An early question before determining an optimal dietary whole-food varied plant-based diet would be what is your caloric need. Although it is not necessary to count calories, a general understanding of realistic energy requirements should be appreciated.
Although one's metabolic needs are usually reflected in caloric intake, one's choices may result in a higher caloric load than necessary if energy dense foods are selected. Generally, it would be relatively difficult to overindulge on highly nutrient dense foods.
For example, if who subsisted on leaky greens, such as kale, with an energy density of about 0.5 cal/ g or 227 cal/ lb (wet weight basis), a 2200 cal/ d caloric need would require about 10 pounds of kale per day, or 70 cups daily.
The table below shows the energy density for a few whole-foods.
Three general sections of increasing shading density are shown for foods with low, medium, and high energy density. These cut-offs, albeit somewhat arbitrary, serves as a useful guideline:
- less than 3.5 cal/ g low energy density
- 3.5 - 4.0 cal/ g medium energy density
- over 4.0 cal/ g high energy density
There is virtually no limit to the amount of low energy dense (high nutrient dense) food one can consume in a day; these are primarily leafy greens and above ground vegetables. The medium energy dense foods should be used more sparingly and the highly dense foods used only in small quantities or on rarer occasions.
Of the medium dense foods, several servings of fruit per day is recommended, particularly berries of deep purple and red color. Beans and legumes are high in protein, fiber, and good fat.
The highly energy dense foods are everyone's favorites: breads, grains, seeds, and nuts. Limit these foods as flavoring and to provide crunchy texture. Limit consumption of nuts and seeds to one handful per day (palm of the hand only).