Despite sounding counterintuitive, eating large portions of low energy dense foods can help to maintain satiety longer after meals which in turn can result in weight loss. It’s been found that people who eat larger portions of low energy dense foods lost 40% more weight than those who simply restricted portion size.
Before we dive into that, what exactly is energy density and why should you care?
Well, ‘energy density’ is the amount of energy (calories) per gram or unit of food. Foods that are high in energy density have a lot of calories in smaller portions (think- one cup of almonds or French fries). Foods that are low in energy density contain fewer calories per the same portion size. Examples of low energy dense foods include vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, leafy greens, melons, berries, grapefruits, as well as whole grains and non-fat dairy products.
Studies have shown that people tend to consume about the same volume of food per day regardless of energy density. Thus people who choose less energy dense foods will end up eating fewer calories. Additionally, those who consume more low energy dense foods tend to eat a more balanced diet by making specific choices within the various food groups leading to higher intakes of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Low energy dense foods such as fruits and vegetables typically contain a lot of water and fiber which bulk up the volume without adding calories. Here are some examples of snacks and meals that you could add into your diet that are high in volume, but low in calories:
One cup of air popped popcorn without butter
Raw fresh carrots
Broth based soups
Salads that include lots of greens and non-starchy vegetables. Go light on the dressing or drizzle with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
Most vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, green beans, spinach, celery and salad greens
Fruits- not fruit juices or fruit cocktails. Try adding blueberries to your morning cereal or toss some mandarin oranges into your salad.
Read about the Volumetrics diet if you would like to learn more!