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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays


Low-nutrient density food such as vegetables help lower calories.Decrease calories this holiday season by eating low-energy, dense foods

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension

The holiday season is upon us, and many of us know that because of family gatherings and work parties, we will be eating more. At many of these events, the food we consume is not what we would put on our lists of being the healthiest. There is a way to be able to eat plenty of food and still maintain a healthful diet: Eat low-energy, dense foods.


Low-energy, dense foods are foods that fill you up but don’t have a lot of calories. Examples of low-energy, dense foods are fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods. An apple is a low-energy, dense food. One medium apple contains 81 calories, less than one gram of fat and nearly four grams of fiber. An example of a high-energy, dense food is fudge. One ounce (about a one-inch square) of chocolate fudge with nuts has 128 calories, six grams of fat and no fiber. The apple is much larger than the piece of fudge but packs fewer calories and more nutrients.


If you are filling your dinner plate with low-energy, dense foods, you start with a leafy green salad that might include vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and radishes. Choose a fat-free or other low-calorie dressing. Add another vegetable, a whole grain roll or pasta and a reasonably sized portion of lean meat. Top the meal off with a glass of fat-free milk and an orange, and you have had a low-energy, dense meal.


When you are at the grocery store choosing your foods, look for ones that are high in water and/or fiber content but low in sugar and fat. This includes drinks. For low-energy, dense drinks choose fat-free milk and other drinks with the lowest amount of sugar.


For many people, volume is important. Low-energy, dense foods provide a lot of volume. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in August 2006 concluded that people consuming low-energy, dense diets consume fewer calories but more food by weight. The other benefit they reap is less fat and more of the important nutrients vitamins A, C and B6, folate, iron, calcium and potassium.


Everyone has his or her favorite holiday foods, which should be definitely on your plate. Just remember to fill your plate mostly with low-energy, dense foods.



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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