Dietary energy density: Applying behavioural science to weight management

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83 Scopus citations


Studies conducted by behavioural scientists show that the energy density (kcal/g) of food provides effective guidance for healthy food choices to control intake and promote satiety. Energy density depends upon a number of dietary components, especially water (0 kcal/g) and fat (9 kcal/g). Increasing the proportion of water or water-rich ingredients, such as vegetables or fruit, lowers a food's energy density. A number of studies show that when the energy density of the diet is reduced, both adults and children spontaneously decrease their ad libitum energy intake. Other studies show that consuming a large volume of a low-energy-dense food, such as soup, salad or fruit, as a first course preload can enhance satiety and reduce overall energy intake at a meal. Current evidence suggests that energy density influences intake through a complex interplay of cognitive, sensory, gastrointestinal, hormonal and neural influences. Other studies that focus on practical applications show how the strategic incorporation of foods lower in energy density into the diet allows people to eat satisfying portions while improving dietary patterns. This review discusses studies that have led to greater understanding of the importance of energy density for food intake regulation and weight management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-253
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition Bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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