Authors: tABLE health
By now, I think you know that 200 calories of ice cream does not pack the same nutritional value as 200 calories of peanut butter. But why is that? We Registered Dietitians answer the question with calorie density. Simply put, calorie density is the calories of a food in relation to the weight of a food. However, calorie density means so much more and demands your attention if you are aiming to live and eat healthier.
Think of it this way: most people need 1500-2000 calories per day to maintain their weight, which when it comes down to it, really isn’t that many calories. So, whats a better way of hitting the 2000 calorie mark- potato chips, egg McMuffins and fried chicken, or whole grain pretzels, egg and low fat cheese on wheat bread and a grilled chicken cutlet? I think you know the answer.
Most of your foods should be nutritionally dense, but….mmmmm…..unhealthy junkfood with ingredients I can’t pronounce, salty fatty chips, sweet, alluring desserts…these foods all seem like no-no’s in healthy living, right? Well…not really.
If you try and deprive yourself of some of your most enticing food weaknesses, chances are you’ll end up on a bender and could wake up grease covered, surrounded by empty wrappers, and slightly nauseous. Ok, maybe that’s taking things a step too far, but you get the picture. Personally, I’m sick of health-foodies telling everyone to throw away their oreos and make brownies with splenda and evaporated skim milk. Enter discretionary calories and the difference between a snack (nutritionally dense) and what we’ll call an “extra” (nutritionally light)
Snacks are vital to your nutrition. They keep you full between meals, provide you with the opportunity to consume additional protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other essentials to a healthy diet. Snacks can and should taste great, but they should always be healthy and nutritionally dense.
Extra foods are just that- extra. As long as you’re eating an otherwise healthy, well-balanced diet, there is absolutely no problem with having 150-200 calories of “extra” foods throughout the day. Have 1/2 cup of ice cream, a small brownie, a serving of sweet and salty chex mix, or a strawberry daiquiri and ENJOY IT!