Some foods, such as packaged snacks or frozen pizzas, are high in calories but low in nutrition. Other foods are the opposite, with a very high nutrition to calorie ratio. Foods with the most nutrition to calorie ratio give you the nutrients you need to thrive and feel full without racking up the calories.
Green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, kale and spinach, contain a high amount of nutrients. A cup of raw spinach, for example, has seven calories but contains 56 percent of an adult's daily value of vitamin A, 181 percent of the daily value of vitamin K and 14 percent of the daily value for vitamin C. It also contains needed minerals, including calcium and iron.
A cup of Romaine lettuce has 82 percent of the daily value of vitamin A but has only eight calories.
An adult should aim for about two and half cups of vegetables each day, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Whole fruits such as strawberries, apples and oranges are high in vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus and other nutrients. Fruits are also high in dietary fiber. For example, a cup of strawberries has three grams of fiber and 49 calories. It also contains 149 percent of an adult's daily value of vitamin C. Bananas and fruits such as cantaloupe are high in potassium but still low in calories. Most adults should eat about two cups of fruit a day, according to the USDA.
While other vegetables such as broccoli, sweet potatoes and carrots may not have as high a nutrient to calorie ratio as leafy greens, they are still full of nutrients and relatively low in calories. One cup of raw broccoli is high in vitamin C, calcium, potassium and vitamin K and contains 35 calories. A medium sized, baked sweet potato contains 103 calories and 438 percent of an adult's daily value of vitamin A.
Beans are a great source of protein without a lot of extra fat and calories. They are also high in nutrients while being low calorie. One cup of cooked lentils, for example, contains 90 percent of an adult's daily value of folate, a nutrient that is particularly important for women of childbearing age. Lentils are also high in iron, manganese and phosphorus. A cup of black beans contains 30 percent of the recommended protein for an adult, 60 percent of the recommended daily fiber and is high in iron, folate and other minerals.