Determining Calorie Density

How to determine the caloric density per pound of food at home or at the store.

The concept of calorie density is simple. The more low fat, plant based foods consumed, the fewer calories are consumed. As the consumption of high fat plant foods (nuts, seeds, avocado) or the consumption of processed foods (which contain sugar, fat, and oil) increases, so does the number of calories consumed. Click here to view an easy to read calorie density handout. The following calculation below is provided for those who are curious how to calculate the number of calories per pound of food. Keep in mind that most individuals do not eat a pound of one food or another. Most individuals mix foods together when making meals. This mixing of different foods is what increases the calorically density of the foods. Therefore, because most individuals do not eat a pound of a particular food individuals should never have to use this calculation. However, it has been provided for those wanting to know how to calculate the caloric density of foods per pound.

NOTE: this calculation does not work well for a few products; including many beverages and dry foods that absorb water. Some examples of dry foods that use a 2 to 1 ratio and absorb water include: barley, oats, rice, whole wheat pasta, and quinoa among others. Therefore it is important to keep in mind the product’s cooked weight when determining caloric density. Researchers have also addressed this same issue, Drewnowski, Almiron-Roig, Marmonier, & Lluch (2004), state that “Breakfast cereals are energy dense when dry and less energy dense when consumed with milk” (p. 404). The consumption of cow’s milk is not encouraged due to the cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat content. However, non-dairy plant-based milks are preferred as they contain no cholesterol, no trans fat, and are lower in saturated fat. There are a variety of new plant-based milks that are being added to the market, be sure to read the nutrition facts panel carefully to limit or avoid products that contain high amounts of saturated fats, like coconut milk. Water can also be used as a calorie free option in place of milk in breakfast cereal like oatmeal.

Registered Dietitian Jeff Novick explains how to make Oatmeal quickly

The Calorie Density per pound – calculation

To determine the number of calories within a pound of a given food, use the following equation. Divide the weight of one pound of food in grams (453g), divided by the serving size on the nutrition facts panel in grams, and multiply it by the number of calories per serving on the nutrition facts panel to get the number of calories per pound. Below are a few different examples of food products and their calories per pound. The areas to look for on the label are circled in red.

453g / grams per serving (on package) X calories per serving (on package) = calories per pound.

To view a few examples of caloric density click here: Broccoli, Potato, Cheese, and Olive Oil.

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