Principles of caloric density

Based on human studies by Dr Barbara Rolls Ph.D at Penn State University, it was found that most people consistently eat similar volumes of food (by weight) per day. Consuming foods less than 600 calories per pound (lb) ‘ad libitum’ (as in eating when hungry, until comfortably satisfied, not stuffed) allowed people to obtain and maintain a healthy body weight without any weighing, counting, or measuring foods. By knowing the caloric density of foods (how many calories per weight of food), we can make choices to suit our weight goals, by adjusting the ratio of calorically dilute to calorically dense options. This way, we change what we eat, rather than how much we eat, allowing people to adjust their weight, whilst continuing to eat whenever hungry, until satisfied, forgoing the typical need to rely on willpower or restriction. Based on the current, best available science on nutrition and health, we recommend choosing plant-based whole foods wherever possible, and manipulate the caloric density of foods to reach weight goals.

* Please note, 1 pound (lb) = 454g (roughly half a kilogram).

Foods averaging under 600 calories per pound-

Eat when hungry, stop when comfortably satisfied.

Consume as much as you like, preferably with every meal-

• Salads and Vegetables (100 calories per lb or less)

Consume daily-

• Fruit (300)

Consume as part of a meal when hungry, stopping when comfortably full-

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, taro (300)

• Intact whole grains (brown rice, barley, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, oats) (400-500)

• Whole grain pasta (400-500)

• Corn (400)

• Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas) (400-600)

Foods over 600 calories per lb-

Still healthy but consume in limited quantities if you have weight to lose or health conditions-

• Avocados (750)

• Nuts, seeds, nut butters, tahini (2,400-3,200)

Consume only occasionally, in small amounts, or if you need to gain weight-

Refined carbohydrate foods (bread, bagels), dried fruit (900-1,400)

• Dry cereal, low-fat crackers, rice cakes, popcorn, pretzels (1500-1800)


• Sugars (sugar, honey, molasses, agave) (1200-1800)

• Vegan junk foods (chocolate, icecreams, desserts) (2,500)

• ALL OILS (4,000)- do not eat

Dividing up your plate-

Meal frequency and timing largely makes little difference for most people, go with what feels best for you, be it 3 square meals, 3 meals and 3 snacks, or even one big meal! At the end of the day, imagine all the food you have eaten is all on one plate, and follow the guides below to guide your choices.

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What is whole-food plant-based?

The simplest definition is plant food, in its whole, unprocessed form. There are five groups, call them the five ‘new’ food groups if you will. We recommend forming the majority of your diet from these foods.

1. Fruits-

All fresh or frozen fruit. Blended, fresh juiced or dried only if excess weight is not an issue.

2. Vegetables-

All fresh, frozen, cooked or raw, starchy or not!

3. Intact whole grains-

Brown/black/red rice, oats, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, millet, corn

4. Legumes-

Chickpeas, beans, lentils, split peas, broad beans, green beans, edamame

5. Nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut-

Limit or eliminate if excess weight is an issue.

Still stuck?

After ensuring there is no underlying medical issue, a few other options to tweak weight loss include-

1. Meal sequencing- Eat the lowest calorie foods (salads), followed by soups, steamed vegetables, then starches and legumes.

2. Narrowing the feeding window- intermittent fasting, alternate day fasting, and all the variations, can be helpful for some people.

More information-

Barbara Rolls - The relationship between dietary energy density and energy intake

Forks Over Knives - The Caloric Density Approach

UC Davis - Why you should stop counting calories

Doug Lisle video - How to lose weight without losing your mind