Objective: This study investigated food choices made by individuals consuming diets differing in energy density and explores relationships between energy density and diet quality.
Design: Cross-sectional, nationally representative survey.
Subjects: 7,500 adults (older than 19 years) in the 1994-1996 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals.
Statistical analysis: Energy density values were calculated from reported food intake. Subjects were classified as consuming a low-energy-density diet, medium-energy-density diet, or high-energy-density diet using tertile cutoffs. For each group, the percentage consuming various foods/beverages and the mean amount of foods/beverages they consumed was determined along with mean nutrient intakes.
Results: Compared with participants consuming a high-energy-density diet, those with a low-energy-density diet had a lower energy intake but consumed more food, by weight, from most food groups. A low-energy-density diet included a relatively high proportion of foods high in micronutrients and water and low in fat, such as fruits and vegetables. Subjects with a low-energy-density diet consumed fewer (nonwater) beverages such as caloric carbonated beverages. They also consumed less fat and had higher intakes of several important micronutrients, including vitamins A, C, and B-6, folate, iron, calcium, and potassium.
Conclusions: These analyses further demonstrate the beneficial effects of a low-energy-density diet, which was associated with lower energy intakes, higher food intakes, and higher diet quality than a high-energy-density diet. To achieve a low-energy-density diet, individuals should be encouraged to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as low-fat/reduced-fat, nutrient-dense, and/or water-rich grains, dairy products, and meats/meat alternatives.