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List of High-Density Foods

By Scott Christ ; Updated July 27, 2017

High-density foods are those that have a lot of calories per unit of weight. By contrast, low-density foods normally contain more water and are lower in calories. What this means is that high-density foods have a large amount of calories for a small volume of food. To measure a food's density, divide the number of calories per serving by the weight in grams per serving. Aim to eat more foods than have an energy density of two or less.


Butter is one of the highest density foods you can eat because of the high fat content. One tsp. of butter contains nearly the same amount of calories as 2 cups of broccoli. Cream is similar to butter in that it has a very high fat content, which makes it a high-density food. Full fat milk and most cheeses are also examples of high-density foods.

Fatty Meats

Fatty meats such as salami, pepperoni, sausage, and many cuts of beef are high-density foods. A normal serving size for a piece of meat is 4 oz., and the higher the fat content, the more calorie dense the food is. This is due to the fact that 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, as opposed to only 4 calories each for 1 gram of protein.

Junk Food

In general, most foods that you think of as being "junk food" are high-density foods. Some examples of these types of foods include most desserts, such as ice cream, cake, pies, candy, and cookies. It also includes sodas, sugary juices, and alcohol, as well as fast food, such as hamburgers and French fries. Most fried foods like chicken tenders, onion rings, and jalapeno poppers are high-density foods. Pizza can be considered junk food and can be high-density as well if you load it with cheese and fatty meats, but choosing a healthier pizza with whole wheat crust, low-fat cheese, and lots of vegetables instead of meats can make pizza a lower density food.

Carbohydrates and Oils

Many carbohydrates, or starches, are high-density. Some of these include potatoes, pasta, bagels, bread, rice, and beans. Even though some of these are high-density, choosing whole grain carbohydrates (rather than refined or "white" carbs) is an essential part of a balanced diet and provides necessary vitamins and nutrients to your body. All oils are high-density because of the high fat content, but there are certain types of oils that are considered healthy, even though they're high in calories. Stay away from hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, and choose oils like olive and canola, which are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown by the American Heart Association to have healthy benefits for the heart.

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