Presentation Ideas: Calorie Density

The handout Calorie Density: Choose to Lose presents an excellent opportunity to teach the concept of calorie density to individuals.

A great visual would be to show 2 clear plastic bowls for a meal comparison between salad and a burger and fries. Fill one bowl with a tossed salad (you can serve this to the class afterwards) and fill the other one with a burger and fries. If you are in a hurry, you can purchase these items from McDonald’s - we used their Bag A Meal online calculator for the calorie comparisons.
- Salad calories: 280 (grilled chicken cobb salad)
- Burger/fry calories: 810 (for double cheeseburger and medium fries)

You could also use soup and salad or even compare entrees in your dining room/cafeteria. The class will see that with the same volume of food, their choices can have radically different outcomes with regards to fat and calories.

Another visual is to compare a slice of apple pie to an apple. Put the apple pie into a clear cup measure. Cut up the apple and put the wedges in a clear cup measure. Ask the audience if they know the difference in calories. The average apple is 70 calories and the average piece of double-crusted apple pie is around 410 calories. Adding sugar, fat and flour increases the calorie density of the apple.

Potatoes teach many comparison lessons. It is a great idea to assemble these on a table and see if the audience can tell you the calories per ounce. You can also ask which is the most or least calories per ounce. AND you can show that it would take 6 ounces of a baked potato to equal the calories in one ounce of regular potato chips - you get to eat a lot more food for the 150 calories. Here are the facts:

  • Baked potato chips are not that much different from regular ones.
  • French fries higher in calorie density than baked or boiled potatoes because they are fried in fat.
  • Baked potatoes and oven baked fries are the best bet.
  • 1 oz baked chips = 110 calories
  • 1 oz regular chips = 150 calories
  • 1 oz baked potato = 26 calories
  • 1.75 oz French fries = 150 calories

Show the difference between cooked grains and “drier” grains. The cooked grains are always less calorie dense because they contain more water.

  • 1 oz cooked rice = 31 calories
  • 1 oz cooked pasta = 39 calories
  • 1 oz bread = 75 calories
  • 1 oz cracker = 123 calories
  • 1 oz dried cereal = 103 calories
  • 1 oz cookie = 137 calories
  • 1 oz cooked oatmeal = 17 calories

The cookies were thrown in for comparison sake; you will see that dried cereal and crackers are not that far off from cookies (this is for Oreos). Many people are surprised to see that dried cereal is much more calorie dense than cooked cereal. Cooked pasta and rice are more calorie dense than bread or crackers. Over time this makes a difference. It is not to say that you shouldn’t eat crackers or bread, but you should get a variety of grains, especially cooked grains if you want to aid weight loss.

Finally, for the last lesson, bring in a one pound bag of sugar and a one pound bag of white wheat flour. Ask the audience which one is greater in calories? The answer is that they are both about the same!!

  • 1 pound flour = 1651 calories
  • 1 pound sugar = 1755 calories

This lesson illustrates that when we eat baked goods made from white flour and sugar, and especially with the addition of fat, the calorie density goes up. Make some groups of foods using the categories found on the handout - very low calorie density to very high. This will show individuals how to make better choices in their meals.

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