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Weight Loss, Calorie Counting and Caloric Density

Updated: Apr 17

caloric density

While counting calories of individual foods can be useful we believe that understanding what food types can be eaten an easier and more effective tool for weight loss. Even with an online calculator it is easy to make mistakes or work with incorrect information. Plus the hassle of trying to reconcile the numbers. What if there was an easier way to stay on track?

That being said, some people can find the practice to be very useful, to see some number on paper. So let’s no discredit it entirely. There are however several reasons why counting calories may not work for everyone:

  • Not all calories are created equal. The quality of the calories you consume matters. For example, 100 calories from fruit will provide your body with different nutrients than 100 calories from a candy.

  • Calorie counts on food labels and in online databases may not always be accurate.

  • The way you process or prepare food can affect its calorie count and the way that your body digests the food.

  • Counting calories may not take into account the nutritional value of the food you are eating.

  • People have different nutrient needs, so a one-size-fits-all approach to calorie counting may not be effective for everyone.


Caloric Density

Our preference is to understand what food to focus on, to eat without concern. And what foods to limit. Caloric density is the amount of energy, measured in calories, contained in a given weight or volume of food. Understand how this relates to food groups and you don’t have to count calories.

  • At one end of the scale: leafy plants, high in water and low in fat. These have a low caloric density and can be eaten with abundance! It would be almost ipossoble to eat enough of these foods to be in a caloric surplus.

  • At the other end of the scale: processed, high fat foods – oils and butters. Eat with caution! Many a diet has been ruined by adding olive oil to a salad without realising how many calories are there.

  • And in between the two ends of the scale: fruit, grains, legumes, meats and fish, processed grains – flours, processed foods, junk foods, sugar sweetened beverages. Some to be enjoyed without much concern and others more carefully.

As weight loss is related to the total amount of calories consumed versus expended any weight loss diet can feature any food as long as the total caloric balance is negative - in favour of weight loss. However, we prefer to focus on whole foods that provide healthy nutrition to the body, can eaten in abundance and protect against chronic illness. A focus on unprocessed or minimally processed plant foods, vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes. A little bit of meat and fish, not exceeding your daily requirement.


Once the principle of caloric density is understood and you have experience in incorporating it into your daily eating practice, weight loss can come naturally and without the difficulties that traditional dieting and caloric restriction might have. Just be aware that a ‘cheat day’ can ruin a whole week of eating to lose weight.

Stay Healthy


weight loss calorie counting

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Related Studies

Vernarelli JA, Mitchell DC, Rolls BJ, Hartman TJ. Dietary energy density and obesity: how consumption patterns differ by body weight status. Eur J Nutr. 2018 Feb;57(1):351-361. doi: 10.1007/s00394-016-1324-8. Epub 2016 Oct 13. PMID: 27738811.

Vernarelli JA, Mitchell DC, Rolls BJ, Hartman TJ. Dietary energy density is associated with obesity and other biomarkers of chronic disease in US adults. Eur J Nutr. 2015 Feb;54(1):59-65. doi: 10.1007/s00394-014-0685-0. Epub 2014 Mar 25. PMID: 24664188; PMCID: PMC4176562.

Ledikwe JH, Blanck HM, Kettel Khan L, Serdula MK, Seymour JD, Tohill BC, Rolls BJ. Dietary energy density is associated with energy intake and weight status in US adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jun;83(6):1362-8. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/83.6.1362. PMID: 16762948.

Kant AK, Graubard BI. Energy density of diets reported by American adults: association with food group intake, nutrient intake, and body weight. Int J Obes (Lond). 2005 Aug;29(8):950-6. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802980. PMID: 15917854.



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