Calorie Density: Tips for Reshaping Your Meals

Research has shown that we tend to eat about the same weight of food every day. Try these small, simple techniques to lower the calorie density of your meals, and you’ll wind up eating the same amount of food that satisfies you – with far fewer calories:

1. Enjoy Soup and Salad First

Enjoying broth based, non-cream soups or salads that aren’t drowned in dressing will fill you up so you have less room for high-calorie foods.

2. Cut the Fat

Fat is calorie-dense, but there are plenty of ways to adjust the fat content of your meals that won’t change your usual portion size.

  • Use low fat and fat free dairy products.
    • Simply choosing skim milk over whole milk saves 60 calories per cup.
  • Trim visible fat from your meats.
    • Lose the poultry skin and use ground meats that are at least 93 percent lean.
  • Choose only lean sandwich meats.
    • Skinless chicken or turkey sandwiches are better bets than bologna and ham.
  • Use reduced-fat cooking methods, such as:
    • Microwaving
    • Steaming
    • Stewing
    • Braising
    • Roasting

3. Pile on the Vegetables and Fruit

The surest, quickest way to lower the calorie density of your meals is to eat more plant based foods.

Try these tricks:

  • Stuff sandwiches with slices of bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions or spinach.
  • Toss broccoli and summer squash into pasta salads.
  • Mix grapes, celery, red onions and grated carrots into chicken salad.
  • Slice strawberries, peaches and other fruit into breakfast cereal.
  • Opt for a vegetable omelet instead of ham and cheese.
  • Make shish kebabs with more vegetables than meat.
  • Top your pizza with a wide range veggies and cut back on the cheese.

4. Be Prepared

When you’re pressed for time, fast food can tempt you away from foods that are low in calorie density. Back up your good intentions by thinking ahead.

  • Keep small, single serving plastic bags filled with cherries, grapes and carrots on hand in the refrigerator.
  • Stock up on frozen vegetables and healthy soups.
  • Bring a different piece of fruit to work each day.
  • Eat a piece of fruit or some low-sodium tomato juice before heading out to a restaurant.
  • Buy pre-cut or pre-washed and bagged vegetables, or get them from the salad bar.

5. Think Before You Drink

  • Beverage calories add up quickly. Unlike food, high calorie drinks like soda don’t fill you up or signal your brain that it’s time to stop.
  • To control your weight, AICR recommends avoiding sugary drinks like sodas, lemonade and fruit punches. Your best bets are water, unsweetened tea and unsweetened coffee.
  • There are beverages that do satisfy hunger while providing nutrients, such as non-fat or low-fat milk, soymilk and reduced sodium tomato juice.
  • 100 percent fruit juices are often packed with beneficial phytochemicals, and they can count as one of your daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • Calories add up quickly, and whole fruit contains more fiber and is more filling. AICR recommends limiting 100 percent fruit juice to 6 ounces a day.

6. Monitor Portion Size

If you’re used to large portion sizes, it is useful to combine low calorie density with smaller portions for weight loss.

  • Reduce your usual portions of everything other than vegetables and fruits; go back for more if you’re truly hungry.
  • Other than vegetables, don’t leave serving bowls on the table.
  • If you eat in response to boredom or emotions when you’re not hungry, learn new ways to respond to these cues.
Acorn Squash and Apple Soup