Losing and Managing Weight

Suggested Citation: Garko, M.G. (2012, June).   Losing and managing weight by replacing high-energy-dense foods with low-energy-dense foods. Health and Wellness Monthly. Retrieved (insert month, day, year), from www.letstalknutrition.com.

 

 

Losing and Managing Weight by Replacing High-Energy-

Dense Foods with Low-Energy-Dense Foods  

 

Michael Garko, Ph.D.

Host of Let’s Talk Nutrition

 

Introduction

 

The United States is in the throws of an overweight-obesity epidemic, which shows no signs of abating. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that in 2007-2008, when adjusting for age, an estimated 34.2% of American adults 20 years of age and older were overweight, while 33.8% were obese (Ogden & Carroll, 2010).

 

The overall prevalence estimates for overweight and obesity when combined for adults 20 years of age and older (BMI  25) was a stunning 68.0% (Ogden & Carroll, 2010)Another way to think about the overweight and obesity epidemic is that less than a third of adults (i.e., 31.6%) in the United States are at a healthy weight. Of the total percentage of healthy weight adults, 36.5% and 26.6% are women and men, respectively (see National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2010).

 

Given this ominous overweight-obesity portrait among adults, it is not surprising that one in three American adults is on a diet at any given time to lose weight, the highest increase over the past 15 years (Calorie Control Council, 2006; U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, 2007). Based on four Federal government surveys focusing on health practices, the National Institutes of Health (1992) reported that 33%-40% of adult women and 20%-24% of men attempted to lose weight, with an additional 28% of women and men dieting to maintain their current weight.

 

The average amount of time women and men spent to lose weight was from 6.4 and 5.8 months, respectively. In a two year period, the average number of attempts to lose weight was 2.5 and 2.0 for women and men, respectively. The amount of money spent annually in the United States to lose weight was over 30 billion dollars.

In terms of the methods used to lose weight, dietary change (e.g., restricting calories and modifying proportions of fat, protein & carbohydrate) and exercising were among the most frequently used methods, with dietary change being the most commonly used weight loss strategy. Participating in weight loss programs, skipping meals, using diet pills, over-the-counter weight loss products, vitamins, meal replacements and diet supplements, along with self-induced vomiting are among other methods people use to lose weight (National Institutes of Health, 1992). Clearly, a significant number of people are using a variety of healthy and unhealthy strategies and investing a considerable amount of time, effort and money to lose weight. Yet, “while their track record for trying is good, their track record for succeeding is not” (U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, 2007, p.1).

On the one hand, dieters can lose as much as 10% and more of their initial body weight in a short period of time. On the other hand, they tend to regain what they lost and then some, with as much as two thirds of the weight lost regained within one year and nearly all of the weight regained by five years. In fact, disappointed dieters often end-up weighing more than when they started (National Institutes of Health, 1992; U.S. National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health, 2007).

In an effort to give health consumers an effective and healthy method to lose weight and a way to increase their chances of losing weight and keeping it off, the June , 2012, issue of Health and Wellness Monthly focuses on replacing foods of high energy density with low energy density. This nutritional method for losing and managing weight is not presented as a comprehensive weight loss program. Rather, it is offered as a dietary strategy that can be included as part of an arsenal of strategies constituting an overall plan to help lose weight and keep it off.

Energy Density

Energy density is defined as the relationship of the number of calories to the weight or volume of food (i.e., calories per gram) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.b). Weight or volume means the amount of food in a portion or serving. In sum, energy density is simply the concentration of calories in a portion or serving of food.

Types of Energy Dense Foods

The concept of energy density serves as a useful way to categorize foods. Basically, there are three types of energy dense foods. This typology is based on the nutritional principle that all foods possess a certain number of calories (i.e., energy) for a certain amount of volume of food. More energy dense foods tend to contain more calories in a small serving of food, while less energy dense foods tend to contain fewer calories in a large serving of food.

High-Energy-Dense Foods

These types of foods are high in energy density in that they have a large number of calories in relationship to their weight/volume (i.e., 4 to 9 calories per gram of weight). High energy dense foods contain a lot of calories in a small amount or volume of food. Examples of foods high in energy density are low-moisture foods (e.g., cookies, crackers), foods high in fat (e.g., cheese, milk, butter & bacon), desserts, candies and processed foods.

Medium-Energy-Dense Foods

These types of foods have 1.5 to 4 calories per gram of weight. Hard-boiled eggs, dried fruits, bagels, broiled, lean sirloin steak, hummus, whole wheat bread and part-skim mozzarella are examples of medium energy dense foods.

Low-Energy-Dense Foods

There are two ranges of density for low-energy-dense foods.  Those foods that have low-energy-density range from 0.7 to 1.5 calories per gram of weight, while those which are exceptionally low in energy density range from 0 to 0.6 calories per gram of weight. Low-energy-dense foods provide fewer calories for larger portions of food. Examples of low-energy-dense foods are salad greens, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes, cantaloupe, broth-based soups, fat free cottage cheese, fat free yogurt, strawberries, broccoli and skinless, roasted turkey breast.

Satiety/Fullness

Satiety is the physiological and psychological state of feeling full or satisfied after eating a meal. It is the opposite of hunger, which is the physiological need or desire for food.

Volume vs. Calories

According to Rolls & Barnett (2002) and their nutritional theory of Volumetrics, the feeling of fullness people experience after eating is more a function of the amount or volume of food consumed than number of calories or grams of fat, carbohydrate or protein consumed. Rather than the calorie content of what they are eating, it is the volume or amount of food that signals people to either continue or stop eating.

Water & Fiber

Rolls & Barnett’s (2002) theory of Volumetrics is predicated on the principle that it is the constituent elements of water and fiber contained in food that creates a sense of satiety. Water and fiber increase the volume in foods and are responsible for reducing energy density. Water contains no calories and increases volume, thereby, lowering the energy density of food. Water dilutes the number of calories per serving and has the biggest impact on energy density because it does not contain calories.

Similar to water, fiber does not contain calories and adds weight or volume to food, increasing a sense of fullness. As low energy dense foods, fruits and vegetables are inherently high in water and fiber, low in fat, low in calories and, consequently, energy density. Whereas high energy dense foods tend to contain less water and fiber, more calories and more fat, a macronutrient that has twice as many calories (i.e., nine per gram) than the macronutrients of protein and carbohydrates (i.e., four per gram). Visit the USDA’s website (www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp) on the food composition (i.e., water, fiber & calories) of literally hundreds of fruits and vegetables. 

Dietary Recommendations

For those individuals who are overweight or obese and who are seeking to lose weight and keep it off, it is recommended that they put into dietary practice the principle of substituting high energy dense foods with low energy dense foods such as fruits and vegetables. A brochure entitled, How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011) provides the necessary direction to include the strategy of eating low dense energy foods.

In conjunction with this brochure, the reader might want to read Can Eating Fruits and Vegetables Help People To Manage Their Weight? (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.a). The brochure outlines the research supporting the strategy of eating low-dense-energy foods to lose weight. It also provides a summary of practical tips on how to use fruits and vegetables to help lose weight, which is as follows:

  • ·         To lose weight, people must eat fewer calories than they expend. Adding fruits and vegetables to an existing eating plan that supplies sufficient calories or has more calories than needed can cause the person to gain weight. Fruits and vegetables should be substituted for foods high in energy density.

                 

  • ·         To lower the energy density of foods, such as soups, sandwiches, and casseroles, substitute fruits and vegetables for some of the ingredients that have higher energy density, such as high-fat meat, cheese, and pasta. For example, vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and celery can be added to a chicken noodle casserole, thereby lowering the energy density of a fixed amount (e.g., 1 cup) of the altered dish in relation to 1 cup of the original casserole. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and other sliced vegetables can be added to sandwiches while decreasing the amount of high-fat meat or cheese. Many different vegetables can be added to pasta sauce.

                 

  • ·         The way fruits and vegetables are prepared and consumed makes a big difference in their effect on weight. Techniques such as breading and frying, adding high-fat dressings and sauces, and as part of a high-calorie dessert greatly increase the calorie and fat content of the dish even if it includes fruits and vegetables.

                 

  • ·         Whole fruit is lower in energy density and more satiating than fruit juices. Pulp-free fruit juices lose their fiber content in the process of juicing. For weight control purposes, the whole fruit contains added fiber that helps make one feel full.

                 

  • ·         Are canned and frozen fruits and vegetables just as good as fresh? Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are good options when fresh produce is not available. Consumers should be careful, however, to choose those without added sugar, syrup, cream sauces, or other ingredients that will increase calories, thereby raising the energy density. Additionally, consumers should be aware that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables sometimes contain added salt, which is not in fresh produce.

 

  • ·         Vegetables tend to be lower in calories than fruit; thus substituting more vegetables than fruit for foods of higher energy density can be helpful in a weight management plan. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 5th Edition (2000), published by the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, recommends that people eat more servings of vegetables than fruits in a healthy eating plan. www.usda.gov/cnpp. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.a, p.5).

Conclusion

 

Despite their expenditure of time, effort and money and use of a whole host of healthy and unhealthy methods to lose weight, the track record of overweight and obese people to lose weight is not good. The purpose of the June, 2012, issue of Health and Wellness Monthly was to present the nutritional strategy of substituting high-energy-dense foods with low-energy- dense foods to help overweight and obese people increase their chances of success in losing weight and keeping it off.

 

A primary premise of this low-energy-dense food strategy is that people often overeat because they do not want to feel hungry and want to experience a sense of satiety or fullness after eating a meal. This strategy also assumes that feeling full is contingent on the amount or volume of food rather than number of calories. Of course, there are a lot of physiological and psychological reasons why people overeat, but it is reasonable to believe humans prefer feeling full rather than feeling hungry and will tend to overeat to achieve satiety. Furthermore, there is sufficient research to support the principle that the volume of food, not its caloric content, creates a sense of fullness.  

 

Therefore, it is recommended that in order to experience a sense of fullness the regular consumption of low-energy-dense foods, primarily fruits and vegetables, containing a high water and fiber content become an important part of any effort to lose and manage weight. It is also recommended that those seeking to lose and manage their weight using the low-energy-dense-food strategy read two brochures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011) and Can Eating Fruits and Vegetables Help People To Manage Their Weight? (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.a), along with Rolls & Barnett’s (2002), Volumetrics Weight Control Plan. All three publications will provide further insight into low-energy-dense foods and how to use fruits and vegetables to lose weight.

 

Losing weight is a difficult challenge for anyone. Including the strategy of making low-energy-dense foods a part of a weight loss program will help reduce that difficulty, increase the chances for success and contribute to a long term healthy plan.

 

References

 

Calorie Control Council (2006). Trends & statistics: Dieting figures.  http://www.caloriecontrol.org/trndstat.html.

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d.a). Can eating fruits and vegetables help people to manage their weight? Retrieved May 1, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/pdf/rtp_practitioner_10_07.pdf.

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). How to use fruits and vegetables to help manage your weight. Retrieved May 1, 2012 from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/fruits_vegetables.html.

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d.b). Low-energy-dense foods and weight management: cutting calories while controlling hunger. Retrieved May, 1, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/pdf/r2p_energy_density.pdf.

 

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (2010). Overweight and obesity statistics. Retrieved September 25, 2010, from http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/PDFs/stat904z.pdf

 

National Institutes of Health (1992). Methods for voluntary weight loss and control: NIH Technical Assess Statement Online. Retrieved February 20, 2007 from http://consensus.nih.gov/1992/1992Weightlossta()html.htm

 

Ogden, C.L. & Carroll, M.D. (2010).  Prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents: United States, trends 1963-1965 through 2007–2008. NCHS Health E-Stat. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved October 25, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_child_07_08/obesity_child_07_08.pdf

 

Rolls, B & Barnett, R.A. (2002). Volumetrics weight control plan. New York: Harpertorch.

 

U.S. National Library of Medicine & the National Institutes of Health (n.d.) Why weight-loss efforts fail. Retrieved February, 20, 2007 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/print/hews/fullstory_45742.html

 

Suggested Citation: Garko, M.G. (2012, June).   Losing and managing weight by replacing high-energy-dense foods with low-energy-dense foods. Health and Wellness Monthly. Retrieved (insert month, day, year), from www.letstalknutrition.com.