Energy Density – Eat more but weigh less… it’s totally possible

Did you know that as we age muscle mass starts to decrease, metabolism starts to slow, the water in our body decreases and THE FAT INCREASES!!?  Yep… and you don’t even need to be that old.  From the age of 25 total body fat starts to increase….. 25!!

Sounds awful.  Does nature have it in for us or what?

Looking at those stark facts it would seem that putting on a few kg’s as we age is just how it is going to be.  Slim, athletic figures are for those in their twenties or those who can afford a nip here and a tuck there. What chance do the rest of us have?

BUT IT DOESN’T have to be that way.

Weight gain may be the ‘norm’ but it is not an inevitable consequence of ageing (or even passing the age of 25 as the case may be!) and not one that you have to accept.  SO DON’T…

I fit into the same size clothes at age 43 as I did at 23 and it is no secret how I do this.  I exercise and I eat well. These are things you can do too.

Now exercise is something that I will definitely be talking about in depth at other times.  Today I want to focus on diet.  How it is that I can eat as much as I want to without putting on weight.  The key is all in the energy density of the foods I eat.

And when I say diet – I don’t mean going on a diet.  There is nothing worse for the ego and ultimately your weight, than a diet.  South Beach, Zone, Atkins, Soup diet, baby food diet, grapefruit diet, whatever…. they are all the same.  These diets are set up to fail from the outset.  That is because they offer only a temporary, non-sustainable solution that can’t possibly last beyond a few weeks, no matter how awesome your willpower.  Who can eat cabbage soup or grapefruits all day, forever?  Not me that’s for sure, and I am guessing not you either.

Instead, what I am talking about is changing up the foods that you eat every day.  The foods that fuel you, nourish you and power your day.

If you are eating the right kinds of food it is entirely possible, to eat until you are completely full and satisfied AND lose or maintain your ideal weight.

I know, sounds hard to believe, but it is true.  You just need to catch on to the idea of energy density and it will all become clear.

Not enough people know about this super simple strategy to keep weight at bay, so I am going to give you a crash course on energy density.  Here it goes…

What is energy density?

Energy density is the amount of calories in a food per unit of weight, i.e. how many calories per gram.

The energy density of foods varies greatly, most due to the amount of water and fibre present in the food.

Water adds a significant amount of weight to food, without adding any calories.  Fibre also adds a lot of bulk to food while adding only very few calories.

So foods high in water and fibre are generally low energy dense. Conversely those foods that are high in dietary fat are generally higher in energy density.

Fruits and vegetables are composed of 80-90% water, and are also extremely high in fibre and that is what gives them a very low energy density and make them great foods for weight loss.

Here’s a chart of the energy density of some common foods to give you a guide

Calories per 500g
Raw leafy vegetables 70-200
Fruits 200-400
Starchy vegetables 300-400
Whole grains 400-500
Beans and lentils 500-600
Avocado 750
Meat 1200
Sugar 1800
Chocolate 2200
Nuts and seeds 2600
Fats and oils 4000

Why is energy density important?

People tend to eat a consistent weight of food rather than a consistent amount of calories.

This is because, as we eat and our stomachs begin to stretch which causes satiation cues to be sent to our brain telling it to switch the hunger signals off. So when there are less calories per gram of food we eat the net result is that we eat less calories overall.

The power of eating by energy density has been shown in a number of studies.

In a study conducted in Hawaii, the caloric intake of participants was reduced by 40% by having them eat more plant foods. No surprise that they lost weight eating so many fewer calories, the average weight loss in 3 weeks was 17 pounds (7.5kg)!  The kicker was that they didn’t have to reduce their food intake at all. In fact they were eating more food. They dieted without having to ‘diet’.

Because plant foods like fruits and vegetables are so calorically dilute it is possible to eat satisfying and pleasing portions and still lose weight.

And to top it all off – lower energy dense foods are usually the healthier foods – so by changing up your diet this way, not only will you lose weight, but your overall health will likely improve too.

Wouldn’t drinking more water be just as good?

You would think that since it is partly the increased water content in foods that makes them less energy dense and more satisfying, perhaps drinking a glass of water with your (more energy dense, animal food) meals, would amount to the same thing.

Sadly it doesn’t seem to work this way.  Studies have shown that drinking water while you eat has no effect on the calories you eat later in the day.

You are going to have to get that extra bulk from real foods.

Decrease the energy density of your diet

Now you know the secret to easy weight loss how do you go about decreasing the average energy density of the food you eat? Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet one of the simplest ways.

Here are some ways to do this

  1. Be conscious of the energy density of your food choices: in general whole plant foods are going to be far less energy dense than processed foods and animal foods.  Reach for low density foods first.


  1. Begin your meals with lower energy density foods.  I love to start meals with a big salad.  It fills you up, plus brings a whole lot of extra nutrition to the meal.  You might also try a small bowl of vegetable soup or even a piece of fruit before tucking into your main course.  For some extra ways to get your greens in check out this post.


  1. Increase the amount of plants on your plate in proportion to other foods.  Make sure you always have a side dish of vegetables, leafy greens are great.  You could even have your veggie side as a starter if you like.


  1. Snack on low energy density foods.  Fruit and veg can make great snacks.  Not only are they nutritious but they will definitely work to fill you up and reduce the amount of calories that you will eat in your next meal.

If you would like to learn more about a plant based diet, and how to get more plants on your plate, sign up for my free email course – the Plant Powered Starter Guide

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