For the past six years, we’ve been on a mission to make nutrient density and satiety as simple as possible to empower Optimisers to identify foods and meals that align with their context, preferences and goals.
To bring it all together, we’ve combined our three most powerful nutritional scoring systems into one chart, showing:
- nutrient density (per calorie),
- nutrient density (per serving), and
- our Satiety Index Score!
To see more detail, you can access the interactive Tableau version with ALL the data here. We recommend doing this on a computer screen (rather than your phone) to dive into all the detail.
Read on to learn more about how we created it and how you can optimise your nutrition to align with your goals.
Why We Created This Chart
Unfortunately, although we’ve created numerous optimised food lists for different goals, contexts and preferences, we can’t create an ultimate ‘top ten list of optimal foods’ that is perfect for everyone.
Everyone has different goals, nutrient gaps and macronutrient needs. So instead, this chart shows more than six hundred foods on a spectrum of more optimal to less optimal options that you can choose to suit your goal.
We hope it will help you identify foods that align with your goals and preferences that you’ll also enjoy.
How to Use the Chart
We find different people like to Optimise their diet using different approaches. You’ll notice some alignment between the three nutrient scoring systems but also some differences, as we’ll explain below.
Nutrient Density Score (per serving)
Foods towards the top of this chart have a greater nutrient density per serving, meaning they contain more of all the essential nutrients for each portion we typically consume. These foods are great for building the foundation of your diet. They will provide some energy and plenty of protein along with most of the other essential nutrients in adequate quantities.
Some of the foods that provide the most nutrients per serving include:
- pork chops
- ground beef
- chicken breast,
- shrimp, and
Nutrient Density Score (per calorie)
Foods towards the right of this chart provide more of all the essential nutrients for less energy. That is, they have a higher nutrient density). These are sometimes considered ‘super foods’ that can fill nutritional gaps without adding a lot of extra energy.
However, because they are so satiating, they’re usually only eaten in smaller serving sizes (most people don’t binge on liver or spinach). You can think of these foods as the ‘nutritional icing on the cake’ once you have a solid foundation of adequate protein and energy. If you try only to eat these foods, you’ll likely be super hungry and potentially face down in your favourite energy-dense comfort foods before long.
Some of the popular foods that provide more nutrients per calorie include:
- Bok choy
- Kale, and
Satiety Index Score
The colour coding on the chart is based on our Satiety Index Score. You’re more likely to eat more of the foods shown in red, while you have a higher propensity of eating less of the foods in green. These foods will help you feel fuller with fewer calories if your goal is weight loss.
Learn more about each food
If you mouse over the foods on your computer, you’ll see more details, including:
- Nutrient Density Score (per calorie),
- Nutrient Density Score (per serving),
- Satiety Index Score,
- Per cent (%) of total calories from each macronutrient (protein, fat and non-fibre carbs).
Level Up Your Nutrition
It’s human nature to want to go from zero to hero overnight. But overnight changes rarely last. Rather than suddenly trying to eat a lot of liver and spinach, most people in our Micros Masterclass have much better success if they progressively incorporate some new foods while reducing the less-than-optimal foods.
First, look at the chart to find the foods you currently eat. Next, look to the right to find some new foods you might want to audition to see if you like them. As you fill your place with slightly more nutritious foods, you will naturally start to reduce the less optimal foods from your diet.
Over the coming weeks, you can repeat this process a few times to find the level you’re comfortable with without pushing yourself so far that you’re either not getting enough energy or not enjoying your food.
In our Micros Masterclass, Optimisers make a little bit more effort by tracking their food to identify their priority nutrients. Nutrient Optimiser then recommends foods and meals that they can use to get more of the nutrients they are currently getting less of to optimise their diet at the micronutrient level.
The micronutrient fingerprint chart below shows what a perfect Diet Quality Score looks like, with all of the essential nutrients reaching 100% of our Optimal Nutrient Intakes.
Access the Interactive Charts
Because these charts contain so much data, we’ve found most people prefer to dive into the detail of the interactive charts, with the most popular foods first.
If you want to keep it simple, this version of the chart only shows the top 200 most popular foods amongst the six hundred thousand Optimiser food entries. These foods are generally easy to obtain without being too adventurous. They are great to start your journey towards Nutritional Optimisation. If you haven’t yet, click here to view the interactive chart of the most popular foods (on your computer).
Once you’re ready for more nutritional adventure, you can use the next version of the chart, which includes even more foods to diversify your food choices. This version shows the 583 foods used frequently by our Optimisers. You can access the interactive version with all the foods here.
We hope you find one or all of these charts helpful on your journey to Nutritional Optimisation!
Plants vs Animal and Seafood
Oftentimes, discussions around nutrition take sides, like:
- Plant vs animal-based foods,
- High vs low-protein, or
- Low-carb vs low-fat.
But unfortunately, gravitating towards ANY extreme nutritional camp or fearing ‘bad’ things in food can negatively impact your diet quality, satiety, and health It can also drive you a little crazy, to the point you throw in the towel! For more on this, check out The Perils of Belief-Based Nutrition.
However, we generally find that people who maximise their nutrient density and satiety tend to consume a mix of plant-based foods, animal-based foods, and seafood. For some examples, see What Do Top Optimisers Eat Across the Globe?
Although this analysis highlights that many of the most nutrient-dense foods (per calorie) are plant-based, it’s essential to remember that many of the least nutritious foods—including most hyper-palatable junk foods!—are, too. You may also have noted that the most nutritious foods per serving tend to be seafood and animal-based. There are pros and cons to every ‘diet camp’, so take every extreme with a grain of salt!
Most ultra-processed foods blend nutrient-poor, low-satiety refined grains, sugars, and industrial seed oils with flavourings, colourings, and fortification to make them palatable.
Many people find it easier to obtain adequate protein and many other nutrients by prioritising animal-based foods and seafood, which have a higher nutrient density per serving. Meanwhile, some of the most satiating foods that are impossible to overeat are plant-based foods with a greater nutrient density (per calorie).
We acknowledge and respect that some people hold strong ethical and religious beliefs about the food they eat. We have worked hard to accommodate them while still prioritising nutrient density. However, our analysis has shown that most people could optimise their results if they prioritise foods that provide ALL the essential nutrients their bodies require.
For completeness, let’s drill down into the charts for plant-based foods, animal-based foods, seafood and dairy.
The chart below shows plant-based foods only. You can dive into the detail in the interactive version of this chart here.
Animal Based foods
The chart below shows just the animal-based foods. Again, you can check out the interactive Tabluea version of this chart here. For more on animal-based foods, check out Carnivore Diet: Nutrient-Dense Food List.
Next, we have dairy products, with the interactive version here.
Finally, we have seafood (see interactive chart here).
How Did We Create These Charts?
Over the years, many people have used our free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge to identify any nutritional gaps they may have and to determine which foods and meals will fill them.
From this, we have collected nearly six hundred thousand separate food entries, which has enabled us to identify the most common foods consumed by Optimisers and, importantly, the typical portion of each food they consume. We consolidated this data to a shortlist of six hundred and calculated each food’s serving size (in calories).
Nutrient Density (Per Serving)
Previously, we’ve often used nutrients per calorie to quantify nutrient density. However, this often results in less-commonly eaten foods that we typically consume in smaller quantities less-commonly eaten to rank higher.
Although these foods may have a higher nutrient density, most people don’t get a significant amount of nutrients from them because they only eat small serving sizes. These foods are high in volume and nutrients and low in calories.
For example, we wouldn’t survive for long if we only ate watercress and spinach because we need some energy! You would become full before you could get close to consuming the calories you need from these greens.
Because of this obstacle, we decided to include nutrient density per serving. Once we had the data to calculate the average serving size, we could determine nutrients per serving to give you a more accurate estimation of the nutrients you might consume relative to serving size. Foods with a higher nutrient density per serving provide protein, energy, and a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals.
In our Macros Masterclass and Micros Masterclass, we noticed that many of our most successful Optimisers start out by identifying where they will get their protein. Foods with more protein tend to contain plenty of other nutrients. The foods shown on the right of these charts will be ideal for laying the foundation of adequate protein with enough energy.
Nutrient Density (Per Calorie)
Nutrient density per calorie is the sum of all 34 nutrients per 2000 calories in your diet or a food divided by our Optimal Nutrient Intake (ONI) for each nutrient. For more details, see The Diet Quality Score: Your Ultimate Measure of a Balanced Diet.
Satiety Index Score
The chart’s colour coding is based on our Satiety Index Score.
While satiety and nutrient density are related, satiety analysis has shown that some nutrients are more critical than others. After examination of nearly one hundred and fifty thousand food logs from forty thousand Optimisers, we found that the following nutrients were most statistically significant with the number of calories consumed:
- Protein %,
- Vitamin B5, and
Our analysis has backed up the Protein Leverage Theory, or the idea that we will continue to consume more calories until we provide our bodies with adequate protein. However, rather than just protein leverage, we appear to crave other nutrients and eat less when we pack more of them into our food. Using multivariate analysis, we can estimate the number of calories the average person would eat of a particular food or meal and assign a Satiety Index Score accordingly.
For more details on this, see The Cheat Codes for Nutrition for Optimal Satiety and Health.
We hope you find these charts helpful for identifying nutritious and satiating foods that suit your unique goals and preferences!
In addition to this article, you may also be interested in our nutrient-focussed food lists tailored to suit a range of goals and preferences that you can access here or our complete suite of NutriBooster recipes.
If you want to determine and improve the nutritional gaps in your current diet, you can take our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge. You can also check out our:
- Macros Masterclass, where we walk our Optimisers through dialling up their protein and nutrient intake while dialling back their carbs and fat, and
- Micros Masterclass, where we guide Optimisers to get more of their priority nutrients from food to optimise their diet at the micronutrient level.