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These days, it is well known that diets do not work in the long run. People usually put the weight back on faster than then it took to lose it. If you want to escape this discouraging yo-yo effect, there is only one thing that works: eat the right foods, and eat until you are satisfied. It is not the mere calorie count that matters most, but rather the energy density, which refers to the number of calories per unit of weight.

Foods with a high percentage of water and fibre generally have a low energy density. In contrast, foods that contain a lot of sugar, fat and starch have a high energy density.

How to calculate energy density

Energy density is calculated by dividing the calorie content of a given amount of a food by its weight.

Example: A 100-gramme apple contains 50 kilocalories (kcal).Dividing 50 by 100 yields an energy density of 0.5.

The energy density indicates how many kilocalories a gramme of food contains (see tables below). One gramme of apple contains 0.5 kcal. One gramme of croissant, in comparison, contains 5.1 kcal, i.e. ten times the energy density of the apple.

Got the trick? You can eat more for the same 'price' and be satisfied and stay full longer if you pay attention to the energy density when making your food choices.

Feel satisfied and cut calories at the same time

In fact, studies and laboratory experiments have shown that the driving force for satiation is the total amount of food consumed – not the energy supplied. For example, a large bowl of vegetable soup will fill you up better and keep you satisfied longer than a handful of potato chips, which contains far more calories.

The driving force for satiation is the total amount of food consumed – not the energy supplied.

nce hunger is not your friend, you should eat as many foods with low energy density as possible. These primarily include vegetables, fruit, and low-fat products. Nevertheless, you don't have to give up your favourite foods. It all depends on a balanced mix. For example, if you are craving pizza, cut the portion in half and eat a large salad with it. Or liven up your morning muesli with fresh fruit.

Smart combinations

By combining foods in smart way, you can have the best of both worlds: smart food combinations provide the entire spectrum of the required vitamins and minerals and fill you up at the same time. On top of that, you will lose weight.

This has now even been scientifically proven: in a meta-analysis of more than 2,000 studies, a scientific team from the Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung (DIfE) [German Institute of Human Nutrition] found a significant correlation between the consumption of foods with low energy density and a reduction in body weight in overweight test subjects. In other words: the full plate trick with fewer calories really helps you lose weight.

The full plate trick with fewer calories really helps you lose weight.


Energy density of foods

Low energy density (< 1.5 kcal/g)

Fruit, vegetables, lettuce, potatoes, lean meat such as chicken breast or beef tenderloin, low-fat milk and dairy products such as yogurt, quark, cottage cheese, buttermilk and cream cheese. It is important to remember that as the fat content increases, so does the energy density. An avocado doesn't fall into this category, nor do camembert cheese or heavy cream yoghurt.

Medium energy density (1.5 – 2.5 kcal/g)

Grain products such as bread, rolls, muesli, pasta and rice, lentils, meat and cream cheese, and full-fat quark, cottage cheese and yogurt.

High energy density (> 2.5 kcal/g)

Sausage, cold cuts, cheese, butter, heavy cream, oil, nuts, cake, croissants, biscuits, chocolate and other sweets, snack foods, crisps, French fries. In general, fast food and highly processed foods are also in this category.

Special case: beverages

High-calorie drinks are a special case. Due to their high water content, their energy density is usually not very high. But soft drinks and sodas don't fill you up; the sugary drinks only provide empty calories. Alcohol has also been proven to stimulate appetite. Therefore, if you want to lose weight, you should think twice about whether it would be better to skip that glass of wine or beer.

The three energy suppliers

Calories or kilocalories (kcal.) supply our bodies with energy. They are composed of the three building blocks: carbohydrates, fat and protein.

  • At 910 kcal, fat has the highest calorific value per 100 grammes.
  • Protein and carbohydrates each have a calorific value of approx. 410 kcal.

Fat, proteins and carbohydrates

What the optimal composition of these three essential nutrients should be in our diets has been extensively discussed over time.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE) [German Nutrition Society] considers carbohydrates to be the most important source of energy in quantitative terms. It recommends that healthy adults consume at least 50 per cent of their daily energy intake in the form of carbohydrates. However, not all carbohydrates are equal here. This guide value does not count sweets, for example, but rather fruits, vegetables, legumes, potatoes, and as many whole grains as possible. The good thing about these energy sources is that they have a high satiation value due to their high volume and are rich in vitamins and minerals.

In a regular diet, 30 per cent of the remaining energy intake requirement should be covered by fat and 20 per cent by protein.

A healthy adult who is only moderately active needs about 2,000 kcal per day. According to current nutritional recommendations, the diet should consist of about 250 g carbohydrates, 65 g fat and up to 75 g protein.

Next to fat, carbohydrates are the most important energy suppliers for humans. They consist of sugar molecules that are contained in our food either in the form of glucose and fructose or in a complex form, for example as starch in bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. Our brain and muscles in particular rely on a supply of carbohydrates.

Along with energy, fat supplies essential fatty acids that your body cannot produce itself. Furthermore, the body needs fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat is therefore a vital nutrient. You should mainly eat healthy, beneficial fats that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Protein is needed to build up the body's own proteins, and it also aids the formation of muscles and bones. The basic elements of proteins are amino acids. Cells, tissue, organs and blood, enzymes and various hormones, such as insulin, are made up of amino acids. Some amino acids cannot be produced by the body itself, so they have to be supplied with food in the form of protein.

If you want to lose weight...

you will have to consume fewer calories than your body needs each day, of course. Whether you prefer to reduce carbohydrates, fat or protein is up to you. According to the principle of energy density, all energy suppliers are allowed. The main thing is that the ratio between calories and nutritional volume is right.