How Dense Are Your Calories?

A calorie is a calorie, but certain foods pack a ton of calories into small portions. One of the best ways to improve fat loss is to select foods that have high nutrient content and low caloric density.

What is caloric density?

Caloric density is the number of calories contained in a given volume of food. As an example, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter pack in roughly 188 calories. But the same two tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk have roughly 4 calories.  

When it comes to meal planning for weight loss, think about the caloric density of your food and how satiated you will feel after eating it. High fat and low nutrition foods are usually where you run into issues of overeating.

Swapping out calories

Simple food swaps are a great way to stave off hunger, keep your calories low, and keep your nutrient profile high.

Though salmon is packed with nutrients, eating 6 ounces every day can add a ton of calories. A 6 ounce serving of salmon comes with 354 calories. To spare the calories and still feel satisfied, you can swap it with a lower calorically dense food like mahi, which has 186 calories in a 6-ounce serving. 

Keep a log of your current foods and pinpoint if you have a habit of eating foods that are calorically dense. The typical culprits include:


  • Butter
  • Nut butter
  • Cream
  • High-fat meats and fish
  • Cheese
  • Processed junk foods


The list is full of goodness, but it’s small enough that sparing or eliminating any of these foods will help jump-start your fat loss.

You can choose foods that have more volume and fewer calories like these:


  • Veggies
  • Lean meats and fish
  • Eggs, mainly whites
  • Berries
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Legumes
  • Root veggies
  • Rice

Tips for cooking low density

Cooking is often where slips ups happen when it comes to food prep. It’s important to measure your cooking oils, and even use sprays to coat the pan instead. Filling a spray bottle with olive or coconut oil is a great way to cut down on calories without having to think too much about it.

Other things to watch for are dressings, seeds and nuts, and olives on salads. Little things that we love can add up quickly.

Steam veggies rather than saute them. Use an airfryer to prep meats and starches that normally use oil. Measure your food as often as possible if fat loss is a goal, or you notice your body is changing due to those sneaky high-density calories.

 Other tips to cut back on high-density calories

Avoid eating from containers. It’s easy to grab the nut butter jar or ice cream container and go to town. But mindless eating can really add up, especially when it comes to calorically dense foods.

Don’t eyeball fats. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see with clients. Fats, whether for cooking or things like different kinds of butter, are usually the culprit when it comes to overeating calories.

I typically recommend avoiding foods that you tend to overeat when you are on a fat loss plan. Think of it as temporary, but a means to help you reach your goals faster.




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