Low fat, low calorie
Energy density is the amount of energy or calories in a particular weight of food (kcal/g). Foods with a lower energy density provide fewer calories per gram than foods with a higher energy density. For the same amount of calories, a person can consume a larger portion of a food lower in energy density than a food higher in energy density. Low-energy-dense diets help people lower their calorie intake whilst still feeling satisfied/full and help to control feelings of hunger. Adding water-rich vegetables, such as spinach to mixed dishes, such as risotto, lowers the energy density of these dishes but you still need to watch your portion size. As a low-energy dense food, salad leaves can help with weight loss and appetite. In one study participants were given a standard lunch on different occasions, each time with either a first-course salad or with no salad (1). Participants consumed fewer calories when the meal started with the lower-energy-dense salad and they reported feeling just as full as participants who had no first-course salad but had eaten more of the main course, or had a salad that was higher in energy density.
Salad leaves are a low energy dense food, providing on average only 11kcal per portion or 14kcal per 100g and are naturally low in calories, fat and sodium. Lettuce is also high in fibre. This means you can enjoy large servings without having to worry about the calories, but just watch what you’re adding as dressings and toppings can add calories, fat and salt.
1. Rolls BJ, Roe LS, Meengs JS. Salad and satiety: energy density and portion size of a first course salad affect energy intake at lunch. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2004;104:1570-1576.