What’s Nutrient Density anyway?

nutrient density

Most people think a calorie is a calorie, right? You know, 200 calories of salad is still 200 calories, so it must be the same as 200 calories of chips.

You guys are too smart for that.

Calories are the most important factor to measure of your food if your goal is weight maintenance or weight loss. A lot of people say 1 pound of fat = 3,500 calories. These are excess calories, and most reason that it doesn’t matter if they’re from protein, fat, or carbs. This is a very basic measure of what it takes to lose weight. However, what really should be your concern is how you ate those calories.

The nutrient density of your food refers to how many nutrients you’re getting per calorie. It’s the ratio of nutrient content to energy content. Nutrient-dense foods are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc, but low in calories. They’re stuffed full of the “good stuff”.

You want to be eating foods with a very HIGH nutrient density — it’s a better way to spend your daily calories. So, 200 calories of these foods are actually better for you than 200 calories of foods with a low nutrient density.

Now, calories are still calories. Excess calories are still excess weight in the long run. However, eating more nutrient dense foods will keep you full and satisfied, resulting in less calories consumed overall.

Luckily nutrient density is easy to find online. You can google “nutrient density of ___” and find at least an estimate of it in seconds. If that doesn’t work, their “ANDI score” is the measure of their nutrient density, so try that.

Here are some important ANDI scores to know. Remember, The higher the number, the better!

andi scores


What’s your favorite nutrient dense food? 

lisasig LOVE on me!

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  • http://liveanddiet.com/ Whitney @ To Live & Diet in L.

    Fruits and veggies have the highest ANDI scores…what a surprise…I’m seeing a trend :) I’m pretty much obsessed with everything above a 20 on here. I’m really sad that bananas are only a 30 though. Bananas are my BFFs.

    • http://www.theskinnyonhealth.com/ Lisa @ The Skinny on Health

      I’m in the same boat, I LOVE bananas. It’s a shame they have such a huge glycemic index (small andi score). Luckily, they’re not toooo bad, and provide a lot of energy via their potassium content.


  • Amy @ The Little Honey Bee

    Wish I had you in my back pocket a few years ago. I was a huge calorie counter but a silly one. Oh Chips Ahoy 100 calorie pack? Sure!

    • http://www.theskinnyonhealth.com/ Lisa @ The Skinny on Health

      Everyone was! It’s crazy what media and marketing can convince even the smartest people to do!


  • http://www.consciouskitchenblog.com/ Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog

    YES!! This is one of the things that really gets me fired up! I understand the science behind calories in vs calories out, but just because you at a reasonable amount of calories doesn’t make you healthy. Eating nutrient-packed foods does that! I pretty much cringe every time someone opens a “healthy” frozen meal because it’s low in calories.

    • http://www.theskinnyonhealth.com/ Lisa @ The Skinny on Health

      Oh I know! Those frozen Lean Cuisine things are the worst. So processed and always leave you hungry immediately after!


  • Skinny Opinion

    I am surprised to see olive oil so low. I typically use 1-2 T of EVOO for salad dressing - is that a bad idea?

    • http://www.theskinnyonhealth.com/ Lisa @ The Skinny on Health

      You can read about olive oil versus other oils in my “Let’s Talk Coconut Oil” post, but that’s not a bad idea at all! You don’t have to eat exclusively nutrient dense foods, it’s just a better idea to make sure that you’re getting a lot of your calories from nutrient dense foods. Adding some olive oil is NOT bad for you at all, olive oil is unsaturated and a better fat option than others!


  • http://www.alldayactivewear.com/blog Amanda @ All Day Activewear

    Love the way you explained this! I think it’s easy for people to forget it’s not JUST counting the calories up, it’s how you got to the number with the food you consumed. Food is fuel — not just food :) Great post!!

    • http://www.theskinnyonhealth.com/ Lisa @ The Skinny on Health

      Thank you! Yes! Food is fuel — great words to live by. :)