Are all calories created equal?

When talking to clients who want to lose weight, one of the biggest things I push is choosing foods that are nutrient dense. If your body needs 1800 calories per day to maintain weight, you could just eat 18 100-calorie snack packs…but are all calories created equal? And would those snack packs be enough to fill you up? When it comes to managing weight, there are the basic rules:

calories in > calories out = weight gain
calories in < calories out = weight loss
calories in = calories out = weight maintenance

However, if you want to get optimal nutrition that your body desires, making a few small changes can provide the nutrients you need while leaving you satisfied and not starved. The following is part of the employee wellness campaign going on at the hospital I work for. The examples really help to explain what nutrient density looks like- getting the biggest nutrition-bang for your buck (or calorie in this case). I hope they blow your mind.

“Many people try to eat less when losing weight, when they could choose to simply eat differently. There’s no need to skimp on portions, or to feel like you’re not eating enough. In fact, if you do, a rebound might be just around the corner. When we focus on eating less, we trick our bodies into thinking we need to store the food for later, and we fool our mind by telling it our change is temporary. Instead, we can simply replace some of our high calorie foods with better choices. It’s a sustainable change, and one that won’t leave us feeling empty or reaching for that cookie jar.

The list below shows just how many calories are in the food we choose to eat. It’s easy to see how a few small changes can leave us feeling full and satisfied, while still keeping our calories in check.”

This food choice Contains this much energy And is equal in calories to
A 2oz handful of gummy bears 200 calories A four pound watermelon
A Bacon Double Cheeseburger 980 calories A 6 oz chicken breast
4 cups of cauliflower
1 cup steamed broccoli
1 baked potato
1 tsp butter or margarine
2tbsp bacon bits
3 cups salad
3tbsp light dressing
1 cup of fresh strawberries
¼ cup low fat whipped topping
8oz cup of skimmed milk
Two slices Cheese Pizza 600 calories 3 cups chicken noodle soup
2 slices of toasted oatmeal bread
2 oz low fat turkey or ham
2 tbsp low fat sandwich spread
2 slices tomato
2 cups side salad
2tbsp light dressing
1 large iced cappuccino 460 calories 1 grande regular coffee with cream and low cal sweetener
2 slices toasted oatmeal bread
2 slices low fat ham
2tbsp low fat mayo or mustard
2 slices tomato
4 slices dill pickle
2 small raspberry biscotti
1 apple
2 oz bag of potato chips 320 calories 7 cups popcorn
Large water – calorie free goodness

Can you think of other foods that could be swapped for something(s) greater?

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Author: budgetforhealth

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget for Health!

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