That’s where food weight comes in. Research has shown that people eat a consistent weight of food on a daily basis. The weight varies from person to person, but if you weighed all of the food you ate every day for a month, you would see a consistent trend in the total weight of food eaten each day. It’s almost as if there’s a scale in your stomach that is set to a certain number, and every day you eat enough food to reach that number.
The fact that the body wants the same amount or weight of food every day is what makes it possible to eat more while taking in fewer calories. This was illustrated in a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1998. In the study, 18 women attended three separate test sessions at which they were provided with two meals. The only difference between the sessions was the energy density of the food that was provided. One session had food with low energy density, one had food with medium energy density, and one had food with high energy density. The participants ate the same weight of food at each session, regardless of the food’s energy density. However, because foods with a higher energy density have more calories for a given weight, the participants consumed more calories when they ate the foods with higher energy density and fewer calories when they ate the foods with lower energy density.
This study and others have shown that foods with low energy density help to promote a feeling of fullness, decrease hunger, and lower calorie intake, all of which can lead to weight loss. In addition, long-term studies have shown that people consuming diets with low energy density lose three times as much weight as others in the same time period. The data supporting the weight-loss benefits of diets with low energy density are so compelling that the World Health Organization has declared that “decreasing energy density is a viable strategy to stem the global obesity epidemic.”
Changing your food choices
How can you use this information to help you achieve your weight-loss goals? Start by choosing more foods that are low in energy density. Look for creative ways to add foods that are high in water to your diet. For example, consider starting your meals with soup or a salad. In a recent study, having soup or a salad with low energy density as the first course of a meal was compared to having a first course with a high energy density or no first course. The results clearly showed that eating soup or a salad first reduced the total number of calories eaten at the meal. Having the high energy density appetizer increased the calorie total of the meal.
When you eat soup, be sure it’s broth-based soup, and when you eat salad, limit the amount of high-fat dressing you use to keep your calories low. Some other ways to increase your food volume and decrease your calories are to include more beans, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, hot cereals, and yogurt in your diet.
The only way to know exactly how many calories you are eating is to calculate them. But because low energy density foods are low in calories, you may be able to decrease your calorie intake and lose weight without having to count.
The good news here is that you can eat more and weigh less. Remember that the key is fewer calories but not less food.