Disease Proof

Caloric Density and the Holidays

Well, the holidays are here, and you know what that means? Lots of presents and cheer? No, the continual stream of articles with the “How to Control Holiday Weight Gain” theme. Get ready—we’ve got over a month of this. Ba-humbug.

But maybe this year’s crop won’t be so mind-numbing. Because this piece in The Washington Post kind of hits the nail on the head—keep your weight in check by eating lots of plant matter, and less of animal products? Sound familiar? Here’s more from Sally Squires:
Those who maintained their weight ate more of those low-energy-density foods, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, while people who regained pounds consumed more high-energy-density foods, such as meat, fat and high-calorie beverages.


"The thing about adding fruit and vegetables to a meal is that it gives you volume," notes Barbara Rolls, who studies energy density at Pennsylvania State University.
Squires’s article does bring up an interesting concept, energy density. She defines it as, “The term nutrition scientists use to describe how foods that are puffed up with air or filled with fiber and water can help you feel full on fewer calories.” In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman refers to this as Caloric Density:
Because meats, dairy, and oils are so dense in calories, it is practically impossible for us to eat them without consuming an excess of calories. These calorie-rich foods can pile up a huge number of calories way before our stomachs are full and our hunger satisfied. However, eating foods higher in nutrients and fiber and lower in calories allows us to become satiated without consuming excess calories.


When subjects eating foods low in caloric density, such as fruits and vegetables, are compared with those consuming foods richer in calories, those on meal plans with higher calorie concentrations were found to consume twice as many calories per day in order to satisfy their hunger.1
This seems like a good idea, but I’m sure all the holiday treats brings an added complication to the table—no pun intended. Good thing I plan on eating lots of veggies tomorrow. How about you? How do you handle the blitz of holiday excess?
1. Duncan, K. 1983. The effects on high- and low-energy-density diets of satiety, energy intake, and eating time of obese and non-obese subjects. Am. J. Clin. Nutri. 37: 73.
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