This is the first in a series of posts on food and the choices we make about what we do or don't eat. At the end of the posts (likely about ten of them) I'll post one that will summarize them all, and link back to them by simple design?
Calorie Density - I first came across this in a video from Fox2News in Detroit when they did a two part series on the subject under the heading "The Doctor Is In.". (This link has been acting up a bit recently - hope it works for you!). Dr Tom Rifai explained how to use the concept of calorie density to make better decisions in the store. The concept goes back to Volumetrics, a concept started by Dr Barbara Rolls.
A little longer look can be found on YouTube done by Jeff Novick. The concept is pretty simple. Look at the food label (the part that has lots of facts that few people know how to really use) and find two numbers: Serving weight (often in grams) and Calories per serving (and note the serving size - an important piece of info by itself!).
When you look at the picture for this post - a bag of carrots, you see those numbers on the label: 85 grams per serving and 35 Calories per serving. Roughly 1/3 as many calories as grams so about .33 calories per gram.
If you would look at a pint of Ben and Jerry's icecream the numbers come out at 114 grams per serving and about 370 Calories per serving. In this case there are roughly three times as many calories compared to grams, or said another way: about three calories per gram. So LOTS more calories packed into each gram of Ben and Jerry's; that means it is more calorie dense. The more calorie dense a food is the easier it is to over-eat it. (there will be a post coming on 'feeling full' - an important factor in staying healthy).
This is a simple way, using the food labels that are already there, to determine if something is healthy or not so much. In my next post we'll take this info and apply it to larger food groups to see if that can make using the info a bit easier, especially as it relates to where the important nutrients are - you guessed it: NOT on the calorie dense side. It is important for us to 'feel full' (research shows that we all tend to eat a certain amount/weight of food, regardless of what kind of food is in there) so if we are eating calorie dense foods, we have to eat more of them to get that full feeling, and end up with lots more calories than we want/need.