Water: A Key Food Ingredient

Want more food for fewer calories? Check out the water content of what you’re eating.

Ever consider that a teeny chocolate truffle contains more calories than an entire head of lettuce? For most people, it’s not hard to eat a box of crackers in one sitting but it’s pretty difficult to consume a whole bag of apples. This concept is called volumetrics.

Energy dense foods provide a lot of calories for a small amount of food and, as a result, it’s easy to eat a lot of calories before you feel full. Fat and sugar will also increase the energy density of food.  Think of the last time you ate cookies or candy. Did you feel full after eating the appropriate serving? Neither did we.

Foods that are low in energy density provide a large amount of food without a large amount of calories. Water content of food plays a huge role in energy density.  When you eat foods like fruits and vegetables that are naturally high in water, odds are you will feel pretty full. Also, fiber helps to decreases the energy density of food because it is not fully digested.  Thanks to the water and fiber of fruits and vegetables, they will help fill you up before they fill you out.

Even foods that are low in fat and sugar – like low fat crackers or pretzels – may be high in energy density if they contain little water.  Next time you open a package, count out a serving size and see how much it fills you up. This phenomena is why 100-calorie packages have such a large market – it is too easy to eat more than the appropriate portion because the food isn’t very filling.  You won’t find a 100-calorie package of broccoli or blueberries!

Why does energy density matter in thoughtful eating? Because we all feel more comfortable and more satisfied with a certain volume of food each day. By adjusting the energy density of your diet, you can eat a larger, more satisfying volume of food and trust your body to tell you when you’ve had enough.  Include low-density foods with each meal or snack—like eating carrots with your pretzels or fruit with your cookies.  To learn more see our 1+2+3 solutions section.