Healthy Food Alternatives (Choosing Better Foods)

Energy density is the relationship between calories and the weight of a food. Studies show people tend to eat a certain volume of food each day. Foods that have a lot of water and fiber tend to weigh less than foods that are high in fat and sugar.  

Fiber and water lower the energy density of foods because they take up volume but don't contribute a lot of calories. When you eat foods low in energy density, you feel full sooner due to a higher volume of food in your stomach. As a result, you eat fewer calories, and this will help you to lose weight. When you eat foods that are high in energy density they take up less volume in your stomach because they have less fiber and/or water.

Since the natural instinct is to eat a certain volume of food you will eat more of these higher energy dense foods to feel full. As a result, it is a lot easier to take in more calories than your body needs.

Instead of these foods:              Try these:
Breakfast  
Packaged cereal Oatmeal with strawberries and skim milk
Bacon and eggs Egg white omelet with veggies and low-fat cheese
Bagel or pastry Whole grain muffin and fruit
   
Lunch  
Deli sandwich Whole grain pita stuffed with veggies
Pizza Pasta with red sauce and a salad
Hamburger Bean or split pea soup
French fries Baked potato and salsa
Chef salad Garden salad with low-fat dressing
   
Dinner  
Roast beef Baked fish and baked beans
Fried chicken Stir fry with veggies and chicken
Pasta with meat Pasta with veggies or soy protein with tomato sauce
Lasagna Low-fat vegetarian lasagna
Meatloaf Brown rice and beans
   
Snacks and Treats  
Chips Baked potato
Cookie Fresh fruit or whole grain muffin
Brownie Fresh fruit with lite chocolate syrup
Ice cream Fruit smoothie or light, fat-free yogurt with fruit

To calculate the energy density of a food, take the total number of calories per serving and divide it by the weight in grams. For example a food with 130 calories per serving that weighs 30 grams per serving has an energy density of 4.3.

Low energy density foods are less than 1.5 and high energy density foods are greater than 3. Therefore, the example given is a high energy density food.


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