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14 May Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: A Common Sense Approach To Sound Nutrition

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This week Jeff continues his series all about getting healthy this summer! Each week he will have advice, tips and insights into helping you get to your ideal weight! As always, leave a comment to win one of Jeff’s great DVD’s! This week tell us if you have applied the principles of calorie density in your life, if so what were the results?

A Common Sense Approach To Sound Nutrition ©Jeff Novick, MS, RD

Calorie density, is the simplest easiest approach to healthy eating. It is easy to understand and follow and I have outlined the principles here. It is the most common sense approach to sound nutrition.  In addition, by  following the principles of calorie density, you will also meet all our other needs including vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, essential fats, etc.  The basic principles of calorie density are simple and outlined below.

However, for those of you who still want to think about food groups, servings sizes and amounts of servings, I have provided an “old school” approach to this way of eating from that perspective.  In the end, the food you eat, and the amounts, will be the same.  The calorie density approach just provides the simplest easiest road to get there.

Remember, these are just guidelines expressing the principles and not exact recommendations.

1) The Calorie Density Approach

Principles of Calorie Density

– Hunger & Satiety

Whenever hungry, eat until you are comfortably full.  Don’t starve and don’t stuff yourself.

– Sequence your meals

Start all meals with a salad, soup &/or fruit

– Don’t Drink Your Calories

Avoid liquid calories.  Eat/chew your calories, don’t drink or liquify them. Liquids have little if any satiety so they do not fill you up for the calories they contain.

– Dilution is the Solution

Dilute the Calorie Density of your meals by filling 1/2 your plate (by volume) with intact whole grains, starchy vegetables and/or legumes and the other half with vegetables and/or fruit.

– Vegetables vs Fat/Oil

Vegetables are the lowest in calorie density while Fat/Oil is the highest.  Adding vegetables to any dish will always lower the overall calorie density.  Adding fat and oil will always raise the overall calorie density.

– High Calorie Dense Foods

Limit (or avoid) foods that are higher in calorie density (dried fruit, high fat plant foods, processed whole grains, etc) and when consumed incorporate them in meals made up of low calorie dense foods and think of them as a condiment.  (ie, add slices of avocado to a large salad, walnuts or raisins in a bowl of oatmeal and fruit).

 The Calorie Density Scale

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2) The Six “Old School” Food Group Approach

Fruits (Apples, berries, oranges, etc)

– Calorie density is ~250 cal/lb

– A typical serving is 1/2 cup fresh/frozen

– 60 calories per serving

– 4-6 servings per day

Vegetables (broccoli, kale, cucumbers, etc)

– Calorie density is ~100 cal/lb

– A typical serving is 1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw

– 25 calories per serving

– 10-16 servings per day (this includes 2-4 servings of cruciferous vegetables)

Starchy Vegetables (Sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, etc)

– Calorie density is ~500 cal/lb

– A typical serving is 1/2 cup cooked

– 80 calories per serving

– 5-7 servings per day

Intact Whole Grains (Brown rice, oats, millet, quinoa, etc)

– Calorie density is ~500 cal/lb

– A typical serving is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 oz dry

– 80 calories per serving

– 5-7 Serving per day

Legumes (beans, dry peas lentils)

– Calorie density is ~600 cal/lb

– A typical serving is 1/2 cup cooked

– 110 calories per serving

– 1-3 serving per day

High Fat Plant Foods (nuts, seeds, avocado’s, peanut)

– Calorie density is ~2800 cal/lb

– A typical serving is 1 oz nuts, seeds, peanuts; 1/2 avocado)

– 175 calories per serving

– 1-2 servings per day

A 2000 Calories “Old School” Sample Meal Plan (for reference only)


Intact Whole Grains (2 cups) 320 calories

Fresh Fruit (1 cup) 120 calories

Nuts (1 oz) 175 calories


Starchy Vegetable (1 cup) 160 calories

Intact Whole Grains (1 cup) 160 calories

Legumes (1/2 cup) 110 calories

Veggies (3 cups of salad, soup and/or steamed veggies) 150 calories

Fruit (1/2 cup) 60 calories


Starchy Vegetable (2 cups) 320 calories

Legumes (1/2 cup) 110 calories

Veggies (3 cups of salad, soup and/or steamed veggies) 150 calories

Fruit (1/2 cup) 60 calories

Nuts/Seeds (1oz) 175 calories

This equals:

– 6 servings of Starchy Veggies/Whole Grains and 480 calories

– 6 servings of Intact Whole Grains and 480 calories

– 2 servings of Legumes and 220 calories

– 12 servings of veggies and 300 calories

– 4 servings of fruit and 240 calories

– 2 servings of nuts/seeds and 350 calories

Total 2070 Calories.

For those of you avoiding nuts/seeds, you can just leave them out and increase the number of servings or fruits, veggies, starchy veggies and/or legumes to equal 350 calories.


Calorie density really is the simplest easiest approach to healthy eating. It is easy to understand and follow and provides the simplest easiest path to good health. It is the most common sense approach to sound nutrition.  By following the principles of calorie density, you will also meet all our other needs including vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, essential fats, etc

Have another great week, and remember…

Your Health Is Your Greatest Wealth!

Jeff Novick, MS, RD

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We highly recommend picking up Jeff’s DVD on calorie density !

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Jeff Novick
Jeff Novick

Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN is truly a unique dietitian and nutritionist. With over 24 years of experience in nutrition, health, fitness and natural living, he offers expert health advice distilled into powerful, easy-to-understand language on a variety of current topics.Novick’s insightful and humorous approach to nutrition and health has helped thousands worldwide make the transition to healthy living. He holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana State University in nutrition, with a minor in exercise science.Novick serves as Vice President for Executive Health Exams International and lectures at the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California and at the Engine 2 Immersion program in Austin, Texas. He is also the Director of Nutrition for the Meals for Health program, which is helping empower low-income families to achieve optimal health.For almost a decade, Novick served as the Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center in Aventura, Florida, and as Vice President of the Board of the Directors for the National Health Association (NHA). He also served as the Director of Health Education for the NHA and as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Health Sciences for Kaplan University.Novick has taught nutrition classes at Indiana State University, Indiana University Medical School, the University of Miami Medical School and the Florida Academy of Family Physicians. He regularly lectures at medical conferences across the country. While in Indiana, he created and taught the Nutrition Education Initiative, a preventive medicine curriculum for medical doctors, residents and medical students. In recognition of this groundbreaking project, Indiana’s governor awarded Novick the Indiana State Public Health Excellence in Health Science Award and Indiana State University awarded him the Graduate-of-the-Last-Decade Award.He has been interviewed by Newsday, Parade, Men’s Health, Shape, Women’s World and has appeared on Fox News, Discovery Health, the Today Show and other media outlets nationwide. He recently appeared in the documentary Processed People and the movie Fatboy, which won the Best Documentary award at the Fort Lauderdale and Queens Film Festivals.

  • Kyle Plattner
    Posted at 06:55h, 14 May

    The principles of calorie density just make sense without the complications that I see others deal with in regards to dieting. Makes life simple – as it should be.

  • Carrie C.
    Posted at 09:55h, 14 May

    I love that your approach to weight loss is the common sense idea that a lifestyle adjustment (what we should all be doing anyway) is the greatest tool of all. You CAN lose the pounds from eating garbage (in ridiculously small portions), but it will make you feel like, well, garbage.

  • plainoldsarah
    Posted at 10:04h, 14 May

    this morning I had oats and greens for breakfast for the first time – loved it! I will have to do it more often. Weird to think I was scared of it for so long.

  • Kathy McLean
    Posted at 10:05h, 14 May

    Great information, thanks for the breakdown.

  • Anna
    Posted at 10:10h, 14 May

    Great post but I honestly love green drinks, especially in the morning. You can pack them with 4 cups of greens and get a ton of phyto-nutrients in an easily drinkable form. I can’t imagine sitting down and trying to eat 4 cups of greens every morning.

  • Kay Witt
    Posted at 10:20h, 14 May

    I totally agree with this, but I am stilll having trouble losing weight. Can age play a factor?

    • Aaron Coleman
      Posted at 10:35h, 14 May

      Age is a factor. Are you consuming too many nuts or gluten

  • KatieLoss
    Posted at 10:27h, 14 May

    This is such a common sense approach to eating and health. Since shifting to eating whole food, plant-based, no oil way keeping calorie density principles in mind, I can eat an abundance of delicious food without having to count points or scrutinize portion sizes. I would love to win one of Jeff’s DVD’s! 🙂

  • David Naseman
    Posted at 10:38h, 14 May

    Very nice recommendations Jeff, thank you.

  • Yvonne Gaskin
    Posted at 10:53h, 14 May

    Thanks for the great post Jeff. Do corn tortillas fall in the bread section? How would you adjust for a couple or corn tortillas, lasagna or other whole wheat pasta etc a couple of times a week – is increasing exercise enough?

  • Carol
    Posted at 10:55h, 14 May

    You laid it out in such a way that makes it easy to follow. Thanks 🙂

  • Jeremy Wangler
    Posted at 11:03h, 14 May

    It’s pretty simple and I know I always have the most weight loss when I follow this approach and the weight loss slows down when I go away from it. Thanks for the advice!

  • Stephen Mark Turner
    Posted at 11:17h, 14 May

    After several years, I continue to be amazed at how filling a few hundred calories of nutrient rich food is compared to, say, cheese or soft drinks or something like that (although I conduct that ‘experiment’ rarely nowadays).

  • Ahawk61
    Posted at 11:45h, 14 May

    Is this an eating plan towards weight loss for an obese type II diabetic? Also I am brainwashed into the 30g of carbs or less a day for diabetic management. Is it safe to eat like this as a type II? My DR Has told me no potatoes , for example . Can you address this issue specific to type II’s?

  • Jane Smith
    Posted at 12:04h, 14 May

    I’ve been following the principles of calorie density for a while. Lunch today was 2 baked potatoes topped with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and creamed corn. YUM!

  • Bonnie
    Posted at 14:09h, 14 May

    Great and helpful information. It really works.

  • Just me
    Posted at 14:37h, 14 May

    Like some of the other posters I follow all the rules of calorie density except I drink a green smoothie each morning along side my oatmeal. I love to start meals with salad, but sometimes the salad is rolled up in nori to add variety. I stay with the top 4 categories 95% of the time. We eat lots of nutrient dense soup, no nuts, no oils, of course no animal products, and only occasional gluten free whole grain bread or pasta. I am not fat anymore and no longer too thin. I am recovering from some major maladies slowly but surely. My skin and hair have improved vitality. My grandchildren won’t ever need to fly in to be with me for heart surgery or patiently walk beside my walker.

  • BYOL
    Posted at 15:53h, 14 May

    thanks for the great post! I’ll be sharing with my networks

  • Michael
    Posted at 16:13h, 14 May

    Jeff’s calorie density principles have helped me truly understand how to
    manage my weight. However, as Jeff often says, the last 5-10 pounds
    can be tricky and seem to require greater focus on the guidelines and
    principles. Thanks, Jeff!

  • Melody
    Posted at 16:14h, 14 May

    Calorie density has been the most easily understood method of weight
    control for me, and also the most effective. Knowing that following the
    principles also help create the healthiest diet also make me feel great
    about my results. Thank you for your effort, Jeff.

  • Bob
    Posted at 16:16h, 14 May

    Calorie density makes a great deal of sense to me, and I think it is far easier
    than counting calories. Avoiding and/or strictly limiting the calorie
    dense foods can be difficult at first, but the payoff is incredible.
    Thank you for all that you do.

  • Melissa
    Posted at 16:18h, 14 May

    Calorie density has been very successful for me, but restaurants tend to
    be a challenge. Also, focusing too much on the lowest calorie dense
    foods, like vegetables, can often leave me feeling less than satisfied.
    However, Jeff’s guidelines help clear up the situation very well.
    Thanks, Jeff.

  • Tim
    Posted at 16:22h, 14 May

    Having used oil in the majority of my cooking in the past, understanding
    and applying calorie density has been somewhat difficult for me.
    However, as it seems to clearly be the key to a healthy lifestyle, I am
    committed to incorporating the principles as much as possible. Thanks.

  • Jenny
    Posted at 16:25h, 14 May

    I love this common sense approach and try to practice it regularly. I am constantly trying to add veggies into everything I eat, even things that already have vegetables in them. 🙂

  • Rileen
    Posted at 17:30h, 14 May

    I’ve used these principles, but not consistently enough, esp. when it comes to salads. Working on it 🙂

  • Pam
    Posted at 18:23h, 14 May

    Oh how I wish I could keep up this common sense approach – I start, go for a while, then fall down and then try again. But I am not giving up – I WILL beat this tug-o-war with myself and eat like this all the time… some time. WOULD love a copy of the DVD – might get me back on track permanently 🙂

  • Brenda Rowe
    Posted at 08:12h, 15 May

    I can’t believe how simple this is, and how hard I thought it was. Thank you for this article.

  • TerryC95125
    Posted at 19:55h, 15 May

    Do we count calories? How do I lose weight?

  • MaryAnn
    Posted at 07:43h, 19 May

    my husband and I are trying to get into this big time; there is, here in Vermont, a big controversy of GMOs even in fruits & vegetables. I like to know what you and Rip think of this? thanks!

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