Food engineers and food scientists have studied what makes us crave certain foods more than others. Fat, salt and sweet is the winning trifecta of taste that fuels most of our food cravings. Taste is king, and the foods that taste the best are the ones that deliver on the preferred ratios for salt, sugar, fat, and other features that make food exciting. taste unlimited manufacturers, scientists, and engineers use a wide variety of these factors to make food more attractive. They know that for some of us, our craving-focus may be on the texture of food. It might be creamy, crunchy or a mouth-watering balance of both. For others, their craving-focus might be centered on taste. The taste might be salty, sweet, or a lip-smacking blend of each. The goal is to make us want to eat more.
Caloric density, different from nutrient density, is an important means that is used to keep us coming back for more. The caloric density or energy density of a particular food is a measurement of the average calories per unit (gram or ounce or bite) of that food. All foods contain nutrients. Unlike calorie dense foods, nutrient dense foods are high in nutrients for the number of calories per unit (gram or ounce or bite) they contain. Foods that are energy or calorie dense have a high concentration of calories per bite. Some common everyday processed foods that are energy dense are the packaged snack foods, frosted cakes with filling, cookies, and candies.
Traditional fast foods such as cheeseburgers, fried chicken, and French fries and bakery items like doughnuts are legendary for their energy density. Junk foods are considered empty calorie foods because they are low in nutritional density and high on calories per ounce or bite. These high energy dense or high calorie dense foods offer a high concentration of calories per bite, and are associated with high pleasure by the brain These foods are designed to be tasty (i.e. potato chips) and not filling. Because junk foods are low in satisfaction value, people tend not to feel full when they eat them. This low satisfaction experience almost always leads to over eating. Junk food is characteristically high in palatability, high in fat, and high in calories, but low in fiber and volume.
Low energy dense foods, in contrast to high energy dense foods, tend to be highly nutrient dense. In general they are moist and juicy. Low energy dense foods have a high percentage of fiber that retains their natural water. Most vegetables, fruits, and legumes are examples of low energy dense foods.
These foods are usually high in water and low in fat. Intentionally limit your consumption of high caloric density foods which are usually processed snacks desserts and junk foods.
To do this let you plate be your guide. Dilute out high caloric density foods/meals by filling ½ your plate with unprocessed whole grains, starchy veggies, and/or legumes or fruit. Adding vegetables to any dish lowers the caloric density of most meals. Go for low caloric density foods for craving and weight control.
Along the road from hunger to satiety eat until you are comfortably full. It is easier to conquer your cravings when you are full. Be intentional. Since energy dense food offers a lot more calories and will leave you asking for more, choose low energy dense foods which are low in calories and high in nutrient density, water, and fiber that will leave you satisfied. Feeling feel full and satisfied is the strongest way to conquer food cravings.
Start each of your meals with fruit, salad, or soup. This will get you started with low energy dense foods which are more filling and nutritious than their high calorie dense counterparts. Vegetables without oil offer the lowest caloric density.