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Although sometimes used interchangeably, calorie-dense and nutrient-dense have very different meanings. Calorie-dense foods can also provide nutrients, but nutrient-dense foods will provide high levels of nutrients other than calories. I try to get each client to use an 80%-20% ratio.

Calorie-Dense Foods

Calorie-dense foods, also called energy-dense foods, contain high levels of calories per serving. While they may contain some sources of nutrients, they need to have a greater ratio of calories to nutrients to be considered calorie-dense. Another potential concern is that some of these foods are contain “empty calories,” in that they provide energy from calories without other significant nutritional value. Calorie-dense foods have their place in some diets, particularly those of people who must gain weight. However, most healthy people should avoid calorie-dense foods and beverages.

Nutrient-Dense Foods

Nutrient-dense foods contain high levels of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, but with few calories. They are high-quality and typically minimally processed. Nutrient-dense foods play an important role in most diets, offering a variety of important properties per serving.

I will expand upon this further in the meal planning guide I am writing…



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