Gaining and losing weight can be a perplexing matter sometimes. You may be gaining weight although you are eating very little. Or your weight may be fixed although you could be eating a lot! You need to know that this could firstly be because of your genes and secondly because of the calories in your food!
When it comes to your calorie consumption, this common dilemma can be explained by differentiating between two types of food: nutrient dense and calorie dense.
To understand these two food categories better, here is an explanation:
Nutrient dense foods are those that provide generous amounts of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals and fibre with few calories. However there are also nutrient rich foods that are high in calories too.
Energy/Calorie dense foods are those that provide energy with few or no nutrients.
So how do you decide which category to choose? The answer quite simply is: nutrient dense and low in energy for weight loss and nutrient dense and high in energy for weight gain.
To lose weight: nutrient dense and low in energy
If you have been trying really hard to reduce your weight, you may benefit from consuming foods which are nutrient dense with low energy:
- Instead of having a candy bar as a snack, try low fat fruit yoghurt. The candy bar would give you only sugar and fat, while the fruit yoghurt contains essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals that are important for your bones, cell renewal as well as the normal functioning of your body.
- Instead of having a biryani dish prepared with mutton for lunch which would provide you with about 650 calories and 24 g of fat, have chicken biryani which would provide you with 400 calories and only 9 g of fat! Remember to use skinless chicken breast to reduce the amount of fat and have it tandoori style to spice up the flavor.
- Also, instead of having your pasta for dinner with white sauce, which might provide you with about 972 calories and 45g of fat, have your pasta with some red sauce and vegetables which would provide you with 315 calories and only 9 g of fat! This dish would give you complex carbohydrates – the basic fuel that your body requires, as well as minerals and vitamins, and fibre contained in the vegetables, for a healthy digestive system.
To gain weight: Nutrient dense and high in energy
If you want to add a few kilograms to your weight, then you should gear up for a splash of high energy nutrients as part of your snacks or meals.
Instead of having a glass of low fat milk which is rich in nutrients (especially calcium) but low in calories, have a refreshing smoothie. This can be done by adding bananas and a drizzle of honey and nuts to your milk, an addition of at least 200 extra calories! Besides the splendid flavor, this will increase the calories and healthy nutrients over and above the ones in milk. Mainly potassium in bananas and the good fats in the nuts which are also good for your heart, in addition to their richness in proteins and vitamin E.
Instead of a plain salad, why don’t you generously drizzle olive oil on your salad, slice some avocados and throw some walnuts into your salad dish too? This would add at least 500 healthy calories to your salad bowl plus healthy nutrients such as unsaturated fats in the olive oil, avocados and walnuts. You can also add some cheese, tuna or chicken which will give you extra proteins – the essential building blocks of your body!
For occasional treats: energy dense and low in nutrients
Whether you’re happy with your weight or not, you might still want to have your treat. And the good news is: You still can. Just remember that those are the foods you should go slow with, since they barely have any nutritive value and are rich in calories. For example, a can of soft drink would give you almost 150 calories and 0 nutrients. While a cup of fresh juice would provide you with almost 120 calories and plenty of vitamins and minerals beneficial to your health.
Portion size also plays an important part when you choose energy dense foods. For example, a 50g bar of chocolate would provide you with almost 250 calories, while a 20g chocolate will give you about 100 calories that you can easily fit into your balanced diet while providing you with the same pleasurable experience.
Whatever your aspirations regarding your weight, remember always to make every mouthful worthwhile! Make your diet varied and balanced by choosing more nutrient dense foods for good health, and control extra calories coming from energy dense foods to maintain a healthy weight!