A lot of nutrition advice focuses on sticking with the amount of calories needed for your height, weight, age, and activity level. But what isn't always explained is that how you fill your daily calorie intake matters just as much, if not more. 

sweet, vegetable
Delissa Handoko

The difference between eating 2000 calories worth of boxed mac n' cheese versus meals containing fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods is huge. And the cool thing is, the more wholesome the foods you eat are, the more food you can eat for the same amount of calories as processed foods. 

Yes, it's all about the nutrient content of the food. But, it ties in with how our minds work. The more actual volume we consume, the longer we feel full and the more mentally satisfied we're likely to feel. 

Energy density can mess with our minds.

peanut butter, chocolate, peanut
Smita Jain

Energy dense foods are those that are high in calories for their volume. There's a lot of energy (calories) packed into a serving. Foods that have high energy density include those you want to keep in your diet like almonds.

But, something like a crazy doughnut can also be considered energy dense because it potentially contains half of your daily recommended calories.  

Find nutrient dense foods to fill you up before filling you out.

malabar spinach, lettuce, basil, salad, vegetable, spinach
Krista D'Archi

On the other hand, nutrient dense foods have a lot of nutrients for their volume. This means for a comparable size there may be a lot more protein, fiber, water, vitamins and minerals, with less calories.

These foods are the secret weapon to eating more for the same amount of calories as processed foods.

The science says it all.

The World Health Organization found that high intake of energy dense foods promotes weight gain. For the same amount of energy (calories), a greater volume of food can be eaten with lower energy density and higher nutrient density of the foods consumed.

onion, salad, broccoli, stir-fry, pepper, vegetable
Maxwell Faucher

Let's debunk that a little bit. In a study on changing the energy density of the diet for weight management, the effects on weight of 4 different diets were observed. All four of the diets provided 2000 calories per day. For simplicity's sake, let's focus on two of these diets.

One of them had moderate fat and was low in fruits and vegetables, and the food that was eaten under that criteria in a day weighed 930 grams.

Bare with me on the numbers here, I know it's getting technical. But this is why - with the diet that was lowered in fat and higher fruits and vegetables, 2159 grams of food was weighed for the day. That's more than twice the amount of food.

The takeaway is to eat fresh produce. 

egg, sandwich, avocado
Kaitlyn Thayer

Remember that it's psychological. That means not only in a diet rich in nutrients are you getting the benefits of those nutrients, but you're also able to eat more. Yes, you read that correctly.

It can be healthier to eat more, so be sure to pile your plate high and stuff that sandwich wide with the right stuff.