Comparison Shopping for Calories

volumetrics.jpgLast week, I explained the concept of energy density.

If you'll recall:

A food's energy density, then, is the ratio of its calories to its weight (as measured in grams). To calculate it, divide the number of calories on the nutrition label by the number of grams given for that serving.

Let's now put our energy-density knowledge into practice by slimming down some favorite foods.

Would you rather eat . . .

1 large egg (74 calories) OR 4 large egg whites (69 calories)?

1 small (2.6 oz) McDonald's French fries (248 calories) OR 1 big (8 oz/half a pound!) baked potato (220 calories)?

12 corn tortilla chips (139 calories) OR 4.5 cups of air-popped popcorn (138 calories)?

The Savings: Here, we're just cutting extra fat from the original food. Fat, with 9 calories per gram, is the most energy dense of the five food components. Alcohol, incidentally, is the next most energy dense at 8 calories per gram, if you need further encouraging to be the designated driver!

Would you rather eat . . .

1 small box (1.5 oz) of raisins (129 calories) OR 35 seedless grapes (118 calories)?

1 cup of cooked spaghetti (224 calories) OR 2 cups of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti with broccoli (231 calories)?

1 slice (1 oz) of cheddar cheese (113 calories) OR 1/2 cup (4 oz) of creamed cottage cheese (116 calories)?

The Savings: This is a classic Volumetrics density-lowering technique: Add more water. Water alone doesn't fill you up the way food does, but water that's incorporated into food (like in a broth-based soup) gives you the bulk you need to feel satisfied without extra calories. Fiber also adds bulk without calories (as it's indigestible), so whole-wheat pasta saves you calories both ways (in addition to being generally more nutritious).

In short, to make your dishes lighter without sacrificing the satisfaction of big portions, try cutting down on the alcohol and fat content while packing in high-water and high-fiber extras. As a bonus, you'll end up increasing your intake of vital nutrients (through eating more whole grains, veggies, and fruits) while decreasing your intake of harmful saturated and trans fats!

Healthy and slim. What a concept.

Photo: Colleen Fischer

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