Weight Loss: Feel Full with Fewer Calories

Sep 3, 2023

Choosing foods that are lower in calories – meaning you get a larger portion with fewer calories – can help you lose weight and control your hunger.

Mayo Clinic staff: “Feeling full with fewer calories? It might sound like another weight loss trick, but it’s not. The concept of energy density can really help with weight loss.
In fact, well-planned weight loss diets, such as the Mayo Clinic Diet, use the concept of energy density to help you lose weight and keep it off in the long term.

Simply put, energy density is the number of calories (energy) in a specific amount of food. High energy density means there are a lot of calories in a small amount of food. Low energy density means a large amount of food contains few calories.

When you’re trying to lose weight, one strategy is to eat low-energy-density foods. In other words, you want to eat a larger quantity of food that contains fewer calories. In other words, you want to eat a larger quantity of food that contains fewer calories This helps you feel full with fewer calories.

Here’s a brief example with raisins and grapes. Raisins have a high energy density – 1 cup of raisins has about 480 calories. Grapes have a low energy density – 1 cup of grapes has about 104 calories.”

Keys to Energy Density and Weight Loss

Three main factors play a role in what makes a food high or low in energy density:

Water. Fruits and vegetables generally have a high water and fiber content, which provides volume and weight but not many calories. That’s why they are considered low-energy-density foods. For example, grapefruit is about 90% water. Half a grapefruit has only 64 calories. Raw, fresh carrots consist of about 88% water. A medium carrot has only about 25 calories.

Fiber. Fiber-rich foods not only provide volume but also aid in better digestion, helping you feel full longer with fewer calories. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains contain fiber. Popcorn is a good example of a high-volume, low-calorie whole grain. One cup of air-popped popcorn has about 30 calories.

Fat. Fats have a high energy density. A pat of butter, for example, contains almost the same number of calories as 2 cups of raw broccoli. Foods that naturally contain fats, such as various meats or foods with added fats, have more calories.

Energy Density and the Food Pyramid

Changing habits is never easy, but creating a meal plan using the concept of energy density is a good start. The first step is knowing which foods are better options when it comes to energy density.

Here’s a look at energy density by categories in the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid:


Most vegetables have very few calories but offer volume and weight. Most vegetables contain water and fiber, providing weight without calories. Examples include: leafy greens, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, and zucchini.

To add more vegetables to your diet, put pasta over cooked vegetables instead of meat or cheese sauce. Reduce the amount of meat on your plate and increase the portion of vegetables. Add vegetables to your sandwiches. Snack on raw vegetables.


Almost all types of fruit fit into a healthy diet. However, some fruits are a lower-calorie choice than others. Whole fresh, frozen, and canned fruits without added syrups are good options. In contrast, fruit juices and dried fruits are concentrated sources of natural sugars and thus have high energy density – more calories – and may not satisfy your hunger as much.

To incorporate more fruit into your diet, add blueberries to your cereal in the morning. Try slices of mango or peach on whole-grain toast with a bit of peanut butter. Or toss mandarin orange segments and peach slices into a salad. Keep whole fruit in a bowl within easy reach or in the refrigerator and grab it whenever you want.


Many carbohydrates are grains or made from grains, such as cereals, rice, bread, and pasta. Whole grains are the best option because they contain more fiber and other important nutrients.

Emphasize whole grains by simply choosing whole grains over refined grains, including foods made with sugar or white flour. For example, choose whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain cereal.

Because many carbohydrates have higher energy density, be mindful of portion sizes.

Proteins and Dairy

This includes both plant and animal foods. The healthiest low-energy-density choices are high-protein, low-fat, and low-calorie foods, such as beans, peas, and lentils, fish, lean meat and poultry, low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, and egg whites.


While fats are high-energy-density foods, some fats are healthier than others. Include small amounts of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your diet. Nuts, seeds, and oils like olive, flaxseed, and safflower oils contain healthy fats. Limit saturated fats and trans fats, like butter or shortening.


Poput masti, slatkiši su obično visoke energetske gustoće. Good choices for sweets include those that are low in fat and have healthy ingredients, such as fruit, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Examples include fresh fruit topped with low-fat yogurt, whole wheat cookies, or a small piece of dark chocolate.

The key with sweets is to keep portion sizes small and choose sweets with healthy ingredients. Even a small piece of dark chocolate can fit into a weight loss plan.

Make Energy Density Work for You

When you stick to the concept of energy density, you don’t have to feel hungry or deprived. By incorporating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains into your diet, you can feel full with fewer calories. You may even have room in your diet for sweets occasionally.

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