Eileen Kennedy, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, says it's difficult to choose an apple over a bag of pretzels if they have roughly the same number of calories. It would be a simple matter of taste if calories were the only thing that counted, she said.
But for an equal number of calories, a person could also get fiber and vitamin C by going with the apple, said Kennedy, noting that example illustrates the concept of "nutrient density."
The government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages as part of a healthful diet. "Let's give them the tools to make the choices we are recommending," urges Kennedy, who is also a former acting undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"If Americans choose foods based on nutrient density," Kennedy said, "they will, essentially, be choosing foods based on quality."
She outlined her views on diet and physical activity in a review article that appeared recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.