What Are High Calorie Foods?


High calories foods, or energy dense foods as described by dietitians, are determined by comparing energy content with the weight of the food. Such foods weigh little but are packed with energy.


There are two main types of high calorie foods: low nutrient density and high nutrient density. Low nutrient density include soda, cookies, fried foods, and many packaged snacks. High nutrient density include seeds, nuts, whole-wheat bread, and energy bars. Regardless of nutritional value, high calorie foods contain more than 3 calories per gram.

Nutritional Value Consideration

The nutritional content of high nutrient density compared to low nutrient density high calorie foods can be dramatic. A can of soda contains about 180 calories, which is almost entirely derived from sugar and contains no nutrients beyond the simple carbohydrate. A glass of 1 percent milk with about the same volume contains about 102 calories and includes protein, calcium, vitamin A, riboflavin, and thiamine.


Strength and endurance athletes need high calorie foods in order to perform and function which ranges between 3,000 to 9,000 calories a day. Also, combat rations, such as the US Army's MRE (Meals-Ready to Eat) are packed with 1,300 calories per meal?a necessity for soldiers in combat.

Special Needs

Human infants require about 45 to 50 calories per pound of body weight daily. A 6-month-old old baby would need about 700 calories a day. Based on this ratio, this amounts to two to four times more energy than adults need. For growth development, infants need a high caloric diet which is derived mainly from human milk or infant formula.


Access to high calorie foods in the United States is common and convenient, which is one of the reasons why this country has a high obesity rate. If you understand the nature of high calorie foods and their role in human nutrition, it will help you make better decisions when choosing what to eat and when to eat.

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  • Persepctives in Nutrition, 5th Edition; Gordon Wardlaw, Margaret Kessel; 2002.
  • Operational Rations of the Department of Defense; 2009.
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