Cutting Calories: Portion Control, Energy Density
Yes, you can use portion control to cut calories and still meet your nutritional needs
|In order to lose weight, energy balance must be put into the red zone. In other words, you must:
- Eat fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight;
- Increase the calories burned in physical activity, or
- Do a combination of the two.
Credible weight-loss methods are designed to reduce calories from food in a way that meets overall nutritional needs. Two approaches with a proven track record for weight management are portion control1
and energy density.2
Portion control works by specifying the amount, or portion size, of foods eaten in a day with the goal of eating a specific number of calories. Weight-loss plans that work on portion control are characterized by "counting" foods eaten by serving or following a very specific meal plan. Examples of diets that are based on portion control include the diabetic exchange diet, the USDA Food Guide Pyramid and most "7-day diets" in women's magazines.
Energy density works by focusing choices on foods that provide a good volume-for-calories ratio. Low energy density foods tend to be rich in water and fiber and low in fat. Examples include soups, stews, vegetables, and fruits. Weight-loss plans that work on energy density concentrate on what foods are eaten instead of how much (e.g., "start every lunch and dinner with a broth-based soup or green salad" or "eat whole grains").
Emerging research suggests that energy density and portion control are independent factors for weight loss.3 This finding suggests that weight-loss plans that combine elements from each approach may lead to a greater weight loss than either used alone.
The Weight Watchers Approach
Weight Watchers offers a portion-controlled approach to reducing calories by allowing any food in moderation without exceeding your daily POINTS target and following the Good Health Guidelines. However there is also a focus onlower energy density as these foods are wholesome and nutritious. When eating primarily Filling Foods, intake is based on hunger signals which determines portion size.
Other Science Library Topics:
Hannum SM, Carson L, Evans EM, Canene KA, Petr EL, Bui L, Erdman JW Jr. Use of portion-controlled entrees enhances weight loss in women
. Obes Res. 2004 Mar;12(3):538-46.
Drewnowski A. The role of energy density
. Lipids. 2003 Feb;38(2):109-15
Kral TV, Rolls BJ. Energy density and portion size: their independent and combined effects on energy intake
. Physiol Behav. 2004 Aug;82(1):131-8.