What Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Says:

Does It Work?

Absolutely. The advice boils down to a nutritious and sensible diet that any nutritionist would recommend: Cut calories and unhealthy fat, with lots of high-fiber vegetables and fruits.

Rolls has excellent credentials. She’s a professor of nutrition and head of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University. She has also written more than 200 research articles. Volumetrics is largely based on the work done in her lab and is backed with solid scientific evidence.

This plan is more of a lifestyle change that will help you make wiser food choices, which will lead to sustainable and long-term weight loss.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

The Volumetrics plan is easily adaptable to most health conditions, as well as weight loss.

Losing weight is helpful for a wide variety of conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea, arthritis, and more. Weight loss may even reduce your need for medications.

Check with your doctor before switching to this plan.

The Final Word

Enjoying a diet based on foods that are naturally high in water and low in energy density is a great strategy to satisfy hunger and fill up on fewer calories. The Volumetrics plan will teach you how to make better food choices and slash calories without deprivation.

This plan is ideal for anyone who wants to eat a healthier but flexible diet. There’s advice for people who rely on fast food or eating out. It’s ideal for those who like to cook, with recipes to help you prepare delicious foods that are in line with your weight loss goals.

Losing weight or staying at the desired size is a common goal. In the beginning, we are willing to make any sacrifice, but this changes over time.

Eating is a pleasure and, sometimes, a way to alleviate the daily troubles.

Therefore, when we have been on a diet for a few months, we begin to get bored and wonder if it is worth it. Everything that we had so clear seems to vanish.

We miss the enjoyment of a tasty dish or the satisfaction that some of us feel full.

Maybe you are right now, or have tried several times and are looking for a diet that you can follow.

If so, stay with us: we will talk about the volumetric diet, its pros, and cons so that you are the one who decides if this is the best for you.

What is the volumetric diet?

In essence, it is about eating a greater amount of low-calorie foods. This way we can satisfy ourselves without risking weight gain.

In this way, we eliminate that feeling of hunger that is present in most diets.

But what are those foods that satisfy us without getting fat? As we can suppose, those that have a high content of water and proteins.

However, here are some of the most important ones:

  • Skimmed dairy
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Lean Meat
  • Blue Fish
  • Grapefruit
  • Orange
  • Cucumber
  • Apple
  • Strawberries

Also, we indicate those that have higher caloric density and that, therefore, we should avoid:

  • Greasy meats
  • Tuna in oil
  • Cured cheese
  • Inlay
  • Cakes and cookies
  • Chips
  • Nuts

Advantages of the volumetric diet

You can eat more quantity

Of course, this is one of his strengths. There are people who look for the sensation of satiety. They find a certain relaxation in it while suffering too much when they do not get it.

Feeling hungry does not like anyone, but some people suffer more than others in the same circumstances.

They can not avoid thinking about what they want to eat, so they end up experiencing an anxiety that does not compensate them. Therefore, they abandon the diet.

You design the dish

There are no menus or closed plates, so it is you who decides what you eat.

Getting up and not having to follow the rules to the point of selecting for you every bite you eat is very rewarding.

It is essential that you feel as free as possible when you are on a diet. It is very difficult to be constant when you are under a very severe yoke.

It is very healthy

If you notice, all the foods eliminated from the volumetric diet are the ones with the most cholesterol and sugars.

On the other hand, the recommended ones are rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Everything we need to keep us nourished, healthy and with the energy necessary to face a long day of work.

Disadvantages of the volumetric diet

You must count calories

Although it is true that you can choose foods, it is also essential to know the caloric density of them.

Being a diet that seeks to eat more without gaining weight, if we lose this view factor, we will not achieve our goal. We can even gain kilos.

We do not lose weight quickly

Sometimes, we want to lose sizes with a lot of speed. We have an important event or summer is coming, and we want to have a slender figure.

In these cases, we often start at very short notice. Therefore, we are interested in an alternative that offers results quickly.

If you are in this situation, the volumetric diet is not suitable for you.

It can be difficult to stay

The problem appears when you do not like the foods you are eating. If you detest the vegetable, you may be able to take it with some frequency during the certain time, but it will be very difficult to commit in the long term.

If you think you are going to miss carbohydrates, you should ideally choose another diet. There are many ways to cook them, so they do not get fat.

Of course, you will have to eat less of the other ingredients of your food plan. However, this is better than giving them up forever.

To follow a diet successfully, it is necessary to know each other. Once you analyze yourself, it is time to opt for one or another solution.

Without this prior process, it is almost impossible to achieve the desired results and much more, if we pursue to maintain a certain weight.

What the heck is the Volumetrics diet?

It’s called the Volumetrics Diet. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Volumetrics diet?

The basic premise of the Volumetrics Diet is that you focus on foods that have a low energy density – in other words, foods you can eat a lot of for little kilojoule cost (think: non-starchy veg, lean protein and wholegrains). At the same time, you try to eat less energy-dense foods (i.e. foods that contain a stack of kilojoules in small portions like chocolate, biscuits and cake), and you should lose weight. See, I told you it was rational.

Pros and cons of the Volumetrics diet

Unlike most silly fads, I love that the Volumetrics diet includes all food groups: fruit and veg, protein, dairy (mostly reduced fat) and grains (particularly wholegrains). This combination of foods is actually recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which are backed by a raft of sound scientific research – so I’m all for it.

Image: iStockSource:BodyAndSoul

If weight loss is your goal, I’d bet my bottom dollar you’d see results with the Volumetrics diet. As a dietitian, reducing energy density is one of the key strategies I use to help my clients lose weight. The best part? By focusing on high-fibre, protein-rich foods, you’ll stay full and satisfied throughout the day (read: less likely to reach for the biscuit jar come 3pm).

Another bonus of the Volumetrics Diet is that there are no ‘forbidden foods’. Carbs, chocolate and ice cream are all on the menu – you’re simply encouraged to be sensible with portion size, because they contain a hefty dose of kilojoules. Again, it’s just sensible advice.

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The Volumetrics Diet plan also encourages movement, which earns it another gold star. That’s because being physically active is essential for overall good health (not just helping you fit into your favourite pair of skinny jeans). Engaging in a regular sweat sesh can do everything from reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, to improve your mood and help you sleep better.

Image: iStock.Source:BodyAndSoul

But (you knew there’d be a ‘but’, didn’t you…), it’s not all sunshine and daisies. Despite the positives, there’s one problem I need to draw your attention to. The Volumetrics Diet is sold as a 12-week program, which is one of my pet peeves when it comes to the world of dieting. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, a healthy lifestyle, body and mindset cannot come to fruition in a (relatively) short time frame, either. There’s no such thing as a quick fix – you’ll need to stick to it far longer than the initial 12 weeks to see long-term results.

The verdict

Overall, I’m surprised to say that I’m actually in favour of the Volumetrics Diet. It promotes a sensible way of eating that isn’t overly restrictive, and encourages you to be physically active, too. What’s far more important than nailing this 12-week diet, however, is that you stick to its basic principles in the long term: choose nutritious core foods most of the time, and enjoy energy-dense, nutrient poor foods only occasionally (and in moderation, of course).

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.

Simple tips for weight loss

Here are some simple tips for weight loss including exercise, portion control and healthy eating.

The Volumetrics diet was developed by Dr. Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University, with the intention of creating a dietary approach that emphasizes healthy eating patterns rather than a structured, restrictive diet.

The Volumetrics series of books is centered around dietary “energy density” and “nutrient density.” Foods with high energy density have a higher calorie content in a given portion, while those with low energy density have fewer calories per portion. Similarly, foods that are nutrient-dense provide high levels of nutrients relative to the calories they contain, often having little or no saturated fat, sodium or added sugars.

The Volumetrics diet emphasizes eating low-energy-dense, high-nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Conversely, high-energy-dense foods, such as those with a high proportion of unhealthy fats or sugar and little moisture, are recommended to be limited. The idea is that by focusing on eating foods that are lower in calories and higher in water and important nutrients like fiber, the body will feel satisfied while still losing weight.

Guidelines for the Volumetrics diet

Instead of singling out specific foods or food groups to avoid, the Volumetrics philosophy is more about what to eat. Foods are divided into four groups based on their energy density that help with meal planning and portion control.

Group 1: Foods including non-starchy fruits and vegetables, nonfat milk and broth-based soups

Group 2: Foods including starchy fruits and vegetables, grains, breakfast cereal, low-fat meat, legumes and low-fat mixed dishes

Group 3: Foods including meat, cheese, pizza, French fries, salad dressing, bread, pretzels, ice cream and cake

Group 4: Foods including crackers, chips, chocolate candies, cookies, nuts, butter and oil

Foods contained within Group 1 are very low in energy density and are considered “free” foods to eat any time. The energy density increases from Groups 2 to 4, so more attention to portion control is needed with foods in these groups to avoid excess energy intake. Portion sizes and specific inclusion of groups will vary from person to person, but most will fall into a similar pattern of three meals and two to three snacks each day. Followers of the Volumetrics diet can keep track of what they eat and drink in a food record to monitor progress and identify common patterns, but exact measurements aren’t required. In addition to the food component, the Volumetrics diet provides specific plans for increasing exercise to at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week, an amount supported by the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

One of the benefits of the Volumetrics diet is that it doesn’t put any foods on a “do not eat” list, which gives people the freedom to choose where high-nutrient-dense foods and drinks fit within their overall eating pattern.

Some research suggests that the more we restrict a particular food or food group, the more we want it, so building in “room” for certain favorites offers a healthier way of framing caloric splurges. Specifically, small portions of foods considered to be healthy and energy-dense, like common cooking oils (e.g., olive and canola oils) and nuts (e.g., almonds and walnuts), are recommended. These foods provide essential fatty acids that our bodies use for vitamin and mineral absorption, energy production and maintaining cell health; and this diet acknowledges that they are important to include rather than skip altogether.

The Volumetrics diet and health

While more analysis is needed on the role of energy density in weight management and the prevention of overweight and obesity, there is research supporting the use of a low-energy-dense diet to improve appetite control and help achieve weight-loss goals. By emphasizing whole foods and personalization of the diet rather than cutting out entire food groups or placing strict rules on food consumption, the Volumetrics diet is likely to be a more sustainable eating pattern than popular, quick-fix fad diets.

Some research has also been done on the connection between energy density and specific health outcomes:

  • Cardiovascular disease: Some research suggeststhe potential for a low-energy-dense diet to benefit factors affecting cardiovascular disease, but sufficient evidence is lacking to fully support this.
  • Type 2 diabetes: In a large observational study, women who ate diets higher in energy density had a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes as compared with women who followed a lower-energy-dense diet.
  • Breast cancer: One large observational study determined that women who had the highest-energy-dense diet had a higher risk for postmenopausal breast cancer compared with women who followed the lowest energy-dense diet.
  • Weight loss: Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses of observational studies have found lower-energy-dense diets to be associated with lower body weights. Evidence from randomized controlled trials have also shown lower-energy-dense diets to be helpful for weight management and weight loss maintenance.

Most of these condition-specific studies have been observational in design, meaning that they can’t prove cause and effect like randomized controlled trials (RCTs) can (that is, that a lower-energy-dense diet caused a lower risk for disease development). Studies on the impact of energy density on body weight have been tested in RCTs with positive results. That said, larger and longer-term RCTs are needed to fully understand the effects of energy density on specific health conditions and in different populations.

This was written by Madeline Radigan, with contributions from Ali Webster, PhD, Kris Sollid, RD, and Alyssa Pike, RD.

What Is the Volumetrics Diet Plan and How Does It Work?

Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

You’ve seen at least one photo comparing the calories by volume in two different foods. You know the ones-a huge pile of broccoli beside a tiny cookie. The underlying message is that you get waaaay more bang for your buck with the broccoli. Use this principle to create an eating plan for weight loss and you’ve got the Volumetrics Diet. The premise: By eating larger portions of low-calorie foods (e.g., broccoli) and smaller portions of high-calorie foods (e.g., cookies), you’ll feel satiated while consuming fewer calories. (Related: This Diet and Workout Plan Claims to Help You Hit Your Goal Weight In 80 Days-but Is It Even Safe?)

Volumetrics is a diet plan that was created by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D. She’s released three guides, The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan (2005), The Volumetrics Eating Plan (2007), and The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet (2013), each explaining the reasoning behind the diet with tips, food lists, and recipes. The golden rule of the Volumetrics diet is that you should eat larger portions of low-calorie foods, like vegetables and fruits, and be more restrained when it comes to high-calorie foods such as dairy and meat. In The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet, Rolls refers to water as a “magic ingredient” to lower the caloric density of a meal. Meaning: Adding water to a meal adds density (or volume) without calories, so soups and smoothies, as well as foods containing high amounts of water (think cucumbers and watermelon), are encouraged.

What are the rules of the Volumetrics diet?

Rolls recommends eating low-calorie fruits and vegetables with every meal, eating a lot of salads and broth-based soups, and limiting snacks, desserts, and other high-fat foods. In The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet, she splits foods into four categories by caloric density. Category 1 includes low-calorie foods such as fruits and non-starchy veggies that she says you can eat freely. Category 2 includes whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy and should be eaten in “reasonable portions.” Category 3 includes breads and fattier meats and dairy, which should be eaten in smaller portions. The highest caloric density foods in Category 4 should be limited the most: desserts, roasted nuts, and high-fat meats. Additionally, the book suggests eating protein throughout the day and including whole grains.

The idea of prioritizing low-calorie density foods certainly isn’t exclusive to the Volumetrics diet. WW (formerly Weight Watchers) also uses a point system with foods with lower caloric densities costing fewer “points.” Noom, a weight-loss app targeted at millennials, likewise splits foods into green, yellow, and red categories from lowest to highest caloric density. Kroger’s OptUP app takes caloric density as well as saturated fat, sugar, and sodium into consideration to score grocery store items from 1 to 100. (Related: The Best Free Weight-Loss Apps)

What are the pros and cons of the Volumetrics diet?

A big benefit of the Volumetrics diet is that the foods you can eat in abundance on the Volumetrics diet are also some of the healthiest. “The focus on fruits and veggies means you’ll get the vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that your body and mind need,” says Samantha Cassetty, R.D. (Low-calorie produce is high in fiber-the most important nutrient in your diet.) And the Volumetrics diet can be an effective way to encourage weight loss without feeling hungry, says Cassetty.

On the other hand, it also encourages cutting back on high-calorie foods that are good for you. “Limiting healthy fats isn’t ideal,” she says. “Foods like nuts, nut butter, and avocados may not be low in energy density (calories), but they keep meals tasty and satisfying. Plus, in my experience, balanced meals that contain healthful fats help people stay fuller longer. Fruits, veggies, and broth-based soups only get you so far.” In addition, healthy fats contain compounds that help lower inflammation, which might help with weight loss, she says. Plus, a recent study of nearly half a million people found that diets of any kind that restrict entire food groups (in this case, healthy fats) can actually lead to a shorter life span.

Additionally, The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet emphasizes the principle of calories in vs. calories out, which many nutrition experts consider to be an oversimplification of how our metabolisms function. As a result, foods like fat-free ranch dressing, which often have added sugar, fall under Category 2, while more nutritious avocado and eggs are listed in Category 3, and olive oil is in Category 4. Seems weird that a healthy, Mediterranean diet staple food like olive oil would be on the “limited” category 4 scale, right? Experts agree: Even when it comes to losing weight, focusing on food quality rather than counting calories can still be effective.

What does a sample Volumetrics diet plan look like?

Here’s an example of what a day following the Volumetrics diet might look like, according to Cassetty:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with grated zucchini, chopped apple, and cinnamon
  • Lunch: Salad topped with veggies, grilled chicken, chickpeas, and light dressing
  • Dinner: Pasta tossed with steamed broccoli and cauliflower, black olives, and low-sugar marinara sauce
  • Dessert or Snack: Berries with yogurt
  • By Renee Cherry @reneejcherry

Eat plenty of food—as much as you’re eating now, or even more—and still shed pounds. Seems like an unlikely weight-loss plan, right?

Luckily, it’s not too good to be true: Developed by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., a professor of nutritional sciences and obesity researcher at Penn State, the well-researched Volumetrics diet was named the number-two best diet for weight loss and tied for the number-five best diet overall (out of 40 diets) in the 2018 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diet Rankings. It received high scores from nutrition experts for being safe, effective, and sustainable in the long run.

And, yes, it centers on one fairly simple idea: filling up on fewer calories. “The main claim, and premise by which the Volumetrics diet works, is the satiety claim,” says Lisa Davis, Ph.D., chief nutrition officer at Terra’s Kitchen.

The primary focus is filling up on foods that are naturally low in calories and high in fiber or water—think fruits, veggies, and soups. “Since carbohydrates and proteins both provide four calories per gram, and fat provides nine calories per gram, you can eat more without the excess calories,” she explains, noting that people following the Volumetrics diet can expect to lose up to two pounds per week.

Of course, like most things in life, there’s more to the Volumetrics diet than meets the eye. We talked to a few registered dietitians to get the low-down on this eating approach.

The Volumetrics Diet Menu

If diets with strict rules and restrictions make you crazy, here’s your reason to celebrate: You don’t have to count calories, measure food, or log points on the diet. “Volumetrics is not a precisely prescribed diet plan, but rather a concept and overarching nutritional approach,” says Paul Salter, R.D., nutrition editor for Bodybuilding.com and founder of Fit In Your Dress.

On the Volumetrics diet, food is divided into four groups, he explains. Your goal: Eat mostly foods in groups one and two, be mindful of portion sizes of foods in group three, and minimize choices of foods from group four. And nothing is completely off-limits.

  1. Group one: non-starchy fruits and vegetables, nonfat milk and broth-based soup
  2. Group two: starchy fruits and veggies, grains, breakfast cereal, low-fat meat, legumes, low-fat mixed dishes like chili and spaghetti.
  3. Group three: meat, cheese, pizza, french fries, salad dressing, bread, pretzels, ice cream and cake.
  4. Group four: crackers, chips, chocolate candies, cookies, nuts, butter and oil.

Here’s what you might eat in a typical day on the Volumetrics diet, according to Salter:

  • Breakfast: Vegetable omelet with side of whole-wheat toast
  • Morning Snack: Low-fat Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Lunch: Lean meat chili with beans and vegetables
  • Afternoon Snack: Air-popped popcorn (no butter) with glass of milk
  • Dinner: A piece of fish, steamed veggies, quinoa

Related: Jillian Michaels: The No-B.S. Rules You Must Follow To Lose Weight This Year

Does The Volumetrics Diet Really Work?

Of course, the million-dollar question: Is it legit? According to solid scientific research (including a 2016 meta-analysis of 13 studies that found a link between low-density foods and weight loss) and well, good old-fashioned common sense, it works. “One of the main reasons why people break their healthy eating is because they get hungry,” says Julie Upton, R.D., a registered dietitian and co-founder of Appetite for Health. Since you’re still eating a high volume of food on the Volumetrics plan, you avoid those diet-busting hunger pains.

Hundreds of other nutrition studies back this up. In a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers randomly assigned 97 obese women to either a low-fat diet or a low-energy-dense, low-fat diet that emphasized fruits and vegetables. After a year, both groups lost weight, but the fruits-and-vegetables dieters lost even more—14 pounds compared with 11 pounds. The researchers deemed low-energy-dense diets an effective way to drop pounds and keep them off.

A 2005 study published in Obesity Research, co-authored by the Volumetrics diet creator, Rolls, suggests that a diet high in low-density foods and soup, a staple on the Volumetrics eating plan, leads to substantial weight loss. Another study of 186 women found decreasing energy density is a way to prevent weight gain and obesity in both the short and long term.

Another perk of the Volumetrics diet: “The majority of low-calorie, high-volume foods are nutrient-rich, and therefore positively impact your health in a variety of ways,” Salter says.

Related: 7 Women Share How They Lost Weight Without Counting a Single Calorie

Are There Any Disadvantages?

Now, if alarm bells are ringing in your head, you’re not alone. As we’ve written about before, not all high-calorie foods are “bad” for you. In fact, plenty of foods that are high in calories and fat are essential for good health, such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish.

One potential drawback to this diet is that it recommends a very low consumption of nuts and seeds (since they are calorically dense), Davis explains. “Nuts and seeds provide monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids; both beneficial for cardiovascular and cognitive health.”

This is why almonds can help you lose weight:

​ ​

Plus, like many diet plans, it can also be difficult to dine out on the Volumetrics diet, since so many restaurants and food services prepare their food with high-calorie, high-fat butters and oils, Davis points out. But no foods are 100 percent prohibited on this diet—it’s more about putting the principles into practice.

Related: ​This Is The Diet Jessica Alba Used To Lose 11 Inches In 4 Months

Want to Get Started?

First, you’ll want to check out Rolls’ book, The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. Then, you’ll want to make meal prep your BFF. “Buy all of your produce and prep a lot of it over the weekend,” Upton suggests. You’ll also want to find some great soup recipes. “Broth-based soups are very low in energy density and if you eat them before a meal, they can help you eat less,” she says.

“Planning out your meals for the week ahead of time will be crucial to your success,” Salter adds. “Try to keep some high-volume, convenient foods handy too, such as fresh fruit and plenty of low-fat dairy. Once you return from grocery shopping, make food prep a priority so that there’s no thinking required at meal times—all you need to do is heat and eat!”

(Get the latest health, weight loss, fitness, and sex intel delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our “Daily Dose” newsletter.)

Finally, while it’s not an essential component, the diet plan does encourage more movement throughout the day. There’s no rigorous exercise program, but it does suggest simply increasing the amount of steps you take per day with the end goal of reaching around 10,000 steps, Davis says.

The bottom line? If the thought of prepping and eating more low-density foods, skipping calorie counts, and simply moving more sounds doable, you may be the perfect candidate to give the Volumetrics diet a try.

Locke Hughes Locke ​Hughes ​is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and believer in balance.

Volumetrics Diet

The Volumetrics diet is an eating plan that aims to help you quit on-and-off dieting by living a healthy lifestyle based on nutritious food and regular exercise. Developed by Dr. Barbara Rolls, the Volumetrics diet plan focuses on the energy density of foods. According to Dr. Rolls, awareness of the energy density of food, which is the number of calories in a specific amount of food, is the key to achieving healthy, long-term weight loss.

Volumetrics relies on foods with a low-energy density and high water content, such as fruits and vegetables. Dr. Rolls believes that by eating low-calorie foods you can eat as much as you’d like and eliminate the feelings of hunger, fatigue, and depression that often accompany other diets.

This low-calorie, high-volume eating plan includes foods with a lot of water and fiber, since both supposedly increase your sense of fullness. It doesn’t ban any food, and you can enjoy calorie-packed foods as long as you stick within the recommended calorie intake.

Foods with low energy density include:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • low-fat dairy
  • whole grains
  • beans
  • lean meat

The Plan

Dr. Rolls believes the key to healthy weight loss is to fill up on low-calorie foods. On the Volumetrics diet, you’ll decrease your caloric intake, which encourages weight loss. The diet promises a 1- to 2-pound loss each week, and it promises that you’ll maintain a steady weight loss for as long as you stick to the plan. The Volumetrics diet also promises that it won’t drive you to give up and fall back on bad habits.

Diet Showdown- Volumetrics


The Volumetrics diet, created by terrific research done by Dr. Barbara Rolls, focuses on feeling full or utilizing the volume and calorie density of foods. Volumetrics is ultimately about getting more mileage out of what you eat. Registered dietitian Sarah Downs tells us the details about this eating pattern.

What is the Volumetrics diet?

Sarah Downs: “Rated by U.S. News as the #8 in “Best Diets Overall,” the Volumetrics diet’s primary goal is sustainable weight loss. The theory is that people tend to eat the same amount or volume of food each day, regardless of how many calories they take in. Because most of the foods in this diet are low in calorie density, by filling up on these types of foods you will be consuming fewer calories without less food.”

What are high- and low-density foods?

Sarah Downs: “Energy density refers to the number of calories in a food compared to the volume/weight of the food.

High-density foods have a lot of calories for not much food and little nutrition. Examples of high-density foods are candies, cookies and chips.

Low-density foods have fewer calories with more food or volume. Examples of low-density foods include non-starchy fruits and veggies, non-fat milk and broth-based soups.

For example, a breakfast that includes eggs, whole wheat bread, fruit and milk have the same amount of calories as a breakfast of two donuts. The difference? The volume or weight in grams of the first breakfast is much larger than the donut breakfast, or more food for fewer calories.”

What can you eat? What can you not eat?

Sarah Downs: “There is no restriction within this eating plan, but you do need to be mindful of the energy density of foods. It includes eating three meals a day with a few snacks in between (and you can even have dessert!). There are four categories that different foods fit into:

  • Category 1 includes “free” or “anytime” fruits, non-starchy vegetables (such as broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms), and broth-based soups.
  • Category 2 includes reasonable portions of whole grains (such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta), lean proteins, legumes, and low-fat dairy.
  • Category 3 includes small portions of foods such as breads, desserts, fat-free baked snacks, cheeses, and higher-fat meats.
  • Category 4 includes sparing portions of fried foods, candy, cookies, nuts, and fats.

The plan encourages people to base eating decisions on categories 1 and 2, have smaller portions of category 3 and keep those in category 4 to a minimum.”

What are the health benefits?

Sarah Downs: “The benefits to including more nutrient-dense foods include weight loss, improved heart health and improved overall health.”

Registered Dietitian Rating?

Sarah Downs: “B+ The Volumetrics Diet is not restrictive, promotes increased intake of fruits and vegetables, and is easy to follow. It also doesn’t abandon physical activity and encourages adding increased steps and movement each day in order to reach an ultimate goal of 10,000 steps a day.”

The Image “It’s so easy and delicious to eat #healthy #food at Cafe Lago. Love the flavors in their #gazpacho #soup and any #salad with Dallas #Mozzarella Co. cheese” by Dallas Foodie is licensed under CC BY NC-ND 2.0.

About The Experts

  • Sarah Downs, MBA, RDN

    Health & Nutrition

  • tags:
  • diet,
  • volumetrics


The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off

The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off, by Barbara Rolls, 2012, 416 pages, hardcover, $27.50. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY.

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from my patients trying to lose weight is that they are hungry all the time. It is that constant feeling of hunger along with an accompanying sense of deprivation that oftentimes contributes to their ultimate downfall. They hate dieting because they believe they can’t eat enough of the foods they crave. How can individuals lose weight if they are always hungry, thinking about food, and feeling deprived?

Barbara Rolls is a pioneer in nutritional research and has investigated these questions for more than 25 years. She has impeccable credentials and is well known to readers of the Journal, in which excellent influential studies have appeared. Rolls is a professor of nutritional sciences and holds the Helen A Guthrie Chair in Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. There she directs the laboratory for the study of human ingestive behavior. She was elected to the American Society for Nutrition’s Fellows Class in 2011. Among her many other awards, accolades, and honors, she has served as president of the Study of Ingestive Behavior and The Obesity Society and is a Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, an honorary member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the recipient of The Obesity Society’s George A Bray Founders Award. She has published more than 250 research papers and 6 books.

Her latest book, The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off, cowritten with Mindy Hermann, is her best, and it represents her answer to losing weight without being hungry all the time. This latest book follows nicely from her 2 similar earlier ones, both of which were New York Times bestsellers: The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan: Feel Full on Fewer Calories and The Volumetrics Eating Plan: Techniques and Recipes for Feeling Full on Fewer Calories. For readers not familiar with these books, her key to weight-loss success is to feel full by eating fewer calories. This is done by figuring out the energy density of foods. In the current book she wisely uses the term calorie density, which is a term easier for lay readers to understand. She explains the term clearly, describes how to figure out the calorie density of foods by dividing the number of calories by the number of grams found on food labels, then describes how to choose foods that have a lower calorie density. She talks in terms of “calories per bite.” On the basis of her research and that of others, she found that, over a day, people generally eat a similar amount of food by weight, so by choosing foods with lower caloric density, individuals can eat more food, feel full, and improve their nutrient intake while losing weight.

The foods with lower calorie density include those with high fiber and high water content. These include fresh fruit; vegetables such as tomatoes, greens, and broccoli; soups; salads with lots of vegetables; whole-grain pastas; low-fat poultry; and low-fat dairy. Her message is that individuals can eat enough to feel full and satisfied but still be able to lose weight.

What is particularly new and welcome in this book is her 12-week structured plan for managing weight, along with a 4-week meal plan, making it an ideal resource for health care professionals, especially registered dietitians, to use as a patient manual for an individual or group-based 12-week intervention. It is perfect for the dietitian who is looking for a step-by-step lesson plan for patients who want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Each of the 12 weeks, including a “Getting Started” baseline session, contains sensible dietary and physical activity information and behavioral strategies (eg, week 1: Calorie Density Basics; week 2: More on Calorie Density; week 3: Portion Size: When Bigger Is Better) for achieving the week’s goals. Each weekly plan follows the same structure: the main concepts for the week followed by sections entitled Key Points (highlighting the most important take-away information), Let’s Get Physical (guidance for incorporating walking and physical activity into one’s day), and Head and Habits (behavioral strategies to support the week’s lesson). I especially liked the way Rolls has worked into each session clear explanations from her published research studies and those of others describing why she recommends each of the strategies. For example, she cites her 2011 study (1) to show how “hidden vegetables” can be easily incorporated into various foods to decrease their calorie density and lead to significant energy reduction while increasing vegetable intake. Her overall intervention is science-based, and selected references are listed for each of the 12 weeks.

After the 12-week plan, there are more than 100 recipes, including breakfast, soups and salads, main courses, side dishes, party dishes, potluck dishes, snacks, and desserts, along with modular food lists to help individuals determine which foods are interchangeable. The book is very attractive, with beautiful color photographs; is easy to read; and has a wealth of practical information laid out in an easy-to-follow format.

In 2012, as with her earlier books, Volumetrics has been named “Best Weight Loss Diet,” “Best Diet for Healthy Eating,” and “Easiest Diet to Follow” by US News & World Report. I have already found myself recommending the book to dietitians and consumers. With all of the crazy diet books continuing to flood the market by dubious gurus, self-proclaimed experts, and out and out charlatans and quacks, it is nice to read and recommend this highly readable, sensible, research-based approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The author has no conflicts of interest.

1. Blatt AD , Roe LS , Rolls BJ . Hidden vegetables: an effective strategy to reduce energy intake and increase vegetable intake in adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;93:756–63. © 2012 American Society for Nutrition

Volumetrics Diet: Menu, Plan & Recipes

The Volumetrics diet has quickly gained popularity due to its easy-to-understand premise. The diet revolves around foods that have a low caloric density—foods such as fruits and vegetables that contain few calories for their overall sizes. These foods are traditionally associated with wellness and fitness, which makes them a great choice for those looking for a boost to their energy levels. Coupled with enhanced nutrition, enhanced energy levels make it easier for dieters to take part in physical activity, which can further help shed pounds and tone the body. The plan offers dieters fed up with many trends the option to eat more while losing weight.

Volumetrics Diet Plan

When the proponents of the diet plan speak about eating more, they are actually referring to the volume of food that you take in throughout the day. By cutting out foods that have a low volume and high caloric value, the diet forces you to choose low-calorie foods that are filling or to eat greater amounts of foods with a lower caloric density. That’s where the volume in Volumetrics comes from: you are likely to increase the overall volume of food that you consume and make healthy choices about what you eat while still losing weight.

The difficulty of the plan lies in meal preparation. Because your food choices are limited, you must often prepare meals ahead of time and plan your full week’s dining activities in advance. You also cannot indulge in fast food or many restaurant meals while on the diet .

Volumetrics Food List

The food list lies at the heart of this plan. The basics are similar to many low-calorie intake programs. These include:

  • Fruit.
  • Vegetables.
  • Low-fat dairy.
  • Whole grains.
  • Beans.
  • Lean meat.

The restriction on the foods you eat can make meal planning one of the most difficult aspects of the program. Also, a reliance on fruits and vegetables as the bulk of your caloric intake may be off-putting to some dieters who prefer red meats and higher fat content.

Techniques used in food preparation are also important. Deep-fried foods and similar cooking methods that involve adding calories through sauces or oils should be avoided as these additives are not low-calorie and high-volume foods. Similarly, seeds and nuts are allowed only in exceptionally small quantities, and it is suggested they should be added to the diet only to meet nutritional needs for essential oils. Alcohol is prohibited.

Volumetrics Eating Plan

Unlike many plans that have set meal schedules, this diet allows you to eat as you enjoy or your schedule permits. The diet’s premise is that you will feel fuller and, thus, cut down on your food intake as well as substituting low-calorie options for many less healthy foods. You should eat only when you feel hungry, and the recommended thirty minutes or more per day of exercise may also help cut down on hunger pangs while keeping you feeling refreshed throughout the day.

Those who feel hunger immediately after working out should plan for a light snack that meets the low-calorie and high-volume metrics of the plan. A standard week on the plan requires you to carefully evaluate your food choices and set up your meals to match your schedule. Dieters may benefit from planning meals in advance and eating as hunger arises instead of at predetermined times.

Volumetrics Diet Menu

The menu available under the plan is limited to those items found in the food list. Fortunately, the relatively wide spread of options within those items allows you to get creative with how you handle your food intake. Possible meal options include:

  • Lean meats and a vegetarian salsa.
  • Fish garnished with fruits and vegetables.
  • Vegetarian bean soups.
  • Low-fat cottage cheese with fruit.

Low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt are especially helpful on this plan. Remember to choose the sugar-free varieties of yogurt, as added sugar will increase caloric intake.

Volumetrics Recipes

One popular recipe for those under this program includes combining cottage cheese with your favorite fruits and vegetables. On its own, cottage cheese has a strong dairy aroma and a texture. Mixing this with berries, which contain antioxidants along with the benefits of fruit, and brightly colored vegetables can give you a great light snack or lunchtime meal.

Another recipe includes preparing lean meat, such as chicken or fish, ahead of time by grilling it until the meat is firm and moist. You should then dice your favorite vegetables and fruits into small, cube shapes and store them separately. When you’re ready to eat, reheat the meat to a comfortable temperature and add the diced fruits and vegetables. The salsa adds even more nutrition and flavor to an already low-calorie meal. Typically equal volumes of meat and vegetables are used, with half the initial volume being diced fruit.

Does It Work?

Lowering caloric intake and increasing, or at least maintaining, exercise levels is a good way to shed pounds. The plan espouses nutrition as a major component, making it a healthy choice for those looking for a long-term eating solution. Even better, the plan has noted benefits for your heart and is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The plan was created by a Penn State University professor, and it has proven a great choice for many looking to shed pounds and make a shift towards healthy eating. It has earned recognition for its safe and sound methods as well as nutritional balance.

Things You Should Know

The biggest downsides to this plan are its cost and meal preparation times. You will spend quite a bit of time planning what foods you plan to eat in the week ahead and preparing them on a weekly or daily basis. Because it has a heavy focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean meats, the main ingredients can become costly. This is especially true if you are converting your whole family to the diet to support some members or encourage healthy eating habits. Family members can help pitch in to make the preparation and cooking aspects of the plan easier, however. The benefits usually outweigh the downsides for most on the Volumetrics diet.

The best volume eating recipes for those times when you’re craving a big plate of food, but still want to stick with your health and fitness goals.

Since I was little I’ve loved to eat. Literally my mom tells stories about how in order to feed me as a toddler my dad or sister had to hold my hands down while my mom shoveled food into my mouth as quickly as possible. If not, I would go crazy grabbing at the food or would start crying if the food wasn’t coming fast enough.

So it’s no surprise that as an adult I still love to eat. I’m okay with it because “People who love to eat are always the best people.” 🙂 Luckily over the years I’ve found ways to satisfy my love for food and desire to eat large quantities while still remaining my health. My secret? Loading up on nutrient dense foods like veggies and fruit!

You’ll notice that every one of the volume eating recipes I’m featuring here is made with REAL FOOD and has at least one fruit or vegetable in it. Fruits and veggies FTW!! Just don’t forget the protein and healthy fat because they’re the key for making a meal satisfying. Plus, they will help to keep you feeling full!

With that said, this post is for all my food-loving, volume-eating friends out there! Here are 15 recipes that you’ll love.

Peanut Butter Banana Chia Oatmeal — The ultimate healthy breakfast recipe, this peanut butter banana oatmeal is creamy, voluminous and will keep you full all morning long! Plus it only takes about 10 minutes to make. Each bowl has around 370 calories, 17 grams of fiber (woot!), and 11 grams of protein.

Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai — This Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai features spiralized zucchini noodles in a spicy peanut sauce. It’s delicious, low carb and much healthier than Thai takeout!

Chia Seed Pudding — Chia pudding is super filling and works for for breakfast, as a snack or dessert. Vegan, gluten-free, paleo and keto-friendly.

Cauliflower Tabbouleh — Low carb and gluten-free cauliflower tabbouleh. It’s fresh, flavorful and perfect for picnics and parties.

Smoothie Bowl — Smoothie bowls made with frozen fruit, veggies and bit of protein are perfect for volume eating. Eating the smoothie with a spoon rather than a straw makes it feel more like meal and it takes longer to eat.

Healthy Cauliflower Popcorn/ Kettle Corn — Regular popcorn is actually pretty healthy on it’s own, especially if you air pop it and eat it plain. But I love this cauliflower version too!

Meal-Sized Salads — It’s no secret that I love salads! I think they’re one of the best ways to load up on tons of veggies and fiber. With salads you can eat a huge plate of food and feel good about it!

Baked Butternut Squash Fries — These fries are delicious and it’s a good thing they’re healthy because it’s so easy to eat the whole pan! I love these baked sweet potato fries too!

Mixed Berry Fruit Salad — Nutritious and easy to prepare, this colorful fruit salad combines ripe strawberries, blueberries, grapes, kiwi and pineapple chunks with a zesty lime and poppy seed dressing.

Zucchini Noodle Fettuccine with Cauliflower Alfredo — This healthy fettuccine alfredo recipe features a base of spiralized zucchini noodles with a creamy cauliflower alfredo sauce. It’s a quick and easy dinner idea that’s packed with veggies and much lighter than regular fettuccine alfredo.

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Bowls — Turn spaghetti squash into a meatless meal with this recipe for stuffed spaghetti squash lasagna bowls. Made with vegan ricotta and hemp parmesan.

Healthy Chocolate Banana Ice Cream — Make HEALTHY Chocolate Banana Ice Cream with frozen bananas, cacao powder, chocolate almond milk and almond butter. It’s absolutely delicious, healthy, dairy-free and doesn’t require an ice cream maker!

Tofu Veggie Noodle Bowl with Cabbage Noodles — I love love love cabbage so naturally this cabbage noodle bowl is a winner in my book. The sautéed cabbage gives the dish a caramelized sweet flavor that pairs perfectly with the Asian style sauce.

Root Vegetable Tagine with Apricots and Rosemary — A slow simmered root vegetable tagine with apricots and rosemary! Serve this vegetarian dish as a side or over rice or quinoa for a complete meal. Vegan and gluten-free.

Cantaloupe Breakfast Bowls — Healthy cantaloupe breakfast bowls filled with yogurt, granola, berries and a drizzle of honey. They’re loaded with protein to keep you feeling full all morning!

Are you a volume eater? If so, share one of your favorite recipes!

Volumetrics diet pros and cons

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