Tricks of the trade: how to change energy density to lose weight – with guest expert Trudy Williams APD

Have you heard about energy density? Would you like a handy guide on how to eat more and weigh less? Then you need to meet this weeks expert guest dietitian.

About our expert:

Trudy Williams APD is a highly experienced dietitian in the areas of research, student training, clinical and management dietetics in both hospital and private sectors, industry consulting and media relations. Perhaps best known for her award winning books that form part of many a dietitian’s arsenal (see below) Trudy is passionately embracing the world of social media.  You can read her full bio here and connect with her on Twitter @foodtalkbites.

What would you rather have? A spoon full of pure gold nuggets or that very same spoon filled with mud?   Surely, that’s an easy choice – the gold. Why? Is it about quality and value? The gold will last you a whole lot longer. It may make your life a little better. It is the better choice. If you really needed mud, you could go out and buy bucket loads of it if you originally chose gold! The same volume of mud won’t get you anywhere very fast at all. It’s a waste.

But in the end the mud and the gold fill the same volume – they both fill a spoon.

Now think about those spoons filled with different foods. The same serve size, a spoon, will yield different value for your body depending on what food you’ve served; different amounts of protein, carbohydrate, fibre, water, vitamins, minerals and kilojoules (calories).

But let’s narrow this down to kilojoules because these make or break your body weight. The majority of adults in Australia, the UK and USA could shed a few kilograms if they pulled back on their kilojoule intake.  And you can do that without necessarily cutting back on serve sizes, feeling deprived or going hungry, once you know a few secrets about energy density.

What’s energy density?

It’s how many kilojoules are packed into a set measure of food, in this case a spoon. The more kilojoules in each spoonful, the higher the energy density, the worse it is for your weight. The reverse holds true. Fewer kilojoules in each spoon = lower energy density = weight loss success.

Energy density is not something you’ll find on food labels, but it’s something that manufacturers are well aware of and use to manipulate and design reduced calorie and ‘diet’ foods that you pay top dollar for.

But you don’t have to buy special foods to reduce the energy density of your diet because I am going to let you in on a few secrets that will help you change the energy density of your diet for the better.

Three key secret factors to influence energy density are the amount of water, fat or alcohol and air present within the food at the time you eat it.

  1.  The more water present within the food or meal, the lower the energy density.
  2. Puff the food up to incorporate air and space to reduce the energy density.
  3.  Reduce the fat or alcohol you also lower the energy density

If you do any of these things you will alter the energy density of the food as you will discover with a few examples.

Which contains fewer kilojoules and so has a lower energy density?

Answer:  8 dried apricot halves = 300kJ (72cals)   Compared with the same volume of 10 soft jubes = 600kJ (140cals)

A spoon of water or a spoon of oil? No, this isn’t a trick question. Water wins with zero kilojoules. Oil loses with nearly 600 kilojoules.

A square of aerated chocolate or a square of dark chocolate? Not exactly an ideal food for nutrition, but the aerated chocolate wins because the bubbles of air displace chocolate.  You still feel like your being satisifed by a square, but your cutting kilojoules choosing the aerated choccy.

A bowl of peanuts or a bowl of pretzels? The pretzels win because they contain a lot less fat.

Sometimes the answer is obvious but for other foods it can get tricker. Test yourself on these foods.

A bowl of movie popcorn or a bowl of corn flake breakfast cereal? Both are dry. The corn is popped with oil so at first glance you might think the corn flakes wins, but infact a bowl of popcorn contain fewer kilojoules than a bowl of cereal, so popcorn wins.

A bowl of broccoli, beans and capsicum or a bowl of boiled basmati rice? Both are low in fat and both contain water and basmati rice has a low glycemic index, but don’t let GI fool you, the vegetables have the lower energy density because they contain almost 20% more water than the rice.

A glass of full strength beer or a glass or alco-pop (pre-mixed spirit with soft drink)? The beer is ahead because it has a less alcohol coupled with a higher water content.

Eat more, weight less

Simple changes make a huge difference when you change the energy density and it doesn’t mean you have to eat less food! Pretend you plan to eat 2 cups of rice for dinner. If you replaced 1 cup of that rice with 1 cup of steamed green vegetables you will instantly slash the energy density of the meal and cut your kilojoule intake by 700, yet you’d still be eating the same total volume: 2 cups of food.

But you don’t need to be a food scientist, dietitian, calorie contortionist or maths expert to work out and use energy density once you discover another secret tool of mine that allows you to quickly compare foods and drinks just by looking. It’s my award-winning book “this=that: a life-size photo guide to food serves” RRP $65.00 revised and expanded in 2011.

More than 400 life-size photos of foods and drinks reveal which foods to have more or less of, for better health and body shape. There has never been an easier way to see and understand energy density, portion control and serve size. Discover more at FoodTalk.

Editor’s comment:

Thanks so much Trudy and for donating a copy of your divine book for us to giveaway to a lucky reader.  To enter the giveaway all you need to do is leave us a comment below and we will pick one lucky winner.  Perhaps you have a question for Trudy? Or your own story about pumping up your food volume with salad veg and other lower energy density foods? Competition is open to all readers until Thursday 10th November, 5pm AEDST.

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