Calorie Density

Resources for Healthy Eating...

I've just posted a number of resources focused around healthy eating. Here is a quick look at them all:

1. Calorie Density by nutrition label and by food group. This is a very practical look at how to get the best combination of calories (we need those for energy) and nutrients (we need those to build and maintain our cells). This is especially helpful if you are prone to getting too many calories and want to reduce calories but not nutrient level.

2. Food labels are important... the advertising hype seldom is.  This is a quick look at how food companies try to influence us to buy their product and how to see past their efforts. And sticking with food companies (there are only about eleven of them that are responsible for all the thousands of different processed food products) this is a look at addictive food, how the companies know what they are doing and why we need to be informed. And sticking with food labels even longer, David Katz shares some very helpful info about sugar in general and "total added sugar" specifically to help us make informed decisions.

3. Sometimes the perception is that the really healthy food is just too expensive. This article gives helpful hints at buying affordable organic food. And this one takes a look at providing healthy food for the food banks and those who rely on that source of food.

4. There is an article on how to use the sense of "feeling full" to our health advantage. And also a look at exercise in the work place - specifically at the work desk - to boost productivity (and health at the same time!).

5. Plus a quick look at a very helpful book: "God, Health and Happiness" by Dr Scott Morris. Easy to read and a though-provoking look at our health care system, the church's role in that system, and a biblical view of whole person health.

Calorie Density by Food Group

I recently posted on Calorie Density by Food Label. It introduced the concept of Calorie Density and gave some examples of how to use it.  The challenge is that this method is quite tedious and unmanageable when used in real life - who is really going to check each item every time? 

Some clever people have taken the info and adjusted it for food groups.  They have applied it to broad categories to give you helpful directions. When food is not very calorie dense you can be far less careful about consumption level. When it is very calorie dense you have to be extremely careful about how much you consume.

When you look at the picture for this post you see the categories and some other info. Far left is calorie light, and portion control is not much of an issue - just get a balance of lots of different fruits and veggies to get the best balance of nutrients (which are mostly on the right side, by the way!). Left side is calorie dense - much easier to overeat.  Nuts/Seeds and Oils do have some nutritional value so the point is not to totally avoid the far left side, but just eat in appropriate portions. And if you mix veggies (a salad) with oils (a dressing) and pour the dressing on liberally, you've moved the salad way over to the left side of the picture.

Here are three pictures that give some different looks at calorie density:

Calorie Density Basic Groups. (described above).

Calorie Density Breakouts. This looks at some experiments they did.  When people ate food that was less than one calorie per gram, they lost weight no matter how much they ate (ate till they were full). When they ate till they were full from food that was between one and two calories per gram they lost weight if they were generally active (30-60 minute per day), with less likely to lose if not active and more likely to lose if more active.  If they ate till they were full from food that was between two and three calories per gram, everyone gained weight except for elite athletes.  If they are till they were full from food that was over three calories per gram, everyone gained weight, even elite athletes.

Calorie Density Target Average. Aim for about 1.2 Calories per gram on average and you'll be in good shape. In simple terms that means eat mostly from the green categories on the left and sprinkle in nutrient rich food from the far right. You would do best to go light on meatand avoid refined/junk food altogether or atmost very occasionally.

Calorie Density by label

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.