Focusing on Calorie Density as Effective Way to Lose Weight

I have seen a growing focus on structuring ones diet so that the overall calorie density (calories per pound) is around a specific value rather than trying to limit portion size as a way to, as advocates of this way say, "lose weight without losing your mind" (1). This is based on large amounts of research showing that the primary signal of satiety is simply the mass of food consumed with other factors such as macronutrient ratios and total calories as a secondary signal (2). So the calorie density approach is to select foods such that average calorie density of ones entire diet is such that you will have eaten a weight/volume of food to feel pleasantly full while at the same time there is a sufficient calorie deficit in order to gradually lose weight. And then once down to ideal weight to slightly increase the average calorie density in order to avoid regaining the lost weight.

For most people eating between 3 and 5 pounds of food a day (usually depends on body size) is fully satiating. And the calorie needs of the average person run between 1500 and 2500 calories (again usually depending on body size) to maintain weight. Simple math says that a diet with an average calorie density of around 500 calories per pound will simultaneously hit both total calories and total food weight values. To lose weight instead of eating less of the same mix of foods that average to 500 calories per pounds, the necessary calorie deficit is achieved by shifting the amounts of foods such that more of the very low calorie foods like vegetables, leafy greens and most fruit and less of the high calorie density foods like bread and any added oils or sugars so that the calorie density average out to around 400-450 calories per pound that yields a 150-500 calorie deficit.

My question is has anybody tried focusing on calorie density as a way to lose weight, and did you have success? And a second question did you find a way to use Cronometer to help you determine the overall calorie density of a given meal and for a given day?

I know that all the necessary information (weight of food consumed and calories in that food) is readily available in cronometer, but I have not found a way to get Cronometer to do the calorie density calculation for me. If need be, I'll just transfer the necessary information to Excel and do the single division step there, but I would rather not have to do this manual step. I would much rather have it done by Cronometer and then be able to generate a report and/or plot of calorie density of my diet over time.




  • Try not to overthink this thing. Adjust your diet to lose weight, eat the food that's healthiest for you, and be active. Active with a capital A active.

  • I eat lots of plants...using calorie density for years. If you are using cronometer regularly you will notice that you can eat more plant foods for less calories so I feel satiety. There is no magic, you still need a calorie deficit to lose weight. Simple...if you are new to this Chef AJ on You Tube explain it. Wishing you good health and success!

  • I have used calorie density as a method for weight loss, but if you’re using that method alone, you have to be pretty restricted in the type of foods you eat to ensure you stay in a calorie deficit, so it didn’t work for me alone. I use it now to comprise my meal plans so I know I’m getting full on less. I still need to track though to make sure I’m not going over calories.

  • I did NOOM, which focuses on calorie density, for two years and lost 60 pounds. It's very effective, but I got bored with it. I also needed to focus more on the micronutrients I'm getting so here I am.

  • Honestly, I think that method would be counterintuitive to what they are saying it's supposed to do - not losing your mind. The amount of thought and work that this would require would send me running. Food weight is not correlated to the amount of calories it has. You can have a chocolate truffle with 350 calories that literally weighs nothing once consumed. In weight loss, calories are King. Calorie balance must be considered when this method would be used. So, in my are doing double work and why bother?

    NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach

  • edited February 28

    I lost seventy pounds eating high carb/fiber and low fat. I use calorie density so that I can eat more volume. I add a lot of veggies to my meals which is how you bring the calorie density down. It's not hard really, you can just use the 50/50 plate idea so that half your meal is veggies and the other half is the starchy food. You can create custom recipes then go to your diary and put 454 grams to see how many calories per pound it is. For example 1 cup of rice and 1 cup of cooked veggies is 450 calories per pound. (I put 1 cup rice and 1/2 cup cooked broccoli and 1/2 cup cooked cauliflower) I just put that as a custom recipe right now, it's easy. Potatoes are only 350 calories per pound so you can eat tons of potatoes and veggies if you like to eat a lot of food.

  • edited February 28

    I also want to add... I mentioned that potatoes are about 350 calories per pound. Corn and peas are also about 350 calories per pound each so those are great low calorie density foods that are satiating and go well together. Most green and yellow veggies are about 100 to 150 calories per pound. They are good to bulk up a meal but they are not satiating. Raw veggies are a great snack though. I like to munch on carrots and celery when I'm driving home so that I'm not starving when I get home and then I'm not tempted by less healthy foods. Just make sure to use Cronometer so you know you are eating enough, this isn't meant to be a way to under eat, it's meant to be a way to eat abundantly, healthily and not over eat.

  • Will echo what Flattlander said: Low caloric density is quite simple. Just choose a whole food from the fruit or vegetable family and pile up your plate. Track it. Voila.

  • There's a book about using calorie density to lose weight. It's called "Volumetrics" by Barbara Rolls.

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