How Calorie Dense Are My Favorite Foods?

Calorie-dense foods are easy to recognize. They pack a lot of calories per bit and tend to be heavily processed, low in fiber and high in fats or added sugars.

  • Fatty meats like sausage and prime rib
  • Butter, margarine and lard
  • Snacks like potato chips and dry pretzels
  • Fast foods like cheeseburgers and French fries
  • Sweets and other packaged baked goods

Foods that are low in calorie density have few calories per bite. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans have a high water content and a low fat content. This and their high fiber content mean they tend to get digested slowly, leaving you with a satisfied, full feeling and longer lasting energy.

So swapping a food high in calorie density for one that’s low in calorie density helps you trim calories without wrestling with hunger pangs.

  • Very Low Calorie-Dense Foods
    Includes most fruits and vegetables, skim milk and broth-based soups.
  • Low Calorie-Dense Foods
    Includes many cooked grains, breakfast cereals with low fat milk, low fat meats, beans and legumes, low fat mixed dishes and salads.
  • Medium Calorie-Dense Foods
    Includes meats, cheeses, high fat mixed dishes, salad dressings and some snack foods.
  • High Calorie-Dense Foods
    Includes crackers, chips, chocolate candies, cookies, butter and oil, bacon, full fat mayonnaise.


Burger and Fries 

Adapted from Volumetrics by Barbara J. Rolls, Ph.D., and Robert A. Barnett, HarperTorch, 2000.

Read our Q & A with Dr. Rolls:
What is Calorie Density?