Food For Thought

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Is Calorie Density Affecting How You Lose Weight?

Coach Melanie, 09/02/2015

Can't lose weight? Perhaps you should consider how calorie density affects your diet.

Your stomach contains stretch receptors, and when they are triggered by food they send signals to your brain telling you to stop eating. Four hundred calories of high-fiber plant food will leave you satiated, but ingesting the same amount of calories from animal products or junk food will barely fill you up and won't activate the stretch receptors.

Why Is Calorie Density Important?

A healthy diet has the highest concentration of nutrients per calorie, and calorie density is one way to take a look at this. When your diet is filled with calorie dense foods, you have to consume more food to feel full. So eating a meal from McDonalds can easily rack up over 1,000 calories while a healthy salad option can ring in around 500 calories. And while the McDonalds might make you feel full at first, eating a bunch of high calorie, low nutrient foods won’t keep you satisfied for long. If you are eating meals that are calorie dense, you might struggle to lose weight because you’ll be consuming excess calories to feel satiated.

Below is a list of foods and their calories per pound. Some foods vary; some are more caloric, some are less, but this will give you a general idea of the calorie density in each category.


Vegetables (non starchy)                               100
Fruits                                                                 300
Unprocessed Complex Carbohydrates    500
(potatoes, yams, whole grains)                      
Legumes                                                           600
(beans, peas, lentils)
Animal Food                                                   1000
(meat, cheese)
Processed Complex Carbohydrates         1400
(sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup)
Junk Food                                                        2300
(candy, cookies, chips)
Nuts & Seeds                                                  2800
Oil                                                                      4000
(all oils—including extra virgin olive oil
and coconut oil)


So, you can see that eating from the first 4 categories is going to give you more bang for your buck. Processed carbohydrates contain very few micronutrients, fiber, and water, and will leave you feeling hungry. If you are serious about wanting to lose weight, try starting your meal with fruit, salad, or soup, then add some complex carbohydrates or legumes (see picture below). I wouldn’t recommend drinking your calories while you're trying to lose weight, because there is little satiety in drinking liquids. Eat until you are comfortably full but not stuffed.

By following the principles of calorie density, you will be well-nourished and never feel hungry or food deprived. The acronym G-BOMBS is an easy way to remember which foods will give you the most nutrients per calorie. G-BOMBS stands for: greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds (and nuts). A healthy diet is a balance of plant-based foods, some of which have higher calorie density than others. For example, we recommend getting most of your calories from vegetables, fruits, and beans. Small portions of nuts and seeds, however, help maintain a stable, healthy weight by keeping you satiated longer to avoid hunger cravings. Even though nuts and seeds are more calorie dense, they contain plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and antioxidants.


Cultivate a diet filled with foods that have low calorie density to help lose weight! Don’t just take our word for it -- try it and see what happens!



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