instead of chips or popcorn in front of a TV.
Nutrient-dense food contains more nutrients and generally fewer calories than energy-dense food. “They’re the foods that are loaded with the nutrients we need to thrive,” says Eileen Kennedy, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, “Think about choosing a potato instead of potato chips, or a banana instead of a soda. Opt for a plate with lots of vegetables, and skip the dinner roll. Ignore the cake and go for the fruit.”
Make a wise choice. You should not use calorie count as the main criterion when buying food. Eat food high in nutrients. Nutrient-dense food includes, for the most part, dietary products: fish, fruit, vegetables, seafood. “If Americans choose foods based on nutrient density,” Kennedy says, “they will, essentially, be choosing foods based on quality.” You can make a perfect diet plan with nutrient-dense food. A diet based on the concept of nutrient density will help you lose weight and get all the nutrients your body needs for health.
More About Empty Calories and Nutrient Density
- The World’s Healthiest Foods. “What is nutrient density and why is it so important?”
- Newswise.com. “Expert Recommends Communicating ‘Nutrient Density’ to Consumers”