Eat More to Weigh Less? The Volumetrics Diet Explained

The volumetrics diet was introduced by Dr. Barbara J. Rolls, a professor at Penn State University, who focuses on satiety (feeling full), energy intake, and obesity. The diet was developed around eating more and weighing less, which is achieved by eating nutrient-dense foods that are comparatively low in calories.

Key takeaways:

The volumetrics diet is nothing new, but it gives a bit of structure and name to healthy eating patterns. In this article, you will find a guide on following the volumetrics diet and things you should consider and avoid.

Volumetrics diet: eat more, weigh less

Dieting is challenging for the majority of people. A weight loss diet may increase the feeling of hunger due to smaller portions and lower calorie intake unless it's carefully planned for individualized caloric and nutrient needs. "Eat more, weigh less" is a core principle of the volumetrics diet. It aims to help people reach satiety and feel full while achieving weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight.

Can you lose weight following the volumetrics diet?

The volumetric diet gained more popularity after the 2022 U.S. News and World Report featured the diet as number two in the category of best weight-loss diets.

The volumetrics diet says nothing against healthy eating. However, that doesn't mean you will lose weight if you follow the diet, although it's possible since you'd choose low-density foods over high-density foods. The sustainability of the volumetrics diet could be an advantage in weight management in the long run.

As the creator of the volumetric diet, Dr. Barbara J Rolls, said, "There is never going to be one single diet that fits everybody, and choices in weight loss and management are crucial."

Always keep in mind that everybody is different with unique nutritional needs. The goal should be to educate yourself on healthy and balanced nutrition that matches your needs.

Benefits of volumetrics diet

Increase fiber intake

Fiber, the cell walls of plants, is found in plant food. We can not digest fiber; thus, it doesn't add calories. Fiber is divided into 2 major categories: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Legumes, oatmeal, broccoli, and citrus fruits are some foods rich in soluble fiber, which is well known to lower cholesterol and improve blood glucose levels.

Insoluble fiber can't dissolve in water. It creates volume in the gut and helps the passage of materials through the intestinal system. It is found in the skins of fruits and vegetables.

Adults need to consume around 30 g of fiber daily for a healthy and balanced diet. According to the UK National Health Service, eating a good amount of fiber has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer.

Fiber can help you to:

  • Maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
  • Promote heart health.
  • Improve digestive health and lower the risk of colon cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by increasing fullness for a more extended period while not adding calories.

Volumetrics diet is fairly easy to follow

The volumetrics diet divides food into categories to make it easy to choose foods that promote satiety and weight loss. Foods are divided into four categories:

Very low-density foods

Category one contains foods high in water and fiber and low in calories and fat.

  • Fruits.
  • Non-starchy vegetables — asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, mushrooms. Breading, frying vegetables, and adding cream, oils, and butter increase the calories in meals. Steamed vegetables with low-fat sauces have fewer calories.
  • Low-fat or fat-free milk products, such as non-fat yogurt.
  • Broth-based soups — vegetable soups with broth.

Low-density foods

  • Whole grains — brown rice, whole wheat bread, and pasta.
  • Legumes.
  • Lean meats — poultry, lean beef, and seafood.
  • Starchy vegetables — sweet and white potatoes, corn, beets, butternut squash.
  • Low-fat dishes.

Medium-density foods

  • High-fat dishes — pizza, french-fries, salad dressings.
  • Full-fat milk products — full-fat cheese.
  • Bread.
  • Cake.

High-density foods

  • Cooking oils.
  • Butter.
  • Nuts.
  • Pastries, candies, and chocolate.
  • Any packaged items — chips, pretzels, or dry snacks — dried fruits.
  • Fatty meats — regular ground beef, brisket, bacon.

The volumetrics diet recommends choosing foods from categories one and two over category three. You should limit the foods in category four, but they are not banned.

The volumetrics diet is not against eating high-calorie foods from time to time. It emphasizes that eating those foods is not banned, but keeping portion and calorie control in mind.

Other advantages of the volumetrics diet are:

  • Sustainability — fairly flexible.
  • Limits added sugar.
  • Limits saturated fats.
  • Limits sodium.

Reasons not to follow the volumetrics diet

It is not recommended to follow the volumetrics diet for:

  • People trying to gain weight.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Children.
  • People with chronic conditions — if you have chronic diseases such as diabetes, consult your doctor before following specific diets.
  • People with eating disorders.

Mistakes you should avoid while following the volumetric diet

Frying vegetables

Vegetables are low in calories unless you add calories while preparing foods. If you fry, use too many oils when cooking, or add high-fat salad dressings, your meal is no longer low in calories.

Using canned vegetables

Using canned vegetables without checking labels. Some canned vegetables contain added sugar and high levels of sodium.

Cutting off fat entirely

Although the volumetrics diet recommends lowering fat intakes, such as choosing low-fat milk and milk products and lean meats, you shouldn’t get the idea of cutting off fat entirely. Healthy fats have essential functions in our bodies. They also improve satiety.

Limiting your food choices

Limiting your food choices to only foods found in categories one or two. Every food group – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy – has different nutrients in various amounts. Extracting one or more food groups from the diet may pose a risk for nutrient deficiencies. Ensure there is variety in your diet.

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