If you’re feeling bogged down by calorie counting and number crunching, never fear! There’s another way to make sure you’re getting the nutrition you want. You’re not the first person wondering about the effectiveness of calorie counting. Looking at the nutrient density of a food, and valuing this more than just calorie count may help. Nutrient density looks at the amount of nutrition per calorie. Some of the most nutrient dense foods are found in the plant kingdom. Beyond just carbs, protein and fat, minimally processed, whole plant-based foods can give you many important micronutrients per bite.
Some people find they don’t have to stress about counting calories when they are eating plant-based because many plant-based foods are full of water, fiber, protein, and an array of nutrients, that leave them feeling nourished. Four Vegatopians share why nutrient density matters more to them than calorie counting:
Nutrition Facts Panel Can Only Tell You So Much
Choosing nutrient-dense options has changed the way Senior Art Director Collin McDougall shops. “To me [finding nutrient dense foods is about] having an awareness of what’s good, what’s great, and what’s super...When we shop we look at calories, then maybe fat and protein, then, if we’re really savvy, sugars and sodium, and maybe sometimes even vitamins and minerals. But that can only tell you so much. When I’m eating nutrient dense foods, I feel satisfied— without a heavy, weighed-down feeling in my stomach. Some of my go-to nutrient dense favorites are: baby kale, carrots, artichokes, apples, oranges (or really any fresh fruits and vegetables); chickpeas/garbanzo beans (or any beans), cashews, almonds, and peanut butter, and, when I can get them, fresh blueberries and cherries!”
Chicago Account Manager Tambra Riddle has never counted calories, carbs or protein, and opts instead to choose nutrient-dense foods. “I’ve never counted a single calorie. I attribute this to distinguishing differences of what makes a macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrates) feel good in my body— Is it useful or not useful? To me, whole, nutrient dense foods feel good in my body.”
Nutrient Density is not reflected in Calories
Regulatory Affairs Specialist Leanna is a self-professed serial snacker. “When it comes to snacking, I’m a big believer of thinking in terms of nutrients over calories! While I can easily go to the grocery store and buy 100-calorie snack packs of cookies or crackers, I’ve found that these snacks provide little satisfaction. Instead, I snack on trail mix, or avocado toast. While nuts and avocados are high in calories, good mono- and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals in these foods not only help keep me full between meals, but I find they can also help prevent me from overindulging come dinner time.”
Mindful Eating can be more beneficial
Customer Experience Team Lead Bridgette Clare, a registered holistic nutritionist, who focuses on nutrient density when making food choices. “I eat a variety of whole or minimally-processed foods, including leafy green foods like spinach, starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, and fruits such as berries. Each nutrient dense food imparts its own balance of nutrients and flavor. Eating a variety offers a more balanced nutrient profile. When I eat whole, nutrient dense foods I feel satisfied because my body has the nutrition it needs! Another way I ensure I am satisfied is by eating with mindfulness. The easiest way to eat mindfully is by sitting down to eat. I recommend eating as distraction-free as possible (no phone, computer, or books). Take time between eat bite and really enjoy the beautiful, nutrient dense meal you are about to eat.”
How do you find nutrient-dense options to fuel your life?