Low Calorie Density = High Quality

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Low Calorie Density = High Quality

An article in the August J Am Diet Assoc. evaluated the diets of 7,500 American adults who participated in the 1994-1996 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals. Not surprisingly, those who consumed diets with a lower calorie or energy density (ED) consumed fewer calories than those who consumed higher ED diets. Despite consuming fewer calories, those consuming the lower ED diets also consumed more fiber and nutrients.1

People who consumed the fewest calories tended to eat less fat and more carbohydrate, fiber and protein than those consuming diets with a higher ED. The results of this study give further the support to the concept of promoting lower ED diets as means of producing weight loss while maintaining adequate nutrient intake.

Shifting the traditional focus away from counting calories and toward consuming nutrient-rich low calorie dense foods should assist people in losing weight while achieving a more nutrient dense diet. Indeed, given the long-term failure of calorie counting for producing long-term weight control it seems this paradigm shift away from calorie counting is long overdue. The new focus should be on nutrient-dense foods, with a low-energy-density, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean animal protein, and fat-free dairy products.

Not surprisingly the vast majority of Americans who have attempted to lose weight while eating high fat, calorie-dense foods with little fiber fail repeatedly. Perhaps it is time to tell people who seek our counsel that foods like cookies, candy, pastries, chips, fried chicken, etc. that are high in fat and calorie dense but low in fiber and nutrients are fattening?. They also may be addicting so that attempting to eat such foods in controlled amounts proves as futile as counseling alcoholics to control their portion sizes. It may be time the dietetic profession move away from the questionable mantras like all foods can fit into a healthy diet and the key to weight control is careful portion control and accurate calorie counting.?

By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN

1. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106:1172-80

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